Educator of the Month: Bringing Math to Life with Nikki Jones

We are excited to announce our March Educator of the Month, Nikki Jones! Nikki recently became a Certified Educator and is a third grade teacher. She has created some very inspiring lessons centered around math concepts for elementary students. 

To have Nikki on board as an Ozobot Certified Educator is very exciting, and we can’t wait for you to try her lessons and see what she comes up with next! Read on for more information about Nikki, her lessons, and why she loves STEAM.

Tell us about yourself! What is your job and what inspired you to get into the career you have?

I grew up knowing that I wanted to be a teacher (and a mom). I graduated from SUNY Fredonia of NY with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and moved to Virginia where I started my career in education as a first-grade teacher. With tons of technology at my fingertips, a SMART Board, document camera, laptops, and iPads, I became a self-taught techie and started finding different ways to teach with technology.

While teaching first grade I obtained my master’s degree in Special Education at George Mason University and after five years in the classroom I took on the role as an instructional technology coach (ITC). As ITC, I collaborated with other educators to integrate technology into all content areas. I facilitated professional development and spent most of my time co-teaching. 

This was the dream job I didn’t even know I wanted. I attended and presented at ed tech conferences where my love for technology just continued to grow. When I became a mom four years ago, I took a position closer to home and back in the classroom as a third-grade teacher at Chris Yung Elementary School in Bristow, Virginia. 

I now have two wild little boys and continue to come up with innovative ways to teach with technology. We live just outside our nation’s capital and I have a diverse population of learners!

How did you think of creating these projects?

I get a lot of ideas and inspiration from Twitter and Pinterest. I love teaching math and feel like the Ozobots and coding can easily be integrated into just about any concept.

What was the most challenging part about making them, and how did you overcome the obstacle?

The most challenging part of using technology is the possibility of something going wrong or not working out how you planned. For the comparing fractions lesson, students created the double fraction bars with black markers and then we realized that we hadn’t added the code, so our Ozobot was going wherever he wanted instead of around the designated fractions. We ended up using small labels to put code over top of the black line. I just try to keep an open mind and have a problem-solving approach with everything that I do.

Can you share an example with us of how your projects combine creativity and coding?

With our most recent measurement unit, students were able to be creative with their paths or polygons that they created while practicing measurement to the nearest half-inch and calculating perimeter. For the path, students had the criteria of adding at least six lines; three lines to an inch measurement, three measuring to a half-inch, and then three Color Codes of their choice. For the perimeter lesson, students were able to create any two shapes. Choice gives students more ownership of their learning, is a way to engage all learners, and allows for self-differentiation.

How else do you use STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) in everyday life?

The foundation of STEAM is problem-solving, communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking which are skills we use daily. Science is a way of looking at and trying to understand the world around us. Being scientific means being curious, observing, asking questions, and learning about how to find the answers. There is science behind everything we do. 

Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives! Engineering is all about tackling challenges. Art is thinking outside of the box to be creative. Math is in every activity we do in our lives! So I would say STEAM is just part of our everyday life and that is why it is critical that we are teaching it in schools.

In addition to having a blast with Ozobots, what do you want kids who may recreate your projects to take away from it?

Persistence—I really want to teach my students about persistence and not giving up when something is challenging—and I think the Ozobots and coding are perfect for this. I want them to learn about grit and pushing forward. Using the Ozobots also gives students a hands-on learning experience. They’re engaging and learning is more fun and memorable with the Ozobots. My hope is that when students think of perimeter, they will think of the Ozobot polygons we created and be able to generalize that to calculate the perimeter of any shape.

How did you first hear about Ozobot and/or first start learning to code?

My teammate, Christine, shared a probability lesson for us earlier in the year using the Ozobots! Prior to that, I had only seen them in our STEAM Lab. I decided to go for it and let the kids lead the learning. I honestly didn’t even know how to turn the Ozobot on before that lesson, but the kids had been using them in STEAM so there was no hesitation on their part! 

Shortly after that, our STEAM Coach showed me how to drive the Ozobot using the Evo app and encouraged me to check out the STEAM Ozosquad for lessons. I saw the level of engagement that the Ozobots created and the authentic learning that was happening and I was hooked! I took an Ozobot home for the weekend and started searching for all the lessons and ideas. I created a DonorsChoose project and we got our first two Ozobots.  Thanks to DonorsChoose, we’ve had two more projects funded and we now have a total of six Ozobots in our #OzoSquad.

Have you named your Ozobot? Do you use Evo or bit?

We have six Ozobots in our #OzoSquad and they’ve all been named by a student in my class! We have three black Ozobots; Midnight, Twilight, and Dark Night, and three white Ozobots; Stardust, Twinkle, and Moon Fairy.

Have you told any other stories with your bots?

Our social studies curriculum is heavily focused on ancient civilizations: Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, and Mali.  As a culminating event for our ancient Egypt study, we created museums for our Ozobots that had at least five exhibits that showcased ancient Egyptian characteristics and contributions. This project also tied in our nonfiction unit because students had to create an artifact (photograph/illustration) with a caption for each exhibit. 

Be sure to check out more of Nikki’s Ozobot projects and lessons on her Twitter feed! And don’t forget…

Coding is Creative!

Tech skills alone don’t spur big ideas—creative visions do. That’s why education at home and in the classroom should span science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (think STEAM, not STEM). Whether you see yourself as a future artist, astronaut, or entrepreneur, our goal at Ozobot is to kick start your creativity and coding skills with playtime that strengthens your whole mind.

To learn more,explore Ozobot’s 2 Ways to Code:

OzoBlockly >

Color Codes >

For Educators and Students:

OzoBlockly Basic Training >

Color Codes Basic Training >

150+ STEAM Lessons >

Educator of the Month – Official Rules

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