July Educators of the Month: Curriculum Collaborators on a Mission

This July, we are once again celebrating a Summer of STEAM. Want to know one of our favorite parts of STEAM curriculum? The collaboration and camaraderie that results from both students and educators working together to teach and learn it!

Allow us to introduce our two Educators of the Month for July: Matt Schachtel and Loreli Stochaj. Matt is an Elementary Technology Coach (and an Ozobot Certified Educator) and Loreli is an Elementary Media Specialist (Librarian) in New Jersey. Together, they have an awesome deconstructed makerspace approach to sharing Ozobot with their students!

In addition, Matt and his District’s Supervisor of Technology, Doug Orr, presented at ISTE 2019 on their Grade 1-5 Coding and Robotics Initiative, which we couldn’t think was any cooler!

Read on for more from Matt and Loreli, and we’ll continue to cheer them both on from afar for the 2019-2020 school year.

Tell us about yourselves! What are your jobs and what inspired you both to get into the careers you have?

Loreli – I was a classroom teacher for a number of years. The library called to me because I liked the aspect of melding books, research, and technology with all grade levels. I think the library can be the cornerstone of the school community. 

Matt – I have always enjoyed coaching and helping others learn and accomplish things through teaching or training, along with enjoying technology and the possibilities it can create. These passions led me to education and my current role as a technology coach helping integrate technology with both staff and students. Introducing students to coding and design is truly amazing and so rewarding when you witness those “Ah ha!” moments!

How did you think of creating the project?

Loreli – The technology coaches and the librarians had been working together for a few years to infuse coding and robotics in the curriculum. It was kind of random and not very sequential. When the technology coaches proposed a first through the fifth-grade curriculum for coding and robotics, I was all in.  The different devices were important to the entire curriculum.

Matt – With my Supervisor of Technology, Doug Orr, our team created the idea of developing a full scope and sequence for grades 1-5 coding and robotics initiative that could be led by our media specialists with training and support from the technology coaches. This approach allows the coaches to integrate what is being done in the media center into the classrooms and content areas to further support learning!

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

Loreli – I have two projects that are good examples. Project one was for the 1st-grade students to work in small groups to make tracks for their Ozobots for a race. I loved watching them time their Ozobots on the tracks and try to figure out what codes to use. They had to use three different color code sequences! Project two was for the 2nd-grade students to work together to create an Iditarod trail for their Ozobot to follow. They had to include some obstacles for the musher (aka Ozobot) to encounter and go around! 

Matt – A 4th-grade project involved students using Ozoblockly to program their decorated Ozobot between destinations on a giant USA map on the floor. They recorded the journey and then edited together a “travel agent” video discussing important facts about their destinations. 

How else do you use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) in everyday life?

Loreli – In the library/media centers, we infuse STEAM into daily practice through research, problem-solving, and reading.  

Matt – As a technology coach, I am always trying to find and create a cross-curricular idea, like with one project where we are trying to combine our 3D modeling/printing in art with our coding and robotics initiative for a community unit in social studies that would involve engineering and math as well!

What are your favorite Color Codes? Did the kids use them in their creations?

Loreli – The kids love nitro boost and tornado. They love to watch them go fast and to do cool moves. I usually tell the students they must use four codes but I let them pick the ones they think will work best in their project.

Matt – As a technology coach who gets to first introduce Ozobots to staff and students frequently, I love showcasing U-turn at the end of a line. While exploring what an Ozobot is and how it works, I enjoy listening to and watching staff and students as they question or make guesses as to what will happen when the Ozobot gets to the end of a line. I also enjoy line jumps because they never expect the Ozobot to travel over white space to find the next line!!

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

Loreli – That robots, such as the Ozobots, are only as smart as the human behind them. For example, if you write code in the wrong color order it will not work. 

Matt – In addition to what Loreli shared, I want kids to know that in addition to programming the Ozobot, they have the ability and power to create something new that does not even exist yet!

How do you see your projects being used in the future in different ways? 

Loreli – I really see for myself trying to make connections to our curriculum so the teachers will incorporate Ozobots into their own classrooms and not have them just used in the library. 

Matt – I think the idea of creating a full curriculum that works for our district and is led by our media specialists is a powerful way of approaching coding and robotics. We are taking the same approach with 3D modeling/printing with our art teachers. This allows us to have dedicated staff and time with curriculum instead of just pockets of teaching. And then the technology coaches can further integrate concepts and learning into the classrooms and other content areas.

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

Loreli – I had been doing some coding in the library with Hour of Code. Then I saw Ozobots at a workshop and I thought they might be the next step. The technology coaches also helped to infuse their use in the library.

Matt – I was first introduced to Ozobot at your booth in the expo hall at FETC in 2016. I was greatly impressed with the technology to first start teaching about coding and immediately shared this with my team! Shortly after we started piloting them in our district!

Besides creating with code, what is your favorite hobby or interest to geek out about in your free time?

Loreli – Read!!!!! 

Matt – I love playing, watching and coaching sports…and music!

How would you describe Evo’s or Bit’s personality? 

Loreli – Spunky! 

Have you told any other stories with your bots? 

Matt – We have tons…Ozobot bowling with our Special Ed classes, acting as tour guides for an Ozoblockly journey across a giant USA map of destinations, and more!

We so appreciate Matt and Loreli for inspiring creativity and coding in their elementary school students! Follow Matt and Loreli on Twitter to see more of their students’ Ozobot creations. And remember…

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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