May Educator of the Month: Stories for Self-eSTEAM

May is National Teen Self-Esteem Month, and we’re turning this into a month of promoting self-eSTEAM for all!

Did you know that telling stories increases self-esteem? It makes sense when you think about it: through storytelling, we increase vocabulary and therefore communication skills. We improve our memory for retaining knowledge and lessons learned through the story’s moral. We grow in empathy for the characters and translate that capacity to our real-life relationships.

As soon as we spotted a certain Ozobot-tagged tweet, we knew it would be perfect to feature for our May educator. Rachel Kaplan’s students shared stories with Bit as the star of different scenarios, and increased their coding confidence through storytelling.

Join us in celebrating Rachel Kaplan and her classroom’s Ozobot Journey Project below!

Tell us about yourself! What is your job and what inspired you to get into the career you have?
My name is Rachel Kaplan, and I am a coding teacher at Moorestown Friends School, for Preschool to 5th grade. I have always had a strong interest in the impact technology has on society’s lives. Since I was a kid, I have loved playing and creating with gadgets and computer programs. In high school, I took engineering and architecture type electives to learn more about what I can make with technology. Unfortunately, I became intimidated by being the only girl in the classes, and I did not pursue any technology focus in college. Rather, I studied elementary education, because learning is a gift I want to continue and share throughout my life.

As an educator in NY, I had five years after receiving my bachelors to complete a masters degree. I very much enjoy learning and wanted to find something I could become passionate about. I researched several different masters programs, but knew I found the perfect match when I read class descriptions for an Educational Technology degree.

Edtech takes my love for teaching and technology and creates the ideal blend for me. I ended up becoming an educational technology coach for several years, collaborating with classroom teachers on meaningful ways to integrate technology into their lessons. During that time, the Hour of Code started and I was an instant believer. I began encouraging teachers to integrate coding lessons into their math and science curriculum, hosting all school Hour of Code events, and started an afterschool Scratch club. Coding was and still is my favorite edtech focus. When I moved from NY to NJ and was in search of a new job, I found a job description where I would be teaching coding full time… jackpot! I found a job made for me. This has become a great opportunity for me to foster student creativity through coding concepts.

I have aimed my coding class to focus on five skills: tinkering, designing, creating, problem-solving, and collaborating. These are valuable skills to apply in coding and beyond.

Having a coding class gives me the space to share a diverse range of successful innovators, and I hope that this helps every student feel like they can accomplish big dreams. I wish for students to feel confident in their interests, rather than let intimidation set them back like it had when I was younger. I want students to know they can create techy things instead of only using what’s already made.

How did you think of creating the project?
I enjoy the fact that Ozobot (we use Bit) can be used with Blockly coding. The OzoBlockly program is wisely divided into different levels for students to code with. I appreciate how OzoBlockly is simple enough for beginner readers to use, and does more than the average programmable and kid friendly robot (move forward, backward, left, and right).

Coding games are fun, but I believe the real learning takes place when the student gets to make their own coding challenges and goals to reach. OzoBlockly gave me the opportunity to use an open-ended tool with my class, where students could design their own plans and see it come to life with Bit.

The second grade students I have are very imaginative, and love to tell stories: understanding my students’ strengths inspired me to give them a chance to tell stories using code. The idea behind the Ozobot Journey project, was for students to think of a place for Bit to go. The very first thing students did was tinker with OzoBlockly to see how it works, and what is possible with Bit.

After understanding how OzoBlockly coding works, students worked with partners to brainstorm different ideas of destinations for the robot. The range of their ideas was wide, and so much fun (examples: “Ozobot Goes to Outer Space!”, “Ozobot Goes to the Beach”, “Ozobot Goes Down the Trash”, etc.). Partners then had to compromise on one place, and collaborate on how they could make a story with this destination broken up into three scenes for Bit to travel through. They had to plan how they wanted Ozobot to travel through the scenes as well (for example: light up a certain way, move a certain way, etc.), and plan a relevant costume for Ozobot to wear. This project gave students a chance to explore their imaginations, practice decomposition to break down their stories and figure out what they needed bit by bit (no pun intended), collaborate on ideas and problem-solving, and I think they had a great time in the whole process! By the time everyone was ready to share, they did so proudly. h

What was the most challenging part about making it, and how did your students overcome the obstacle?
The most challenging part for the students was being patient. Uploading the code onto Bit took time, and everytime students made a change, they had to upload again. We tried several troubleshooting steps with Bit to overcome this, and students added only a few commands at a time to help them debug if needed. Students discovered that if they added too much code all at once, it took a long time to go back and forth uploading code while trying to find the bug. If they used a few commands at a time, it was easier for them to debug their programs.

How else do you use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) in everyday life?
STEAM is my life! It’s what I do throughout the day everyday at school.

In personal practice, I always have a STEAM type of project going on at home. Whether it be home improvements, crafty photo or video projects, or mixing my own beats – I constantly find STEAM-y ways to express myself.

What is your favorite block of code in OzoBlockly?
I like the firework code, because it’s fun and encourages many different types of stories.

In addition to having a blast with Ozobots, what do you want kids who may recreate your project to take away from it?
I want kids to use it as an outlet to tell stories in a different way than they may be used to. May this new storytelling lead to imaginative paths that may have not been possible in other storytelling formats.

How did you first hear about Ozobot and/or first start learning to code?I discovered Ozobot at ISTE!

I first started to learn code in basic coding classes in college. I ended up making websites for some friends, and trying to learn how to code animations on my own.

Besides creating with code, what is your favorite hobby or interest to geek out about in your free time?
I love creating family videos with my GoPro, and editing them with music and highlights of the year! We are travellers/adventure seekers in my family, so I make a ton of videos as our “live digital photo keepsakes”. It brings our memories to life in a more fun way than still photos can.

Have you named your Ozobot(s)?
Students name their Bits based on their stories.

Have you told any other stories with your bots? Any other videos of your creations we should check out?
Last  year we had a very similar project for a different class (click for the video), but used Color Codes with markers instead of OzoBlockly.

A big thank you to Rachel for inspiring creativity and coding in her classroom! Follow Rachel on Twitter to see more of her students’ Ozobot creations. 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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