Paul Road Panthers use robots to bring maps to life
March 8, 2023
Globes and maps aren’t the only tools being used for geography lessons. Students and teachers are working together to harness the power of technology for important social studies units.
An Ozobot is a golf ball-sized robot that uses sensors to follow lines that
have been drawn either on a piece of paper or on a screen. Originally created as a fun way to teach kids computer programming, a team of Gates Chili teachers and instructional coaches are now leveraging Ozobots as a tool to teach third-graders the skills needed to navigate a map.
The idea all started with Paul Road teachers Brittany Porter and Dena
Knight. Looking to make the traditional geography unit more engaging for their students, they went to District Library Media Coach Matt Harvey and Innovation Coach Wendy Taylor. The four collaborated and came up with some new approaches.
"We began our geography unit with an inquiry-based approach," explained Knight and Porter. "The Ozobots helped increase student engagement as we started and ended the unit with a challenge."
To kick off the unit, students were given a world map that was missing key tools such as a title, compass or legend. Using only their prior knowledge of cardinal directions and continents, students were challenged to draw a line for the Ozobot to follow. It was designed
to be hard, and it was. At first, only about 10% of students were able to complete the assignment correctly. Next, the classes collaborated on a trial-and-error approach to determine which tools would make the task easier. Then, using new maps that included the tools they chose, they
completed the Ozobot activity again. The success rate went up to 40% and soared even higher as the unit progressed.
“Not only were we teaching those tools, but they were also experiencing the value of those tools,” said Harvey.
After starting at Paul Road, the Ozobot activity has been used in five classrooms, including some at Neil Armstrong Elementary School. Student engagement was evident throughout this new learning experience as more and more students successfully applied their knowledge and skills to complete the task. And it’s all thanks to two teachers who just wanted to better engage their students. For the students, learning social studies has now become synonymous with fun.
"They were pretty fun, the fact that they could track the marker line was really mind-blowing," exclaimed Emmett.
"I learned a lot of stuff while using the Ozobots," shared Muhammed.
"I learned which direction the bot should go if traveling from South America to North America."