I remember learning LOGO at school fondly. I loved the interplay between the language and the output. What we were creating was really basic but the whole process was really engaging. These days the landscape has shifted tremendously and there is a plethora of options to introduce learners to programming. One of the best ways that I have seen to introduce young learners to programming is through the use of a tiny little robot called an Ozobot.
The Ozobot is a line following robot which follows black, red, blue or green lines or special combination of lines called Ozocodes (see below for the Ozocodes).
Writing a program that the robot can follow is as easy as drawing a line on a piece of paper. My four year old was able to do it instantly and the Year Four students I worked with yesterday were able to do it instantly. It instantly appealled to all age groups, boys and girls and allowed students to program a robot.
However, to just limit the impact that the Ozobot has (and other programming mediums) to just learning how to input code to specify a specific output would be selling it short. These are the extra elements that I witnessed as a result of learners using the Ozobot. Due to the fact that programs are easy to write and rewrite, learners quickly entered in a rapid prototyping frame of mind. They made short programs, tested them and then readjusted or gave themselves a tick. It was building learning resilience and reflective thinking because the effort required to have success initially was not threatening. Once learners had success or didn’t, they quickly tried again and were highly motivated to do so. The great element about the low entry level for success was that it then built up an increased willingness to take learning risks and rise to learning challenges. Learners openly discussed with peers about their programs and offered solutions to challenges. The programs tapped into individual creativity and allowed for each learner to add their own programming flair. When I used one Ozobot with a small group of students, it promoted turn taking and testing respect as students had to wait to have their go and also had to wait till the program had run its course. Now with a low entry level for success, there is the possibility that the interest level will wane once there is no more challenge but not with the Ozobot. There are a range of iPad apps that the Ozobot can be used with. It can be as simple as the lines on a blank page or can escalate in difficulty to OzoBlockly which works in a very similar fashion to Scratch.
The best thing for me though was seeing and hearing students fist pumping and cheering when they achieved success. In my opinion, the learners of the future will need to be fluent in a second spoken language and also a programming language and the Ozobot is definitely a great introduction to the amazing world ahead of them.