Great writers reach people all over the world with their ideas. But some of history’s most prominent authors took a long time to get to that point, even after their lifetimes. It’s fun to imagine them today, using technology to share their stories and reach audiences in real-time. William Shakespeare would be putting out a YouTube video a week, Virginia Woolf could pen a popular blog, and Ernest Hemingway—who once said “all you need is one true sentence”—would probably be the king of Twitter.
Ozobot’s March Creator of the Month, Gina Ligouri, has been hard at work inspiring the next generation of writers. This teacher and her students live and breathe STEAM, and the results are so good they’re scary. Check out the Tweet below for a peek into their Murder Mystery project, which combines coding with creative writing. We’re pretty sure it would be Agatha Christie-approved.
Sharing our #ozobot 'Murder Mystery' stories in English 10! It's very spooky in 439 today! #MontourProud of the creativity and coding! @hilltopspartan @rhonda_marasco #STEAMinELA pic.twitter.com/xcNQkUxkzC
— Gina M. Ligouri (@G_Ligouri) February 9, 2018
Last week, we reached out to Ms. Ligouri to learn more about her. We had so many questions about her students’ stories, and other ways she uses Ozobot to inspire creativity in her Montour High School classroom. As a 2016 Keystone Technology Innovator STAR, a Graphite Certified EdTech Mentor, and an Amazon Education Innovator, turns out she was the perfect person to talk edtech with.
Tell us about yourself! What grade and subjects do you teach and what inspired you to be an educator?
I teach 10th Grade English Literature at Montour High School—part of the Montour School District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By achieving dual Master’s Degrees (MSEd. Instructional Technology Leadership) and (MEd. Administration and Supervision of Curriculum) my credentials and experiences have afforded me the opportunity to work with many fantastic educators from not only the state, but nationally, as well. After being named a Keystone Technology Innovator STAR, I had the opportunity to work and network with 100 of the top technology innovators—makerspace and STEAM teachers—from across the state. By putting to use my Instructional Technology knowledge, my English content knowledge, and some creativity, I was able to implement ground-level STEAM skills within my tenth grade English classroom. My desire to be an innovator has allowed for many challenging STEAM activities within my English classroom. As a teacher-leader, I am always looking for new ways to enhance the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills of my students—and what better way than to incorporate STEAM Edu! I love sharing ideas with my colleagues and, in turn, collaborating on new ideas. I am very passionate about the inclusion of ELA within the STEAM initiative, and I hope to spark some excitement within other Language Arts teachers, too.
Why STEAM (not STEM)?
STEAM education has included the arts in the science and engineering maker movement. By acknowledging STEAM, we are acknowledging the arts as part of the technology push in education. The arts includes literature—which allows projects to become more cross-curricular.
How do you use Ozobots in your classroom?
I have transformed my informational writing unit using Ozobots. In years before coding and bots, students would prepare a presentation that included a “how to” demonstration. We would use this demonstration to fuel our informative writing. With Ozobots, I am able to obtain greater results from the exponential interest and hand-ons availability that the Ozobots grant. This is a four part, project-based learning assignment. First, students work collaboratively to create a “Murder Mystery” story. After they create a sound plot, students are instructed to build a story board which displays, in detail, the setting of their story. Finally, they Color Code their Ozobot(s) to move on the story board following the actions of the main character. After class presentations, students take part in an informative writing assignment where they give a detailed account of the coding process of the Ozobot throughout their story.
How did you come up with your Murder Mystery Stories assignment?
This project-based learning activity was created to update my informative writing unit to include STEAM. This was the perfect opportunity within my curriculum to include an aspect of coding in an English literature classroom. Last year, we designed Fairy Tales instead of murder mysteries. This year, I gave students the option—and by a winning vote—murder mystery was the chosen genre.
What are some other STEAM projects your students have done with their bots?
Upon the conclusion of this project, a group of sophomore students travel to our elementary school to share their “Ozobot skills” with a class. This year, six sophomore students spent a day with a third grade class at our elementary school sharing their knowledge on Ozobots. The sophomores taught the third graders not only how to code the Ozobots, but the main elements of plot within a story. This collaboration was an exciting one! Once they completed their project, the third grade class brought their story boards to the high school to share with our group of “Ozobot experts”—as they nicknamed the sophomores.
How much do we love Ms. Ligouri’s murder mystery stories? Let us count the ways!
First, they’re collaborative. Ms. Ligouri says her students worked collaboratively “from start to finish”, even before setting out to teach third grade students what they’d learned. The world of writing is full of stereotypes of seclusion, but there’s actually a rich history of collaboration in it. For example, a group of 23 researchers recently concluded that Shakespeare’s Henry VI was actually co-written with Christopher Marlowe. In the early 1900s, surrealists like André Breton and Marcel Duchamp popularized a collaborative writing game called Exquisite Corpse, where one player writes a word or phrase, the next player adds another, and so on.
Second, we love that the Murder Mysteries assignment covers many types of writing—from fictional to informative. Fiction and creative writing tend to get a lot of love, partly because people who study them can end up as screenwriters, authors, or social media mavens. But informative writing is an equally important skill. In Silicon Valley, technical writers create software user guides, write equipment manuals, and describe high tech products in ways that anyone can understand and relate to. In today’s tech-driven world, we’d all be a little lost without them.
Follow Ms. Ligouri on Twitter to see more of her creative classroom. 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 (STEAM, not just 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.