November Educator of the Month: Michael Helms

Putnam County School District, in the Sunshine State of Florida, is home to STEM Specialist and our November Educator of the Month, Michael Helms. Although his district is Title I, and therefore dependent on federal and state funding to provide students with a quality education, Michael has been able to continuously use, and love, Ozobots as his greatest resource. 

Michael explains, “In a 45-minute STEM elementary class, a student can code a robot for the first time while simultaneously learning about the water cycle, all thanks to using an Ozobot.“

How he plans to use Ozobot in upcoming school years..

I am definitely using the Ozobot for K-12 students in all of our STEM classrooms: K-5 STEM specials, Sixth grade STEM electives, and 7-12 STEM pathways, while using Ozobot Classroom as a resource for standard-based learning.

On his favorite Ozobot projects…

The first project is a standards-based water cycle lesson for fourth grade students. The Ozobot is used to portray a water molecule as it goes through the water cycle. The second project is an introduction to robotics using the Ozobot.

How he would grade the state of CS education in FL…

I would grade the current state of CS education in Florida with a “B.” As William Gibson said, “The future is here — but it is not evenly distributed.” While the state does fund a lot of professional development for teachers to get certified in computer science, it is not evenly distributed among the entire state. 

Here in Putnam County, we are fortunate to have computer science in elementary and in our secondary schools. I definitely see computer science expanding and growing.

How he was able to use Ozobots during school closures (due to the COVID-19 Pandemic)…

Lorena (our STEM coach) and I passed out a class set of Ozobots to our STEM classrooms. Instead of just dropping the Ozobots off, we decided it would be more beneficial if we modeled a lesson using them. The teachers seemed to really appreciate that. We wanted to make sure they were comfortable with the class set of Ozobots in hopes that the teachers would use them.  

I would teach five classes a day in 45-minute increments, seeing Kindergarten through fifth grade daily in elementary. If I could stay for the whole week, I could expose kids to the water cycle lesson while coding a robot for the first time. 

Due to the pandemic, the teachers were also instructed on how to properly disinfect the Ozobots between classes.  We went to a NEFEC training for our secondary teachers, where they learned how to flash the Ozobot on Ozoblockly.   

Want to learn more about Michael? Check out the PCSD Twitter page!

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.

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