Featured Activity Kits: Coding with Ozobots, Sphero SPRK+, Sphero BOLT, and the Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set

This blog post was written jointly by Chelsea Humphries and Sarah Morelli 

This month, the OISE Library is featuring a collection of coding resources in our Display & Play area, including four robots! Coding in the classroom has never been so much fun (or so easy)!

Ozobots: Bit and Evo

OzoBots, featuring Bit and Evo, are two brand-new activity kits that allow children to learn to code! If you are looking for hands-on coding fun, then these two kits will fit right into your classroom. Both Evo and Bit can be used with simply paper and markers, or they can be used in conjunction with their designated app or website. The robots read colour sequences to follow commands, so students can create lines of coded instructions — or they can create entire drawings!

Bit uses OzoBlockly, an online tool, to allow students to direct it, and there are helpful videos and online instructions to facilitate the use of the website. There is also the option to have students simply draw out the code on paper.  

Evo works very similarly to Bit, but is used in conjunction with the Evo app as opposed to the OzoBlockly website. Using the Evo app, students can earn points and level-up as they learn to code and create. Again, students can simply use paper and markers to draw out the code by hand.

For education professionals who may want to familiarize themselves with Evo and Bit before introducing the robots into the classroom, helpful tutorials and tips and tricks can be found on the OzoBot website.  

The Ozobots are recommended for students in grade 1 and up, due to the small size and delicate nature of the robots.

Sphero: SPRK+ and BOLT

Eager for more coding fun? With Sphero SPRK+, Sphero BOLT, and the Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set, you and your classroom can program even more robots to play games and embark on adventures! These robots and related activity kits are great hands-on learning objects to make coding and programming more tangible for classroom learners. They’re also a lot of fun to play with at any age!

Sphero SPRK+ and Sphero BOLT are both spherical robots that can be programmed to move in different directions, following real-world, drawn out pathways or digitally encoded directions. To use these robots, you must first download the Sphero Edu App, which is available for download on iOS, Android, Kindle, Mac, Windows, and Chrome. In the app, you can program your robot to complete activities and use pre-existing programs to explore their functionalities. They are appropriate for various levels of learning: according to the Sphero Edu website, you can “learn to program your robot by drawing a path, using a sequence of code blocks, or writing your own JavaScript code.” As a teacher, you can even assign activities to learners in your classroom through the app, customizing the learning experience for your students!

The Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set is intended for use with either of the programmable Sphero robots. It has two layouts to explore: a cityscape and a golf course. The mat comes with 3 identical sets of 20 cards that outline programming challenges to be completed by one or more Sphero robots in conjunction with the Sphero Edu App. Each activity card outlines a scenario which must be solved by programming the Sphero robot to move through the Code Mat in a specified way, including a QR code that links directly to the Sphero Edu App. The mat is large enough that multiple students may be able to undertake different activities at once.

The Sphero robots can be used separately or together and in conjunction with the Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set. They’re great for learners in grades 3 and up — and for eager teachers who want a chance to play with coding and programming themselves!

Additional Coding Resources

For extra support with coding and programming, and for ideas about how to bring it into the classroom, consider checking out How to Think Like a Coder Without Even Trying, Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming, and Code in Every Class: How All Educators Can Teach Programming just three among many helpful titles in the OISE Library collection. Your students may also enjoy reading Kids Get Coding: Learn to Program, a very accessible introduction to programming, complete with more online and offline activities for them to explore.

The OzoBots Bit and Evo, Sphero SPRK+, Sphero BOLT, the Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set, and the books listed above, How to Think Like a Coder Without Even Trying, Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming, Code in Every Class: How All Educators Can Teach Programming, and Kids Get Coding: Learn to Program, are all currently on display in the Display & Play area on the third floor of the OISE Library.

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New Titles for the New Year!

As the new semester, new year (and new decade!) begin to unfold, here is an eclectic mix of new titles that OISE Library has purchased for our collection. These books showcase some of the collections that are we are currently working on expanding—most notably the graphic novel collection, as well as the French language collection!

Blueberry Patch/ Meennunyakaa by Jennifer Leason and Norman Chatrand, is a children’s picture book that is based in Duck Bay, Manitoba, in the 1940s. It shares the story of an Elder and his experience of packing up to go out to collect blueberries, a traditional gathering that took place in his community every summer. His story is complemented with beautiful imagery through the book. This picture book is written in English and Anishinaabemowin.

Care Work – Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a book that deals with the pervasive implications of abelism in our society, and considers the movement of disability justice–a “movement that centers the lives and leadership of sick and disabled queer, trans, Black, and brown people, with knowledge and gifts for all.” It is a collection of essays that maps out the idea that there can be no social justice without destroying ableism. This book works as an excellent toolkit for anyone who wants to foster resilient, inclusive and sustainable community-building that is truly accessible. 

Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms by Joe Feldman is an amazing resource for teachers to tackle the very challenging conversation of grading practices in schools, and how they may unintentionally perpetuate achievement and opportunity gaps amongst students. This book provides both a historical backdrop on grading, and how the current system we have now was in fact set up as a tool to control students and their opportunities. He also provides practical ways with examples, on how teachers can adopt grading practices that are motivational, empower students, reduce failure rates and improve teacher-student relationships. Feldman also follows this up with common concerns and questions and how teachers can navigate them. This is an excellent book for teachers are trying to be more reflective, and have more caring and equitable grading practices as well for those who are generally interested in the history of academic grading. 

They Called Us Enemy written by George Takei, along with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker is a graphic novel memoir that recounts George Takei’s childhood of being imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. The graphic novel starts in 1942 with his father rushing him to pack up his things following the order of President Roosevelt, who demanded that every person of Japanese descent on the west coast must be sent to a relocation centre hundreds of miles away. This is where Takei spent his childhood from the age of four surrounded by armed guards. He provides a firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire and how these experiences shaped his future. This book is also written in a way that allows the reader to reflect on current US immigration policies and how they may mirror the legalized racism of the past. The age range for this graphic novel is for 14 year olds and above.

Le Vide by Anna Lienas is a charming picture book intended for 6-9 year olds. It narrates the story of a young girl who is joyfully living life until she fills this inexplicable emptiness, or “le vide.” This book can be a tool to talk about feelings of emptiness that may stem from a variety of issues such as grief and/or depression. It is a very inspiring story on how to live through and overcome hardships and is told in a fun, quirky and poetic manner. 

You can find all of these books on the Ground Floor of OISE Library


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Beginning the Journey of Indigenous Understanding

In December of 2019, the Yellowhead Institute released a report, “Calls To Action Accountability: A Status Update On Reconciliation”, bringing attention to the fact that only 9 of 94 Calls to Action listed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have been completed. To start a new year and a new decade off right, the OISE Library is here to support those beginning a journey of understanding Indigenous issues. This month’s Indigenous display explores the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, examines the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and draws out contemporary issues and concerns, especially related to education. Our featured titles explore ways in which all people, Indigenous and Settler, can forge better relationships and work together towards decolonizing Canada so that more Calls to Action can be completed.

To begin this learning journey, one needs to understand the history of the Indigenous peoples of Canada. A good starting place may be the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada volumes 1-4, available in hard copy and as a web resource. These volumes were created by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society  in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis Nation, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and Indspire. They provide essential historical and cultural information, maps, illustrations, and explorations of Truth and Reconciliation. To further this understanding of Canada’s Indigenous history and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, research can be extended with Knowing the Past, Facing the Future: Indigenous Education in Canada edited by Sheila Carr-Stewart. Very recently published in 2019, this ebook traces the history of colonial practices and school systems in Canada, explores the continuing impact of historic racism and trauma, and dives into current issues in education, addressed from both Indigenous and Western perspectives.

Current issues facing Indigenous populations are further examined in Indigenous Nationhood: Empowering Grassroots Citizens, a collection of the best blog posts written by  Mi’kmaq lawyer, activist, and academic Pamela Palmater. Palmater investigates political and social concerns related to Canada’s Indigenous population and encourages grassroots movements among individuals in Indigenous communities while petitioning for the improvement of relations between such individuals and their larger communities, local governments, and Nations.

In education especially, forging relationships between Indigenous and Settler populations and perspectives is crucial to reconciliation and the creation of holistic and inclusive learning environments. Working with elders is one way that this can be achieved.  Working with Elders and Indigenous Knowledge Systems: A Reader and Guide for Places of Higher Learning by Herman Jeremiah Mitchell provides “a starting base from which [readers] can develop their own ways of working with Elders,” and attempts to bridge the gaps between Indigenous and Western understandings.

The OISE Library has a number of useful resources for incorporating Indigenous perspectives in the classroom. These include Pathways for Remembering and Recognizing Indigenous Thought in Education: Philosophies of Iethi’nihsténha Ohwentsia’kékha (Land) by OISE’s own Sandra D. Styres, focusing on Indigenous ways of knowing and forging relationships between them and the discipline of education, Integrating Aboriginal Perspectives into the School Curriculum: Purposes, Possibilities and Challenges by teacher-training instructor at the University of Manitoba Yatta Kanu, and, for direct classroom use by students, the Circle of Life: Learning from an Elder classroom sets of levelled books for grades K-2 created by the Indigenous Education Coalition, among others.

These books and more related titles can be found on display on the ground floor of the OISE Library.

For additional learning and teaching support on this journey to understanding, be sure to also check out the Infusing Indigenous Perspectives in K-12 Teaching research guide and OISE’s Deepening Knowledge Project online.

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OISE Library Holiday Reads 2019 Edition!

A well-deserved holiday break is finally here and for the second year, staff at the OISE Library have gathered together a wide-ranging list of books, podcasts, and shows that they hope to enjoy over the next few weeks!

 Subhanya Sivajothy, Toronto Academic Libraries Intern at the OISE Library, will be reading through local poetry chapbooks, and also attempting to watch the anime series Samurai Champloo as recommended by her fellow co-workers.

“I haven’t quite pinned down my reading list yet, but I know for sure that my next read is going to be The Ticking Heart by Andrew Kaufman,” says Chelsea Humphries, Graduate Student Reference Assistant at the OISE Library, “I read one of his previous novels, All My Friends Are Superheroes a few years ago, and it was the sweetest, strangest book. In short, the main character’s friends really are all superheroes, and his wife, the Perfectionist, has been hypnotized into thinking that he’s invisible. A quirky and endearing love story ensues.”

“In The Ticking Heart, the main character, Charlie, ends up working at a detective agency in an alternate universe, where his first job is to find the missing heart of a woman’s husband. To make his search more earnest, the woman replaces Charlie’s own heart with a bomb, and he needs to find the missing heart before the bomb inside of him explodes. Kaufman’s writing is a wonderful combination of being intensely surreal and heartwarming. It’ll be an adventure to read, and I can’t wait to start!”

Emily Hector, Instruction and Liaison Librarian, is looking forward to reading Elizabeth Strout’s new novel Olive, Again. “Strout’s portrayal of ‘ordinary’ life is always so affecting to me—I could still weep thinking of moments from her past work, in which Olive’s humanity is on full display. So fallible, so frustrating, so tender at its heart.”

“I’m also excited to jump into Trick Mirror, a collection of essays from New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino, and Women Talking by Miriam Toews (my hometown heroine).”

Meanwhile, Nailisa Tanner, Collections and Outreach Librarian, is looking forward to some non-fiction books this break:

The first is History in the Age of Abundance?: How the Web is Transforming Historical Research by Ian Milligan, a history professor at the University of Waterloo. Nailisa says: “Thanks to a number of Web archiving initiatives like the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, historians studying the 1990s and later decades will have massive amounts of digital content as potential research sources for their work in additional to more traditional historical sources. How can Web archives change historical research, and what kinds of new skills will historians of the digital era need to learn in order to work with Web sources?”

Nailisa also hopes to read A Class by Themselves? The Origins of Special Education in Toronto and Beyond by Jason Ellis. “Ellis conducted a portion of his research for this book in the OISE Library’s Ontario Historical Education Collections, and I love to see the breadth of amazing scholarship that our collections are supporting.”

Females by Andrea Long Chu. “I have been closely following Chu’s writing since her 2018 essay in N+1 “On Liking Women,” but she is perhaps best known for scathing reviews of other peoples’ books. In any case, her writing never fails to surprise, delight, and challenge me.” 

Vanessa Ramsingh, Student Library Assistant at the OISE Library, also has some ambitious reading plans for the break. She is currently reading Caraval by Stephanie Garber, and hoping to read Lost Boy by Christina Henry. “Henry does a really good job at horror and doing horror about the unknown and it really messes with you. She also did a series which was a re-telling of Alice in Wonderland which was really heavy and good.”

Vanessa will also be reading There Will Come a Darkness, which is Katy Rose Pool’s debut novel. “This is a fantasy book about a group of people who have come together to pull off a mission…”

And finally she is also looking forward to reading How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender by Mike Chase. “I’m so excited to read this book!”

We also have some podcast lovers at the OISE Library—Georgia Grieve, Student Library Assistant, who will be catching up on her all-time favourite podcast The Bechdel Cast, a podcast hosted by comedians Jamie Loftus and Caitlin Durante about the way women are portrayed in film. “It’s based on the Bechdel test. The hosts watch movies decide if they pass. They’re comedians so it’s very funny.”

Other favourite podcasts Georgia will be catching up on include Dolly Parton’s America, and Yo, is this Racist? “The hosts are POC comedians: it’s a call-in show where people call in with their questions and a host and a guest answer them—it’s hilarious.”

Georgia also has a few books she’d like to read over the break: “My book club wants to do long reads over the break, and I’m going to try and finish City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I might also try to read Lawrence Durrell’s tetralogy called The Alexandria Quartet, and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals which is part of the Corfu Saga.

Desmond Wong, Outreach Librarian, also has a podcast in mind for the break. “I will be listening to the podcast The Memory Palace by Nate DiMeo  from the Radiotopia Network. This podcast focuses on re-imagining historical events through a narrative format and is produced very beautifully in order to elicit previously unfelt emotions regarding historical events.”

He’ll also be reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, a comedian, writer and blogger. “The book is a hilarious but also a touching and personal account of Lawson’s experiences and struggles through public life while working through depression and anxiety. Although this does not sound like a funny concept, I assure you that the book is hilarious and there were times where I was holding my sides because I laughed so loudly.”

Jenaya Webb, Acting Director of OISE Library, is also looking forward to some humorous reads. “Over the holidays I plan to take a break from academic reading and focus on humour and relaxation. I’ll start with Little Weirds, a new book out by Jenny Slate, one of my favourite comedians. I’ve read mixed reviews of the book, which makes me want to read it even more! I expect it will be funny, poignant, and, of course, a little weird.”

She also plans to re-read Zen Shorts, by Jon Muth. “This picture book features a giant panda named Stillwater, who moves into the neighbourhood and shares stories with his new neighbours, siblings Addy, Michael, and Karl.

This is a children’s book but I think it resonates with kids and adults alike. The illustrations are gorgeous. We have a copy at the OISE Library in our Children’s Literature Collection. I highly recommend it.” 

Last but not least, Jason Meghie, Access Services Generalist at the OISE Library, will be tackling The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

If you are part of the OISE Community (including students, alumni, faculty, staff) and would like to contribute to this list in 2020, please send an email to oise.library@utoronto.ca

Thanks to everyone who contributed, and happy holidays! 




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Featured Activity Kit: Classifying Animals

Animals can be cute and cuddly, but there is much more to them than that. If you are looking for an interactive way to bring biology, and by extension, animal classification to your classroom, check out the kit called Classifying Animals. 

This kit contains 8 sets of animal cards, 8 sets of classifications, 32 student worksheets/guides, 32 student data sheets, and 1 teacher’s guide to help you navigate the kit. The goal of this kit is for students to work together in groups of four to come up with examples of similarities and differences between the life-forms shown on the 18 animal cards. In the event of differing opinions, students are encouraged to explain their reasoning. The student worksheet helps guide the students through the expectations of the activity, and the worksheet is divided into 2 parts, followed by reflective questions for the students to answer individually. Students are also provided with individual worksheets to record the actual classification of the animals investigated throughout the activity. This kit is an excellent tool to encourage student co-operation while learning about the various members of the animal kingdom through animal classification. 

This activity kit is recommended for students in grade 5 and up, as the activity, and the terminology used in the kit are relatively complex.  

If you would like to try out Classifying Animals, it is currently on display in the third floor Display and Play area of the OISE Library. For more science-based kits like Classifying Animals, please look through the OISE Library K-12 Manipulative Database or browse the 3rd floor of the Library. 







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