Redesigning Spaces

At the beginning of this school year, I took on a new part-time position as an instructional technology coach at my high school.  This is a new position for my school, so the other instructional technology coach and I have had the pleasure and challenge of shaping our roles and shaping the area of the building that we call “home”.  That area has been carved out of the back of a computer lab, just off of the library.  There was no budget set aside for our physical space, but by working with the custodians and administrators over the past couple of months, we have managed to make a few steps toward making the space more inviting and functional.

Here is a picture of our space from the beginning of the year. We are lucky to have such a large office, but it felt so empty!

tech office - at first

And our space currently looks like this:

2014-11-21 11.57.46

Here’s a link to an album with more views of the current space.

When I had the opportunity to research what makes a learning space effective as part of my CEP 811 class this week, I was inspired to continue dreaming about what we could do continue to tweak this space.  As you can see in the photo album, there is a computer lab attached to our office, and as our school (hopefully) goes 1:1 in the next few years, I hope that we can utilize this space in a new way.

My Design:

I used a tool called SketchUp to create a model of what this space could look like:

tech office

On the far left of the first picture, the office has been turned into a conference room / recording studio.  Coaches can use this space to meet 1-on-1 with teachers in a quiet, private space, and everyone (teachers, coaches, and students) can use this space to record screencasts and/or videos.  There is also a small sink and Keurig coffee maker because, let’s be honest, providing caffeine is a key way to help many adults feel comfortable and excited about learning.

The main portion of the room has been divided by a clear glass wall.  The space to the left of the wall is primarily for tech coaching and small-group collaboration among teachers, and the space on the right is a “Creativity Center”, where teachers can bring their classes or where larger groups of teachers can meet.

The tech coaching portion of the space contains a desk for teach tech coach, facing each other to facilitate conversation and collaboration between the coaches.  in the back of the room, there is a Media:Scape station, where small groups of teachers can plug in and project their computer screens as they collaborate on lesson planning or reflection.  A couch with a large natural-lighting lamp is available as a comfortable spot to have conversations or plan together.

tech office view 2In the Creativity Center, a variety of seating options are available to learners: comfortable chairs, high-top toables, round tables, and Media:Scape tables.  Because this room will be used for a variety of purposes, this variety will be necessary and helpful.  All of the seating is designed to facilitate collaboration and small-group discussion.  Ideally, all of the chairs would be on wheels so that learners can move freely and the room could be rearranged quickly, if a teacher wants to address the whole to focus their attention in one direction.  A SmartBoard in the middle of the room could be used for presentations, or by small groups not working at the Media:Scape tables.  The lower half of each wall is covered with Dry Erase paint, so that teams can make notes on the walls as they work.  A green screen covers part of the wall, so that learners can record videos and add their own backgrounds.

Because learners will each bring their own device, no computers are present, but the room will be equipped with adequate electrical outlets.  Although the room is inside the building, windows have been added in two different places, so that natural light from the windows in the hallway and from the commons area can enter.

Design & Learning Theories:

As an instructional technology coach, I work with adult learners to help them feel more comfortable with new technology and to help them transform their teaching by using the available technology.  I was convicted by David Kelley’s TED talk, “How To Build Your Creative Confidence“, that teachers often are so busy that they lose sight of their inner creativity.  All teachers, but especially teachers who are intimidated by new technology, need a place where they feel inspired, free to explore, and in-touch with their inner creativity.  This redesigned space is built with them in mind, from the Keurig coffee maker to the warm sun-like lighting above the comfortable couch, to the Media:Scape table that allows for easy collaboration.  The colors and lighting are consistent with the school colors and designed to make them feel at ease and empowered.

The creativity center portion of this room is designed to allow learners (both teachers and students) to explore, collaborate, and create in ways that are consistent with learning theories of constructivism and experiential learning, as well as research into design and learning. According to Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, Kobbacy (2012), learners benefit from having flexible spaces where they can re-arrange the furniture to suit their collaborative tasks, and they need interesting seating that provides them some empowered choice over how they complete their learning activities.  This redesigned space will allow them to do that, along with providing a space where they can “hang out, geek out, and mess around”, which Malin (2012) identifies as 3 key aspects of the type of social learning that is quickly becoming the norm.

Items to be Obtained:

  • Glass Wall & Windows.  I am not sure what it costs to build a wall or install windows, but I have been told that the school is planning to build this wall over the summer, and I know they have recently added windows to a couple of internal rooms.
  • Additional electrical outlets.  Custodians or school-contracted electricians can install these quite economically.
  • Smartboard.  Already located in district and not being used.  Just needs to be mounted on the wall.
  • 3 Media:Scapes.  Two are already owned by the school in an area where they are being less effectively used, and so could be moved into this area.  1 more would need to be purchased.  These are quite expensive, but a makeshift Media:Scape could be made by using a large TV monitor (~$400)
  • Couch. Ikea, $550, or Turnstone, $1500
  • 2 area rugs.  Target, $150 each.
  • 4 arm chairs.  Ikea, $280 each, or Turnstone, $750 each.
  • 2 coffee tables.  Turnstone, $350 each
  • 2 High Top tables. Ikea, $625 each, or
  • 3 Round tables & chairs. Ikea, $515 each.
  • Green Screen, $120.
  • Dry Erase paint. $20 per 7’x7′ area
  • Sink. Cost will depend on the ease of installing plumbing in this area.
  • Keurig.  $100
  • 1 Campfire Big Lamp by Turnstone.  $999.  This is a dream item, and would probably be omitted in reality (unless I win a generous grant!)

These items could be purchased in stages, and they are roughly arranged in the order in which they should be purchased.  I imagine that our computer lab will need to exist in its current form for a couple more years, as we will probably phase in 1:1 with our students, but funds will hopefully be available to improve the instructional tech coaching office for next year.  I would love to apply for one of our local school district foundation’s grants this year, and look for other national grants that could help us transform the space we have into one that could open up doors for students to learn, collaborate, create, and share in meaningful ways.  I am excited to see how learning is transformed through the changes I am able to make in this space!

Resources

Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

Kelley, D. (2012, March 1). How to build your creative confidence. Retrieved November 23, 2014, from http://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_how_to_build_your_creative_confidence?language=en

Malin, S. (2012, September 1). What If? Exploring How Libraries Can Embody Trends of the Twenty-First Century. Young Adult Library Services.

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Flipped Learning: Conquering the Challenges

I will be participating in a virtual EdCamp as part of my CEP 811 class, and I will be sharing about some of the biggest challenges teachers face when starting to use the teaching strategy of Flipped Learning, and providing some advice on how to overcome those challenges.  I compiled this Prezi as a visual aid for the EdCamp.  Even if you are not participating in the EdCamp, I encourage you to check out the Prezi and let me know if you have faced these or other challenges yourself!

“Organized Life” MOOC

Do you know what a MOOC is? (Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with the cow in the Old McDonald video I posted a few weeks ago.)  MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses, which are becoming popular as a way for people to connect, learn and share for free using the power of the Internet.  This week for my CEP 811 class, I was challenged to design my own MOOC using best practices in learning theory.
After browsing the MOOCs available at P2PU and after receiving a new issue of “Real Simple” magazine in the mail this week, I was inspired to create a MOOC called “Organized Life”.  In this course, participants will simplify their lives by reducing clutter and creating new organization habits while being motivated by connecting virtually with a community of people working toward the same goals.
This course will appeal to people who find themselves overwhelmed with the complexity and busyness of life, and the clutter that we all accumulate in our homes, on our computers, and in our brains.  Readers of magazines like Real Simple and blogs like The Art of Simple, who are already interested in reading about how to become more organized and live more simply, will be benefit from the encouragement and accountability to take action provided by the community of peers taking the course.  I think just about everyone has an area or two of life that they’d like to simplify, so this course would appeal to a wide variety of people – from teachers, to stay-at-home moms, to high-powered career people!  Anyone who wants to reduce clutter and stress by creating new, sustainable systems will want to sign up for this MOOC.
Objectives & Outcomes of the “Organized Life” MOOC
6001170262_2a8d077afb_b

Used under creative commons license from https://www.flickr.com/photos/lovemaegan/6001170262/

 

At the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  1. purposefully purge clutter from an area in their home or office,
  2. create organizational systems in an area of their home or office,
  3. create a simpler organizational system for information using an electronic tool,
  4. create a new routine to minimize stress and clutter, and
  5. motivate themselves and others to continue using these strategies.
The emphasis of this course is not on a one-time application of the information, but on creating and sustaining new systems.  This is important because without the sustainability, the clutter will quickly return and the time spent on the course is fruitless.
Through this course, learners will create:
  1. a manifesto, as a guiding life principle for organization
  2. a blog post or series of Tweets (with the hashtag #organizedlife) a picture of their chosen home or office area before they begin, a description or picture of the clutter they eliminated, and what the area looked like after cutting out the clutter.
  3. a Pinterest board that collects new ideas for organizing their chosen area.
  4. an annotated picture or video (Google Hangout On Air) showing their area after they applied their new organizational system, and a reflection on why the new system is better.
  5. a screencast (or blog post) explaining how to use an electronic tool to organize information
  6. a video illustrating (or blog post detailing) the new routine they created and implemented
  7. a reflection (blog post) on the difficulties of maintaining their new organization system, and what they’ve done to tweak it to make it more sustainable.
Learning Theories
Any good learning experience will take into account solid learning theories, and this MOOC is no exception.
Because a MOOC is geared toward adult learners who are not part of a credential-earning program, the course needs to be designed with andragogy in mind.  Adult learners will come to the course with a variety of prior experiences, abilities, and needs.  This course is designed to give learners maximal choice in how and what they complete, so that their individual needs are met.  The participants are asked to set their own goals at the beginning of the course and reflect on how well they reached them at the end, and learners will be able to see each others’ work, thus allowing them to benefit from the wisdom of others as they strive to meet their own goals.  They will work toward tangible results of organizing their physical space, and what they learn will have immediate practical impact on their day-to-day life.
Additionally, each week’s instruction is oriented around the spiraling aspect of experiential learning theory, in which students will learn new information from a video, text, or visual source, do or create something with what they’ve learned, and reflect critically on what they’ve learned and created.  Each week builds off the prior week, so that students are revisiting their work and others’ work from previous weeks.  The learning is largely self-initiated, with the MOOC serving as a facilitator that provides some expert resources, structure, and an opportunity to connect with other learners.
TPCK is another theory that informs this MOOC’s design, as technology is used as a vehicle to deliver and support the content of how to organize your life in a way that uses good pedagogy for adult learners (andragogy and experiential learning).  The course is not designed to push any particular technology to be used in a specific way, but rather technology is introduced as a powerful tool to find and share information.  Technology is also presented as a tool to further organize your life, with attention also being paid to how technology can complicate day-to-day tasks and contribute to a feeling of disorganization.
All of these theories and TPCK are used to inform a solid instructional design of the MOOC.  The course starts with a presenting need of many adults: an overwhelming feeling of disorganization.  The course is designed around the real-world experience of organizing an area of the students’ life that feels out of control.  Students will have the opportunity to master instructional objectives by performing skills, identifying goals, and applying what they’ve learned in new ways.  The course is designed around a set of essential skills needed to create and sustain organization.  Students will get to share their work with a real-world audience through blogs and Twitter, and evaluate their own work and others’ work in those same contexts, as they complete the assigned lessons that provide structure to their learning.
Peer Support
Peer support is a vital part of the success of learners in this MOOC.  Many people try to get organized, only to get discouraged because no one else sees the result of their hard work, or they are not surrounded by like-minded people who can encourage them to try again when they fail to sustain the changes they make.  Throughout this course, learners will have opportunities to interact by posting comments (or responding to tweets) to encourage and provide ideas for other course participants as they begin and continue the journey to get and stay organized. Additionally, learners will have the opportunity to participate in a Google Hangout to show and explain to other course participants what they organized and how it is an improvement on their old systems. By using Twitter or existing blogs, participants will also be able to engage their real-life networks, to add additional support and to potentially attract others to participate in the course in the future.
NOTE: This MOOC is currently only in the outline phase, but if it is ever fully created and published, I will update this post with a link to the MOOC site.  

Course Outline

Week 1: A Manifesto for Organized Living

In week 1, students will be inspired to launch into this journey of organizing and simplifying their lives.  They will develop clear goals they hope to achieve through this course, begin to make some small changes in one area, and connect with other learners in the course.  Finding this inspiration and connection right away is important in a MOOC, because without it, students will not begin the course or sustain involvement in it.
Learn: 
Students will read & watch the following items to gain motivation and context for organizing their lives:
Reflect: My Manifesto
Students will read the Simple Living Manifesto and draft their own manifesto, based on their personal goals for this 6 week course.  They will share their manifestos on their blog.
Do: DeClutter
Students will pick 1 area of their home or office (closet, bedroom, fridge, desk, pantry, kids’ toy room, laundry room, etc.) to focus on for the first half of the course.  They will take a picture of that area before they begin organizing, spend some time eliminating unnecessary items from that area, and then take a picture of the area after.  They will be encouraged to donate items, sell items, or throw them away.  When they finish, they will take a picture of the area.  This picture is not to be a “finished product”, and may not even be an improvement on the original photo, but it will be an image that the learner and the the MOOC community can look at to generate ideas for further improvements.

Week 2: Dream Big

In week 2, students will reflect on what is not working in their chosen area.  They will then collect ideas from the wealth of resources on the internet to improve their chosen area.  The idea is to dream big and then eventually narrow them down to do-able changes.
Learn & DoPinterest Dreamin’
Students will collect ideas for how others have organized a similar area of their home or office.  They will pin these items on a Pinterest board and share the board with their classmates. The captions for the pinned images should reflect on what specifically is inspiring or how it could be adapted for their own use.  When they finish, they will write a blog post sharing what is not working in their chosen area, describing their favorite Pinned finds from their research, and making a plan for what they need to buy, repurpose, or remove in order to substantially improve the selected area.
Some potential starting points for this project include:
Reflect: Peer Feedback #1
Learners will comment on the posts of at least 1 other participant, encouraging them and/or giving an idea what they could implement to improve their organizational flow.

Week 3: Just Do It!

Students will execute the changes they planned in week 2.  There is no official “learning” planned for this week, in order to allow students to devote time to shopping and re-organizing and sharing with classmates via Google Hangouts.
Do: Just Do It!
Students will organize their chosen area, following the plans they designed in the previous week.  When they finish, they will take pictures and annotate the changes they made with a tool like SnagIt and share them on their blog.
Reflect: Peer Feedback #2
Learners will arrange a Google Hangout with 1-2 other classmates, showing them the newly organized area.  They will encourage each other and provide accountability for finishing this big task!

Week 4: Cleaning Up Digital Dirt

The course now shifts away from organization of physical space to organization of digital and mental space.  These changes are needed to sustain changes in physical space.  (For example, if you have a plan for organizing important files digitially, you won’t need to keep physical copies sitting on your desk and can reduce clutter.  If you have a cluttered mind, you might mindlessly set items down in places they don’t belong and in places you cannot remember, increasing physical clutter.)
Learn:
  • Students will watch “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, a TED talk by David Allen, to help them understand the need to create productivity habits and systems.
  • They will then explore 2-3 tech productivity tools like Evernote, Google Calendar, Remember the Milk, Dropbox, and/or Emeals.
Do: How To Organize Digitally
Students will pick a tool they’re familiar with and an audience for whom the tool could be especially useful.  They will make a screencast (using a tool like Screencastify) to capture their screen as they narrate a 5-7 minute video explaining how the tool can be used by the selected audience for the selected purpose.
They can read my blog post about Evernote as an example.
Reflect: 
Students will write a blog post explaining how this tool is useful to them and how it could be useful to others in their chosen audience.  They will explain how the tool can aid in reducing both physical and mental clutter and enabling users to stay organized.  They will embed their screencast in this blog post.

Week 5: Routines & Systems

Routine sometimes has a negative connotation.  It sounds boring, outdated, and stuck.  But developing a new routine can make new habits (like staying organized!) stick.  In this week, students will reflect on an area of their life that contributes unnecessary clutter and disorganization and then create & implement an “addictive” plan to change that.
Learn:
Students will read/watch:
Reflect:
Students will reflect on the principles of addictive behavior and an area of their life that could use a “kick” of change (cleaning schedule, morning routines, putting clothes away, paying bills, etc.).  They will write a short blog post reflecting on their current routine and draft a way to change it to create a more positive and addicting routine.
Do:
Students will execute their new system for at least 3 days!

 Week 6: Reflection

In the final week of the course, students will reflect on the changes they made in this course and share their take-aways from the course.
Reflect:
Students will write a blog post summarizing the organizational changes they made in (a) their physical space, (b) their electronic space, and (c) their routines.  They will share how having a manifesto, making these changes, and connecting with others has positively impacted areas like their attitude, quality of life, and efficiency over the past 6 weeks.  They will be asked to elaborate on any areas that are still challenging for them, and then to brainstorm ways to change those routines and systems to make them more sustainable.

Works Cited

Making Sense of Maker Theories

I recently created a new lesson plan for teaching electrical conductivity in my Honors Chemistry class.  In the past, I’ve taught the topic of conductivity in a pretty traditional way: I’ve described to students how bonding type determines whether something is conductive or not, and then expected students to identify chemical substances as conductive based on formulas or descriptions.  In this new lesson, my students will get to explore electrical conductivity by creating a music video with the help of a Makey Makey, a Scratch program, and a variety of household objects.  If you haven’t watched the video I created as an example to introduce the project to my students, check it out here.

In CEP 811 this week, we watched Richard Culatta’s TED talk entitled “Reimagining Learning“, and it made me feel even more excited about trying out my new lesson.  In his talk, Culatta emphasized that technology should not just be used to replace our current tools and continue to let education be about passive transmission of information.  Instead, he challenged his audience to imagine the ways that technology can create powerful transformation in learning and teaching.  I see aspects of this in my new lesson.  Rather than having to wait until I grade a worksheet or a quiz, my students will get immediate feedback about whether they understand conductivity:  no sound will be produced if an object is not conductive!  And the lesson is arranged around a problem that students must collaboratively solve, in a way that would not be possible without the technologyHow can we make music from household objects?

As I contemplated this and a variety of learning theories this week for class, I realized that my new lesson will have a greater impact on students’ learning not just because of the technology they use, but also because of the learning theories underlying this redesign.  My old way of teaching this concept is based on instructivism, with me clearly explaining the information to students and asking them to demonstrate their understanding in a traditional way.  The new lesson uses aspects of both constructivism and experiential learning to teach this concept in a more engaging and more effective way.

Constructivism:

Constructivism is a theory that posits that students learn best when they are given guided opportunities to construct their own understanding of a concept.  As a science teacher, I have found this learning theory to be a very powerful way to help my students understand the scientific processes at work in the world around them, especially for concepts that they can experience in tangible ways.  Granted, it takes longer to teach a concept in this way, but research shows that learners are more engaged and their mental schema are more deeply changed as a result.  The image below describes the roles of teachers, students, and the environment in a constructivist learning environment:

In his 2012 paper entitled “Millennial Expectations and Constructivist Methodologies”, Timothy Carter describes how especially powerful constructivist approaches can be for current high school students, who are part of the Millennial Generation.  According to Carter, many recent studies show that Millennials are used to learning by trial-and-error, learning in socially connected and collaborative ways, and seeking out mentors for help on an as-needed basis, rather than being told what to know by an expert.  This fits well with a constructivist theory of learning, in which the teacher is a facilitator for learning that guides students as they carry out activities and seek out resources that help them construct a new understanding of the world.

My new lesson is built on constructivist theory, in that students make initial observations about what is possible with the MakeyMakey tool and conductive materials, conduct an exploration to discover what other materials work, and then create products (both video and written) that demonstrate their understanding of the underlying concepts.  They will rely on each other and on me as the teacher to guide them in this process, along with finding online resources to help them figure out how to use the MakeyMakey and Scratch program.

Experiential Learning:

The other main learning theory supporting my new lesson plan is Experiential Learning.  David Kolb, who is credited with this theory, explains that learning occurs in a cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking and acting, as shown in the diagram below.

I am struck by the importance of the reflection and acting parts of this cycle.  Reflection requires the learner to connect their experience with prior knowledge, and acting requires them to transfer their knowledge to new situations.  The cyclical nature of this process is also important, as it requires iterative play and change.  In his 2010 paper, Kolb emphasizes the importance of play in the learning process.  It’s easy to justify play in an elementary classroom, but it is often pushed to the side in favor of “rigorous standards” as students enter high school.  Kolb describes an adult softball league and how important learning occurs as they navigate through uncertainty, feel free to exhibit foolishness, create a community culture, and feel safe to bring their full selves to the environment.

I believe that the same elements that were vital in that environment can be transferred to learning in a high school classroom. Formulating an identity is an important developmental task for a high school student, and being aware of that as a classroom teacher, I seek to create environments and opportunities where students can do this as they learn.  I felt a little foolish making my demo video and playing “Old McDonald Had a Farm”, but I’ve learned that being playful and foolish myself creates a culture where students also feel safe to do the same.  This lesson will allow students to incorporate their own interests, personalities, and creativity as they playfully work to discover how conductivity works.  The students will inevitably hit roadblocks as they playfully create their videos. But the iterative process of experiencing and observing, reflecting on what they saw, thinking about what it happened and how it could be applied in a new situation, and acting to make those changes will help them learn more deeply than just hearing me explain conductivity.

Conclusion:

The lesson plan I created is solidly supported by both constructivism and experiential learning theory.  Over the past 7 years of teaching, I have learned, through trial-and-error, how to guide students through the constructive process of learning by asking questions rather than telling them answers.  I think my lesson plan could be more specific about the types of questions I would ask as students are working, so that another teacher could also use the lesson plan.

References:

Carter, T.L. (2008). Millennial Expectations and Constructivist Methodologies: Their Corresponding Characteristics and Alignment.  Action in Teacher Education.  Retreived from http://www.tandfonline.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/doi/pdf/10.1080/01626620.2008.10463498.

Culatta, Richard. (2013). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. Retrieved from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Reimagining-Learning-Richard-Cu.

Derekcx. The Constructivist Classroom. Digital image. College of Education Constructivism. N.p., 23 Aug. 2009. Web. 9 Nov. 2014. https://www.flickr.com/photos/29444537@N00/3892775860/. Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 2.0).

GSE843. Steph_Kol_Model. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. N.p., 12 Sept. 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2014. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d7/Steph_Kol_Model.jpg. Public Domain.

Kolb, A. & Kolb, D. A., (2009). Learning to play, playing to learn: A case study of a ludic learning space. Journal of Organizational Change Management.

Thrifting with a Makey Makey

This week, I was challenged to learn how to use a Makey Makey, and then to creatively remix it with items from a thrift store (and my house) to create a prototype of something I could use with my students.

After watching some sample videos of what others had done with a Makey Makey, I was both impressed with how versatile this tool is and amazed at the creative things people came up with. (Who would ever think to make musical chairs or a life-size race game, let alone a pee counter?)  Then I started to get intimidated: How could I top this crazy greatness?  And how was I ever going to come up with a meaningful way to use this in my classroom, since most of the videos I saw were about music and/or done by elementary-age students?  I mean, I could make some sort of review game where they answer by touching the object instead of pressing a button on the computer, but I don’t really like to use technology just because it’s “neat” or “engaging” — If I’m going to go through the work of figuring this out and making something new, I want it to meaningfully redefine what my students can do or produce.

I talked myself off the ledge and decided I should probably go back and do the readings for class this week. Fortunately Dr. Punya Mishra directly addressed my concerns about creativity in his article “Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the Future“.  While I’m not very artistically creative (as you will see in my video for this week!), I do enjoy creatively solving problems in areas like science and teaching in which I have a lot more skill and training.  And I’d like to help my students to become creative, divergent thinkers, but I don’t give them a lot of opportunities to do that.  I often give them labs that are neatly packaged, and even if they’re guided inquiry labs, I have set the conditions so that the students will generally be successful on their first or second attempt, no matter what procedure they decide to follow.  But just this week, when we had a lab fail in AP Chemistry class, we got to talk about how scientists don’t work this way: in fact, they fail and tweak and creatively problem-solve way more often than they get affirmation that their results were what they expected.

My MakerSpace

So with that in mind, I decided to apply my scientific skills to figuring out the Makey Makey kit.  I opened it up and started connecting wires to random things to figure out what would and would not conduct.

playtime

My desk was a crazy mess of chaos, but I had a lot of fun finding random things in my house that might work, including this cow creamer holder that I bought at a thrift shop a few months ago.  It works with the Makey Makey if I put aluminum foil inside of it.  I was surprised at some things that didn’t naturally conduct, like a magnetic tree-shaped stand (which you will see as a prop in my final video).

In the back of my mind, I still wasn’t sure how this had any practical use for my classroom, but I decided to pursue what I was most inspired by, which was the cow creamer holder and a music book of kids’ songs that only use 6 notes (which works perfectly with the Makey Makey, because there are 6 inputs on the basic side of the board) .  I thought it’d be funny to play a song that involved a cow, and maybe figure out how to make him moo.

I found a good Creative Commons Moo sound at FreeSound, a Scratch program that was set up to make the Makey Makey into a keyboard, and the music for “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in the book of kids’ songs.  I figured out that I didn’t need the “E” note to play my song, so I played around with the Scratch program and made that key into the “Moo” sound effect.  I had some trouble with the click function not responding fast enough, so I also reprogrammed the “A” note to be triggered by the “w” key found on the back of the Makey Makey.  My Old McDonald Scratch Keyboard was ready to go!

Then I set up my scene:

2014-11-02 15.51.46

I connected the cords as shown in this diagram:

Old McDonald Setup (1)

Finally, I plugged the Makey Makey into the USB drive of my laptop, and recorded this amazing rendition of Old McDonald:

Lesson Planning

As I thought about my process of playing, I realized that I have a very natural opening in my curriculum for something like this!  Not only is this kind of divergent and creative play a part of the NGSS standards and something I’d like to incorporate more into my classes, but the Makey Makey is driven by electrical conductivity, which can be explained by the flow of electrons and the type of chemical bonding present, a topic I cover in both Honors Chemistry and AP Chemistry.

I decided to make a lesson plan that would provide a more guided and scaffolded version of the task I was given this week.  My lesson plan elaborates on how I plan to demonstrate the Makey Makey to students, give them time to explore, and then challenge them to create a video that utilizes 3 different conductive substances, a Scratch keyboard program, and the Makey Makey to play a song.  They will then write a short paper explaining their process of creation and the scientific principles that allow the Makey Makey to work with their objects.

I believe that the photos and videos I created will help my students (and you, the readers of this blog) as they begin their own creations.  Examples of what is possible and how to do it were essential inspirations and explanations for me, and my example will hopefully be a springboard to them as well.  If you are inspired by what I’ve done here, please let me know!

Resources:

Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. Moo.wav. November 30th, 2009. https://www.freesound.org/people/cmusounddesign/sounds/84697/. 2 November 2014.

Ericr. MaKey MaKey Piano-2.  17 May, 2012.  http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/2543877/.  2 November 2014.

Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group (2012). Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the Future. TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16.