The Makey Makey Gelatin Keyboard

The Makey Makey May Term class focused around the ideas of invention, creativity and imagination. Students were given a Makey Makey (a simple pre-programed circuit board that lets users control a computer by using alligator clips and anything that is conductive). Students were taught the elements of basic design, and circuitry. After field trips to RIT’s MAGIC Center and The Kate Gleeson College of Engineering, students were asked to put their creative skills to the test. For their final projects, students had to use the Makey Makey to create a project that was original. One project that really stuck out was “The Gelatin Keyboard”. The two eighth graders responsible for that creation wrote about their experiences with the Makey Makey.

How did you decide to create a keyboard made of Jello/Gelatin?

Francesca wanted to make a keyboard and I wanted to incorporate Jello/Gelatin into our project. Therefore, we came up with a Gelatin keyboard. -Alison

We wanted to make something fun but it seemed like everyone was making game controllers. We decided to make the thing itself fun to use or play with instead of what it is doing. I guess you could say that games are more fun than typing, but I think the keyboard was really fun to use. -Francesca

Why did you change from store bought Jello to Gelatin?

We were telling Mrs. Oliveri (our art teacher) that our jello was not firming up so well and that we were worried that our project was going to fail. She gave us a recipe to a strong gelatin modeling material that was made of glycerin, gelatin, water, and rubbing alcohol. -Alison

The Jello was taking too long and once it was done, it wasn’t strong enough. The gelatin took a lot less time to make (if you did it right) but it was also at least 10 times stronger. If you wanted to mold it to a certain shape, all you had to do was put it in the microwave and then let it sit for a while to harden so that part was fairly easy as well. -Francesca

How was your project made better by collaboration?

An idea would get better with each other’s positive and negative opinions. That idea would form into something great that we were both happy with. -Alison

Each person is creative in their own way and the more different creative ideas you can have the better. Sometimes you don’t agree on how to do something, but you try both and one definitely works better, but if you just had your own idea it might not have worked. I don’t think our project would’ve been able to work if there weren’t two of us, collaboration is key. -Francesca

What would have changed about your final project?

I would have hidden some of the wires better to make it look better. -Alison

I don’t think I would change anything about our final project, maybe a few things in the process, but I really like how it turned out. -Francesca

Did it work out the way you hoped it would?

It worked out even better than I had hoped. I did not expect it to work so well. -Alison

It did, indeed every key ended up working so that was really good. I do think that it turned out better than what we were thinking of. Halfway throughout the process I was thinking whether or not we would have a final project, but we figured out the problems and it worked very well. -Francesca

What advice would you have for someone who was going to work with a Makey Makey for the first time?

You can make anything you want with Makey Makey you just need patience and a lot of wires. -Alison

Try everything. If you think of something, try it because that’s the point. There are no limits, maybe it won’t work the first time, but keep going. Also, be patient things may not happen the way you want them to and that can be good or bad but learn from your mistakes. -Francesca

For more about the Makey Makey May Term class, check out my previous post, Makey Makey and May Term.

Tech Tuesday 6.10.14 – Makey Makey and May Term

At Allendale Columbia School, Friday, June 6th was our last day of the school. We finished the year with a three week mini-term called May Term. May Term takes students out of the traditional classroom environment and gives them a chance to take project-based classes that are not traditional course offerings. To learn more about our Middle School May Term offerings, click here. Ending the school year with May Term was amazing! The atmosphere of the campus and the excitement of the students gave the school a different kind of buzz and energy that was invigorating for everyone! A student told me that his mother offered to let him stay home one day and he said “No, I want to go to school.” He also told me that if May Term weren’t going on, he would have stayed home. I had students that chose to continue working on their projects during breaks and optional work times. They wanted to work and continue to learn. I had to lock the door in order to get them to take a break! Why doesn’t school capture that kind of excitement, energy and passion all the time? What if May Term/project-based classes were taught all year long and not just for three weeks at the end of the school year? Is there any doubt that passionate, excited and happy learners will learn more and push themselves harder?

Here are links to pictures and videos to help summarize the Makey Makey classes that I taught during May Term.

Click on the picture to see the entire Makey Makey photo album!

Click here to see the Makey Makey Session 1 overview video.

Click here to see the Makey Makey Session 2 overview video.

 

Tech Tuesday 6.3.14 – Makey Makey May Term Session 1

On May 28th, we completed session 1 of our May Term program at Allendale Columbia School. Without a doubt, it has been an overwhelming success. Below is a write up and a short video overview of what happened during the Makey Makey (if you aren’t sure what a Makey Makey is click here) session that I co-taught with AC Senior, Martjin Appelo (he is assisting as part of his Senior Study Project).

Post written by 8th Grader, Caroline.

Makey Makey was a fun way to use everyday objects in different ways. We plug in alligator clips to a key, the key is hooked up to the computer and anything you hook up to the alligator clips will work as a keyboard on a computer. This allowed us to be creative and use use our imagination to invent something with common objects. Some of us got a view of reprogramming the Makey Makey (using Arduino software). The group I was in, made a band out of fruit, water, old cans, and cardboard. Other groups made controllers for video games. One group made a one hand controller for Pokemon for people that are disabled and hungry. Two boys made a life size Minecraft controller, and another boy made a motorcycle game controller that looked like the handlebars of a bike. All of these ideas wouldn’t have been possible without the Makey Makey. The Makey Makey was a fun way to use our imagination, and I would take the course again to create even more complex devices.

 

All the music playing in this recording was created using Makey Makey instruments!

Tech Tuesday 5.20.14 – Chromebooks in 2nd Grade

Recently, our second graders received Chromebooks to use in their classroom. Lower school Digital Literacy Instructor, Kristen McKenzie, and I guided the children through the process of creating a Student Code of Conduct for Technology Use. Because the second graders were the first students in our lower school to use Chromebooks in a 1:1 environment, they were charged with helping to create the Code of Conduct for Technology Use for all lower school (K-5) students. After finalizing their Code, students presented it to John Sullivan for approval. The same group of students are creating plans for sharing the Code with other lower school classes in the fall. Here is the Student Code of Conduct for Technology Use that they created.

Tech Tuesday 5.13.14 – Protecing Digital Learners

Too often, Internet safety is presented to kids in a way that only shows the negative side. Kids are told what not to do, and often they don’t understand why. There is a positive side to the web, and learning to navigate it safely is easy. This is so critical, as the term “digital native” is thrown around too often as we assume our young people will innately understand the ins and outs of their online footprint. This assumption causes frustration for educators and students alike. We, as teachers and parents, need to be role models for our children. There is great power in the Internet and with that power comes great responsibility. There is more truth to this now than ever before. We all have a great resource, the Internet, and like any super power, some people don’t know how to wield it. We must be taught. Our children DO NOT possess this ability just by being born. If anything, children and adolescents need more guidance than ever. Scaring kids into believing that the Internet is a bad place where bad things happen is not going to teach them anything. We need to be proactive and teach responsibility. Being safe online is really no different than being safe in your neighborhood.

Below is a link to some excellent resources collected in a post published on the website Educators Technology and Mobile Learning. If you end up using any of the information from this post or if you have any other great ideas or resources, please share in the comments sections. I would love to know what people are trying and how they are using these tools in the classroom or at home with your families.

Tools to Protect and Raise Digital Learners ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

Tech Tuesday 4.8.14 – What Do You Want Kids to Do With Technology?

I stumbled upon the following image on Twitter the other day and I was impressed with its simplicity. Too often, technology use is viewed as a learning outcome, when it is really just a means to an end, a tool. Technology can be transformative for learning and engagement, but don’t lose sight of your curricular objectives.

So, ask yourself… what do you want kids to do with technology? If your ideas are only on the left hand side of the image below, you need to rethink how you are utilizing technology in your curriculum.

This image was created and shared by William Ferriter.

Tech Tuesday 3.25.14 – Authentic Learning Experiences

At Allendale Columbia School, creating authentic or experiential learning opportunities for our students is one of our top priorities. One of the most difficult aspects with incorporating this shift is the “how.” It can be overwhelming to change how you teach. Even if it’s for one lesson or unit. Below are some resources to help you start.

Bringing Authenticity to the Classroom – This is an excellent post, short and to the point with some realistic ideas on how to integrate project-based learning and authenticity into the classroom. Post written by Andrew Miller via Edutopia.

Free Resources and Tools for “Authentic” Assessment – “New York’s School of the Future shares their assessment plans and rubrics, classroom projects, schedules, web links, and other resources to help you implement “authentic” assessment today.” Via Edutopia.

Also in the library:
“In this practical guide, Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager provide K-12 educators with the how, why, and cool stuff that supports classroom making. The active learner is at the center of the learning process, amplifying the best traditions of progressive education. This book helps educators bring the exciting opportunities of the maker movement to every classroom. Children are natural tinkerers. While school traditionally separates art and science, theory and practice, such divisions are artificial. The real world just doesn’t work that way. Architects are artists. Craftsmen deal in aesthetics, tradition and mathematical precision. There are now multiple pathways to learning what we have always taught and things to do that were unimaginable just a few years ago. The potential range, breadth, power, complexity and beauty of projects has never been greater thanks to the amazing new tools, materials, ingenuity and playfulness you will encounter in this book.”

What might teachers need to consider in order to shift to more Authentic Learning?

Essential iPad skills in our Middle School iPad 1:1 (according to the 7th grade)

IMG_4640After a semester of co-teaching our middle school students in a new class, Digital Literacy, I decided to get some information from the 7th graders. The question: what are essential iPad skills that you need on a daily basis at school? Here is the list.

  • How to use more than app at a time
    • Shortcuts, multitasking gestures
  • Navigating homescreen
    • Organizing apps into folders
  • Typing on a touchscreen device

  • Copy/paste

  • Force shutdown or reset of iPad

  • How to use note taking apps

  • Shutting down iPad

  • iCloud backup/management

  • Taking pictures

  • Screen shots

  • Communication
    • Email
    • Contacts
    • Messages app
  • Settings App – manage settings
    • Set passcode
    • Brightness
    • Screen orientation lock
    • Do Not Disturb
  • Password management

  • Closing apps

  • Using GarageBand
    • Create original music
  • Using Pages
    • Word processing
  • Using Keynote
    • Create presentations
  • Using the Calendar

  • Navigate App store
    • Downloading apps, music & books
    • Update apps
  • Control Center in IOS 7 (slide up)

What other skills do you think are essential? How many of these skills have you mastetered?

How do you use your iPad?

Tech Tuesday, I mean Wednesday – 1.29.14 – Backchannels

This post is co-authored by Allendale Columbia School Librarian Judy Van Alstyne. Make sure to check out her blog Data-Sifting and Bookgerms.

So, I missed Tech Tuesday. Report card writing took up all of my time the last few days, but now I’m back.

One problem we tried to address this year in our Digital Literacy class was how to improve the participation of students who don’t normally contribute verbally. How can we fairly give a student a grade for class participation when we only give them one way to engage in discussions?

What is the point of participation? Is it to check in with students to see what they understand? Is it to provide opportunities for students to voice their thoughts and opinions? Is it to provide fuel for discourse in order to deepen and broaden the class discussion? And then why grade a student’s level of participation? Does the grade work as an incentive? For those who dread speaking up in class, perhaps it is not a strong enough one. Ideally, the discussion topic would be interesting enough and the methods of participation non threatening enough that incentives aren’t even necessary. Certainly there are a number of issues surrounding this topic (please feel free to comment below).

So, we presented this problem to our 7th graders and they all agreed that the current method (raise your hand and speak out) isn’t a great way to get everyone involved in the class discussion. Since our class centers around the appropriate use of technology, we asked the students to try solving the problem using a technology tool (we have an iPad 1:1 program in our middle school). After a full period of research and brainstorming, the students were not making much headway. Judy (my co-teacher) and I decided to give them a few examples of what a backchannel might look like. Here is what we tried:

TodaysMeet - If you haven’t experienced TodaysMeet, it’s a simple tool that can be used in pretty much any environment when you want to encourage people to discuss in a chat format about a presentation as it is going on. It can be used to accompany movies, inspirational talks, class lectures and discussions, just to name a few (feel free to add other ways you have used TodaysMeet in the comments section). Some do find it challenging to follow both the presentation and the comment log concurrently. The kids definitely liked experimenting with TodaysMeet, although there were several off-topic comments. The comments weren’t inappropriate, but they were distracting, and they had the tendency to derail the discussion somewhat. For the most part, TodaysMeet was used as intended and the kids certainly enjoyed it.

Padlet – Padlet is simply a web-based private “wall” where invited participants can post comments in text boxes. When you create the Padlet “wall,” you can customize the look and simplify the url so students can type it in easily. Students can log in and have their names attached to their comments automatically or students can just comment while adding their names as they go. One disadvantage with using Padlet as a real-time discussion tool is the need to refresh the page often to see all the new posts. Also, if several are posted at once, or students don’t refresh often enough, the posts tend to get cluttered and overlap one another. Students again enjoyed trying a different tool and we had some similar issues with silly comments, but overall, they did enjoy using it.

Post-it Notes on the wall – Pretty self explanatory and not tech related. We spread Post-it notes and pencils on the tables and told students to get up and stick them on the wall in front of the classroom. We read them aloud as quickly as possible and tried to relate the discussion around the notes as they were posted. We had far fewer instances of silly comments with regular notes. The kids really loved this and participation was higher than either of the tech tools we tried. It was busy, messy and somewhat loud at times but engagement was very high. And no one could “impersonate” someone else, as they did with the tech tools, so that those silly comments would get attributed to the wrong student.

So we did have issues. Neither of the tech tools were seamless to integrate into the classroom. There were some minor technical glitches, most of it related to student error, which slowed down the process. While both TodaysMeet and Padlet do work on an iPad, they are web-based tools that can be glitchy in a small browser window like an iPad. Using them on a computer is much easier.

We did not find a definitive answer to the problem of how to engage all students in class discussions, but students do agree it is a problem worth solving. Throwing technology at it didn’t fix it. But with more experience, students would get better at using the tech tools more effectively, and once the novelty wore off, more appropriately. So, we wouldn’t abandon the use of tech altogether. And who is to say that the discussion need be limited to class time? Perhaps that is where tech can play the greater role. But without a doubt, finding more ways for students to respond in class discussions beyond the traditional, raise your hand method, is absolutely 100% necessary.

Essential iPad Apps in our Middle School iPad 1:1 (according to the 7th grade)

After a semester of co-teaching our middle school students in a new class, Digital Literacy, I decided to get some information from the 7th graders. The question: what apps are essential to your life and education at school? Here is the list.

IMG_4648

Annonymous 7th graders in action, supervised by Ms. Van Alstyne.

Notability - digital note taking app. (price $2.99)*

Box - access to Box.net cloud storage. (free)

Pages - word processing/publishing software for iOS. (free with iOS 7)

iMovie - movie editing software. (free with iOS 7)

Gmail – access to student email accounts via Google app. (free)

Google Drive – access to Google Drive cloud storage for editing, collaborating and sharing work. (free)

Keynote – presentation creation software. (free with iOS 7)

Destiny Quest – our library catalog and book reservations. (free)

QR Reader – for scanning QR codes. (free)

Canvas – access to learning management system by Instructure.Canvas (we are currently piloting this LMS in middle school). (free)

Safari – web browsing and research. (free, built into iOS)

GarageBand – music creation and editing. (free with iOS 7)

Blio - book reading app. (free)

Meraki MDM – our mobile device management app, let’s manage the iPads and distribute apps. (free)

Educreations - a simple white board and screen recording presentation app. (free)

Adobe Ideas – for drawing, mind mapping, note taking, annotating pdfs and doodling. (free)

Free Graphing Calculator – self explanatory. (free)

Facetime - video conference and chatting service. (free, built into iOS)

iBooks - book reading app. (free)

Messages formerly iMessage - instant messaging service built into iOS. (free, built into iOS)

App Store – the place where all of the apps come from. :) (free, built into iOS)

The next question I asked: what are essential iPad skills that you need on a daily basis at school? Check back for the answers.

*Many paid apps are eligible for a discount through Apple’s Volume Purchase Program.

I wrote this post originally for the Allendale Columbia School blog - ACSRochester.org.