Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Session 9 Activity #1 Makey Makey

Activity: Option 1: Explore physical+digital tinkering with MaKey MaKey (if you have one). Option 2: Try out some of the examples from Arvind Gupta (such as spinning toys). Option 3: Try out some of the activities from the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium.

Please, please, please watch this video...

I watched this video one time and it changed everything. It is hard to explain the intellectual shift that instantaneously occurred as a result of Mr. Silver's talk. If I had to sum it up in a few words it might be something like:

Anything is possible
Crazy is not crazy
We can always think in new ways
We can manipulate our surroundings in truly awesome ways
Play is so innocently cool
Kids (and adults) should have this

I could go on and on.

The point being, an innovative idea lit a fire in my mind. How could I get my hands on a Makey Makey and explore? How could I tinker with this? How could I show my students? Without thinking twice, I bought a Makey Makey kit and crossed my fingers it would arrive before the end of school.

I received my kit with about a month of school left. If I was excited about this thing, the students' excitement blew me out of the water. It was uncanny to see students come in during recess, lunch, and after school hoping for just a few seconds with the kit. They hung out in-between classes, asked to incorporate it into projects, and some even ordered their own.

For the most part, I just let them play and tinker with it. I did this for many reasons. One, I am a novice myself and this was the only way I could learn. Two, I didn't want to turn this awesome bit of intrinsic motivation and joy into another dreary drudgery of school.  This was especially the case as many of the most interested students were those who do not conform to the traditional structure of school.

The last week of school, some fifth graders and I combined our work with integers, the Makey Makey, and Scratch. If there is a better way to really understand the concept of addition/subtraction of positive and negative integers than programming characters to move forward and back, please let me know. When added to a Makey Makey, it is possible to step on "pads" and have the characters move forward and back. Students light up and tell all their friends what they just finished in class. I think this is real learning. This is both creative and constructive. This is exploratory. This is challenging. This is fun.

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