Big News! New gig as Content Creator at Makey Makey

16 years ago I graduated with a BFA in photography, and I loved getting a degree in art. (Read my apology to my art degree here.) Every semester I learned new skills and found new passions. (Like lithography, I almost decided to get an MFA in printmaking after taking that course!) However, I soon realized that I couldn’t really work full time as an artist, so I applied for grad school and got my Masters in Education.

I wanted to work in schools because of the negative experiences I had with teachers as a student. I’m happy to say I was able to spend 15 years in schools trying to let kids know that they came first and that every student has the potential to be creative. (This was my focus an English teacher and as a librarian.)

After my art degree, I was still consumed with learning new skills, and creating things. In the early 2000s I taught myself to sew and created an Etsy shop. As a beginning teacher, I taught myself to knit and even hosted a weekly knitting meet up for a few years.

So it makes sense that I became a maker educator. Making things and learning how things work is part of what makes me tick.

Plu, after writing maker project books with Aaron, and sharing new projects with Twitter and Instagram friends, I realized that my work in schools could continue, even if I am not in a school on a daily basis.

makey

So it makes me extremely happy to tell you readers that I’m forging a new career path at Makey Makey/Joy Labz. My new job as Director of Community and Creative Content is to make stuff and share it. My daily tasks are to share ideas with the maker community, and create content to help you and your makers grow. Don’t worry, I’ll still be in area schools testing projects and teaching students how to find their inner creativity.

It will just be on a much larger scale.

Speaking of larger scale, here is my first project as a content creator. I hope you have fun making and hacking this oversized Makey Makey! This oversized tool is a great way to teach students how to use a Makey Makey.

This blog will continue to focus on maker projects (Makey Makey and beyond!) and I’ll still be reviewing maker tools for use in schools (Upcoming reviews include: Scratch Coding Cards, Scratch Jr Coding Cards, and various sewing machines for all school levels.) Aaron evens says he’ll be coming on as a contributor and writing about projects he attempts with his students.

 

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Advanced Maker Ed Workshop for #SanAngeloMakers

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#SanAngeloMakers

Wanda Green of the Tom Green County Public Library asked me to offer an advanced maker education workshop in addition to a Makey Makey Teacher Certification workshop when I presented there earlier this summer. I designed this advanced workshop specifically for the resources available at the Tom Green County library system. This amazing library in West Texas not only has a fully stocked makerspace, but it has maker resources available for checkout to local educators.

Wake Up Challenges

To start the second day of making with #Sanangelomakers at the Tom Green County Public Library, I created wake up challenges to get educators associated with some very quick and informal learning tools like Strawbees, Keva planks, Dash and Dot, and using a homemade wind tunnel. (The first day was Tom Heck’s amazing Makey Makey workshop.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Educators really enjoyed these challenges because they instantly saw them as quick collaborative engineering projects for kids (the KEVA planks) or as a fun iterative design  intro with the wind tube. Check out these teachers and librarians playing and learning below.

During these warm up activities, I also shared my love of combining making and literacy. I just love having students build characters for stories with their hands as part of the wind tube activities. (Please go check out Angela Stockman’s Make Writing or Hacking the Writing Workshop for more ideas on this!)

Cardboard Exploration

Wanda also wanted me to share some low cost ideas since a lot of educators do not have specific funding for makerspaces and maker activities. I had educators explore cardboard techniques with this great cardboard attachment technique slideshow from the fabulous team at the Pinecrest schools in Florida. I was hoping these cardboard techniques could be used later in the day when we started exploring microcontrollers. (Because I think cardboard robots are a great intro to making!)

I also wanted to focus on cardboard cutting tools that educators could actually use in the classroom, so I brought an arrangement of tools. (I’m hoping to craft and curate a cardboard resource soon for other educators new to making. Watch this space!)

Toy Take Apart and Invention Literacy

Then my favorite part of the day was guiding educators through the parts, purposes, and complexities of animatronic toys. Our guiding theme for the day was still Invention Literacy (or learning how things works, so we can make new things.) I shared this video of Jay Silver from Makey Makey describing the concept:

If you want guidance with taking apart toys as a way of learning how things work, check out this super handy guide from Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio. Also, don’t buy new toys for this, hit up local thrift stores, or see if department stores can donate broken toys. (Thanks to @mrsk8e for this last tip!)

Educators REALLY loved taking apart toys to see how they worked. One of my favorite moments from the workshop was when participants got up and shared how they assumed the toys worked and then how the toys actually worked once they dissected and looked at what was inside.

 

It seems that speaking with them about invention literacy, then following the Tinkering Studio Guide and having educators draw what they thought was inside the toy before dissecting, and then really drawing what was really inside got these educators into thinking about how these toys worked.

They were also excited about harvesting toys parts for new maker projects. Check out this post from Ryan Jenkins when he was at Tinkering Studio. We collected all the skins, stuffing, and guts in boxes for the teen librarians to use for a future Frankentoy workshop. Hacking toys is not only a great way to learn how things work, it’s an awesome experience in reusing and recycling materials.

Microcontroller Exploration

My plan was for educators to mash up cardboard or toys with microcontrollers after lunch. So I created exploration stations for Hummingbird Robotics and ScratchMicro:bit and MakeCode; and Makey Makey and Scratch. This exploration really helped teachers realize what they wanted their toys to do and made them realize that they needed to tinker with each controller to figure out which one would best suit their design needs. (Ironically, Bird Brain Tech announced the next week that they have a new Hummingbird kit that will now work with Micro:bit!)

Mashing it All Up

The microcontroller exploration after lunch went well even though most of these educators had no prior knowledge. What was super cool, was that after playing with the controller, almost everyone got their toys back out before I even gave them the challenge. They were stoked to give their toys a new life with their new skills. Most of the educators chose to hack their toys instead of building something with cardboard. (But it’s still really important to offer choice for learners that are new to these concepts!) One of the coolest things was how the act of toy hacking really hit the heart of invention literacy.

At one point, a teacher explained to me that a random electronic in a toy was a speaker because it had a magnet. At another, some ladies that were at first frustrated with the microcontrollers, were excited to learn that they could program a Makey Makey to work the same as they toy that they just hacked. They could use Scratch to program Makey Makey to make three different soundbites based on a “toy press” variable. They instantaneously learned how a toy worked that one of their grand children had, and how they could use that knowledge to make a new toy with Makey Makey and Scratch.  I compiled all of the learning from toy hacking that day in the video below:

At some point in the afternoon, I looked up and it was pretty much time to go and every one was still HEAVILY involved in still tinkering with their toys. I was like, ” Um…. it’s almost time to go, how long were ya’ll planning on staying?” Toy hacking was super engaging for these teachers new to making!

I think the success of this workshop not only goes to a lot of planning, but on the open-minded and playful nature of the educators in San Angelo, Tx! It was a blast showing them multiple avenues for playing and learning in an educational makerspace. I hope they will have me back soon.

For more info on upcoming workshops from me or Aaron Graves, please visit this page.