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.

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4th Grade Invention Literacy Projects

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Note: Since I heard the term Invention Literacy from Jay Silver in 2015 I’ve been a tad obsessed with it because it perfectly describes what I am trying to do in my library makerspace. My goal in makerspace programming is to help our students “understand the way the world works so they can create new stuff.” Read all of my posts about Invention Literacy here. I’ve previously done this project with high school students and adult learners, so this was my first year adapting the project for elemakers! Read on to learn about my process and check out all of the cool stuff Mason 4th graders made below!

From January to the beginning of March, I led each class of 4th grade students through the Invention Literacy project. Every 4th grade class had a dedicated week to choose an invention, learn how it works and recreate it with recyclables and the materials available in the library. (Note that I also lead Invention Literacy workshops for Makey Makey that focus only on utilizing the Makey Makey. At school, I allow students to create with whatever materials they are most comfortable with!)

I created an Invention Literacy journal for students to track their week’s work. In the beginning I tried to have it as an online document for 4th graders, but quickly realized they did better with it as a paper journal.

To start the project we watched videos of Jay Silver talking about the need for Invention Literacy. (This is currently my favorite video of him discussing this idea of a new needed literacy.) Then I asked students what they felt invention literacy means in their own words.  We also took some time to talk about and define prototyping, so students could understand that making is an iterative process and that their final invention doesn’t have to be polished.

After talking about inventing and prototyping, I gave small groups time to brainstorm and sketch invention ideas. This was one of my favorite things! Students quickly got to work talking about ideas they had and what they wanted to make! They LOVED being able to recreate any invention their little heart desired. (We did have to talk a lot about scalability and time constraints. They only had 5 days to make their invention! No you can’t make a robotic hand in 5 days, but you could create one out of cardboard or straws…. No, you can’t make your own computer in 5 days, but you can learn about all the parts of a computer, etc.)

On the second day of the project, students had to research the history of their invention online using Encyclopedia Brittanica or another library database of their choice. Once they had researched HOW their invention worked, they crowdsourced to find out how others had made similar inventions. After all the brainstorming and researching was done, it was time to get making! Students had 3 days to create their collaborative invention. On Friday, students presented their inventions to the next class that would be coming to the library. Next year, I hope we can share our projects with the whole school at a STEM night or something!

Some teachers also had students share what they made in Flipgrid. We also asked them to reflect on what new skills they learned making the project and talk about the most challenging aspect of their Invention Literacy project.

Make Time for Cleaning and Re-organizing

One important note is that if you try to have a project like this back to back each week, you will need to make time for cleaning and reorganizing your maker supplies after each group is finished. This is what our materials looked like at the beginning. Note that all of our materials along this wall are consumable (other than the sewing machine.) I learned my lesson last year when students sawed apart double-sided knitting needles to create catapults!

Maker Recess

One of my favorite things that happened during this project was that students asked if they could come work on their projects during recess. It made my elementary library feel a little more like the communal home I had in secondary!

Student Projects

The variety of projects due to student choice was astounding! Kids learned what they needed when they needed it! Some students learned cardboard engineering techniques, while others learned to sew, create circuits, build cars, and more.

Below are all of the awesome things these 4th graders made! I am so proud of them for taking risks and learning to make something on their own and fill their maker toolbox with new skills.

Harvey’s Class

All of Harvey’s Class projects!

Scott’s Class Mid-Project

All of Scott’s Projects

Honea’s Class Mid-Project

Nelson’s Class Mid-Project

Harkin’s Class

 

Next year?

Next year I hope to work on invention literacy skills all year long with younger students, so that as my students get more comfortable with more materials, their projects will get more and more complex. I loved seeing the variety of projects and the many ways kids design cardboard candy dispensers!