Making and Literacy Guide for Doll-E 1.0

When I started at JoyLabz in July, Doll- E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey was still a fairly new release.

This adorable picture book, is about a tech savvy young girl named Charlotte who is given a doll by her parents and she’s unsure at first about what to do with it.

Throughout the book, we see Makey Makey references. In one scene, the dog is even playing a banana piano! (And correctly grounded!)

So I knew I needed to make a guide that coincided with this great little book. (Have I mentioned about much I love combining making and literacy? I love designing maker activities that coincide with great books. Check out this wind tunnel activity based on Rosie Revere Engineer!)

The first thing I thought of after reading this book, was how fun it would be to hand kids a box of spare parts and let them create a doll or a robot. One of my favorite easy maker projects last year was handing 2nd graders junk in paper bag to make robots. (Thank you, Angie O’Malley for the idea!)

But I wanted to kick it up a notch and have them create something they could connect to Makey Makey AND Scratch.  In the book, Charlotte attempts to increase her doll’s database, and this made me think back to a workshop I led in San Angelo this summer. During this advanced maker ed workshop I had teachers take apart toys and re-make them after exploring microcontrollers.

One thing I always focus on during a workshop is “invention literacy” or the ability to look at how things work and make new things.

So during this workshop something one of my participants said stuck with me. I showed these ladies how they could create multiple sound effects by creating variables in Scratch. This would allow them to make multiple sounds on just one button press. After showing them how it worked, one of the teachers said, “Oh! So this is how my granddaughter’s doll works?!”

It was a great a-ha moment for both of us. It helped me reaffirm that one of the best ways to learn how something works is to take it apart, and that another way to become more fluent in invention is to try and create your own version of an invention! (How do we guide kids to think, “Oh, this is how a talking doll works, now can I make my own?”)

Based on the book, I thought it would be good for students (and makers of all ages) to build their own creation and give it a voice.

So I handed my own girls a pile of junk and said, “Make something!”

They made very different creations!

If you want to see how my girls got their creations to talk or you want to make your own talking toy- The full guide for Doll-E 1.0 is now available in Labz!

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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.

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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.