This week in the MAET year 1 program we are experimenting with maker kits. The Maker Movement is all about using technology, recycled materials, and many other tidbits that people may tinker with to produce items either digitally or physically. The purpose of making is to promote creativity and higher order thinking skills, especially through the use of technology. Students will have opportunities to use technology in a way that will show them real, material connections to the world around them. As global citizens, it is imperative that they are capable of honing their problem solving skills in order to become innovative members of society. Below are several maker kits and programs I had the opportunity to explore through class:
This program is a circuitry program called Squishy Circuits and the goal is to make different circuits in order to ring a bell or light up lights. Squishy Circuits may also be used in conjunction with other maker kits to create more interesting combinations.
Above is a picture of Raspberry Pi, a rather complicated maker kit that I believe would be used with middle school/high school aged students. Raspberry Pi is more difficult to grasp, but it is also the maker kit that seems to have the most potential because it is capable of controlling many aspects of your computer once programmed correctly.
Here is an example of Makey Makey, another circuitry maker kit that can be used to make a variety of interesting projects. This is a great kit because you can get large groups of people involved in forming the conductive link needed to operate the kit if you want. The photo above is a picture of a banana piano set up at 091 Labs in Galway, Ireland.
This is a picture of littleBits, a connective circuitry kit that has many different add ons, such as a fan. Students would be able to snap together many magnetized sections in the kit in order to form different types of projects. There are even ways to slow down or speed up the light displays and fan movement.
*flipped classroom photo courtesy of Joy Zaher
Above are two examples of paper circuits. Paper circuits use conductive paint, string, copper wire, or other conductive mediums to build circuits on paper. I can start to see several ways this may be applicable to my language arts classroom in the future.
The photos above are examples of 3D printing, another part of the maker movement that is becoming quite popular and reaching a wider market of people as the price of printing begins to decrease.
So far, I have only begun to experiment with different Maker Kits and online programming. One program for 3D printing that I found rather interesting and quite extensive was Tinkercad. This program allows students to design objects, buildings, etc. that would then be printed using a 3D printer. The tutorial the site provided was quite helpful and entertaining. As I moved around the different beams and practiced resizing them, I found that there was an awesomely rendered version of Elvis hidden behind one wall. This tells me that someone even had a great time building the tutorial. I can see lots of implications for these kits in the classroom but I’m still unclear on how I would tie it to my own language arts curriculum.
How do you use these creative, open-ended kits to promote literacy? What sort of problems should my students try to tackle through the Maker Movement? How much freedom should I give them? Many, many questions raced through my brain as I played and learned about each new kit but one thing was certain; I was engaged and it was fun. That is not something to be taken lightly. This form of exploration and lab-like learning could be very beneficial if introduced and handled correctly. Especially if you could find a way to use maker kits to bridge the gap between two subject areas. I will continue to play and think about the possibilities for future classroom integration as I contemplate my first maker challenge.
Here are the initial questions I am posing for my project:
1. How do I help my students use their strengths (technological, physical, artistic) to make an item or create an experience using paper circuits that connects the 3 major texts used in our World War II unit?
2. How can these projects be displayed/experienced at our annual craft show or coffee night?
Additional thoughts that cross my mind when I think about integrating this project into my classroom are: How does this connect to my student’s daily lives? What is the added benefit of using circuits in their coursework? What materials in the community could we use for the lesson? How can this help with our sustainability project? Who can benefit from this project outside of our class?