Interpretation, Ideation, & Experimentation

There are many ideas and issues to consider when creating a maker project for a classroom. Here I will attempt to walk through the three phases that will hopefully lead to a well rounded project for my students.


There were several themes that came to mind during my discovery phase but a few ideas that really resonated were symbolism, the connectivity of the circuits, and light. I thought about how students might use that visual connection and light to show symbolically how texts connected. After this idea entered my mind I started to imagine how I might be able to demonstrate the concept in a concrete way. How could a paper circuit show a symbolic representation of a text?

Here is a view of my first attempt:


Here I made a visual representation of the poem The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. The LED light used as the Raven’s eye gives you the impression that the bird is always watching from his perch. I started to think about how this idea of visually representing a text and using the circuit to connect ideas could work through multiple texts. I liked the idea of students using their creativity and imagination to envision those connections and then make them visible to their classmates. The question the became, how can I challenge my students to create visually symbolic representations of multiple texts?


There is a lot of value in brainstorming with other people about your idea. Outside thoughts and viewpoints can open new doors in your own thinking and provide a pathway for further innovation. Setting constraints on the brainstorming session seemed like it would hinder the process, but in actuality it may have allowed for more creative growth. Setting a time limit and prohibiting the discussion of ideas while they were being generated created a sense of urgency that somehow stimulated a more creative and open-ended atmosphere. Group members did not have enough time to worry about whether or not their idea made sense or was ridiculous, they wrote down all their thoughts and through that a lot of great material was born. “It’s often the wild ideas that spark visionary thoughts. With careful preparation and a clear set of rules, a brainstorm session can yield hundreds of fresh ideas” (Design Thinking for Educators, 49).  This idea held true and I left the brainstorming session with many wonderful ideas and insights.


I really liked many of the ideas my classmates came up with but a few that stood out were creating an advertisement campaign or interactive book cover and somehow using the symbolism of a connection/circuit to show the similarities between texts. The advertisement campaign could be used for our annual craft fair and would give them a chance to showcase their talents in the community as well as work on symbolism. The intertextual connections idea seems very appealing as well, especially because this will be a focus in upcoming PARCCs assessments for students.

The more I consider my ideas the more I like the idea of connecting multiple texts, maybe as a unit ending project to validate and consolidate student thinking of unit concepts as a whole. Students could find a way to symbolically connect the ideas from the main texts in a unit through circuits. The circuit itself would be a symbolic representation that they could build on. Constraints may be that the focus is too narrow. Is it okay to just focus on paper circuits? Should they be given more options? What would be the best unit to use this idea with? There are still many sides of this idea to explore.


My Idea/Challenge to students:

Using your knowledge of Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the research you did for your historical analysis paper on WWII, and the documentary we watched on the Holocaust design and develop a project that symbolically connects ideas from all three texts using paper circuits.


Students will work on their intertextual connections, symbolic representation of a text, and textual analysis skills through making visual, artistic connections between 3 texts with a paper circuit. The reason this will be so powerful is because students will be able to visibly make connections and see the connections that other students are also making. The written portion of the work (explanatory paper) will help them rationalize their own decision making process and form meaningful connections between the ideas in the texts. Students will also be given the opportunity to showcase their work within the school and community through the local craft fair.

Breakdown of steps:

Day 1: Students will be asked to use a mind map or possibly another strategy to brainstorm their ideas on connections between the three texts they will be using in this project. Once their ideas are down on paper (or computer) students will get together and give each other feedback or add their own ideas.

Day 2-3:  Students will choose one of the ideas they came up with in their brainstorming session and start to flesh out the symbolic connection between the 3 texts. When students have solidified their ideas, they will start to sketch a design that will work for their project incorporating paper circuits. Students will now be in “maker mode” and able to experiment with all of the materials available in class.

Day 4: Students will now have a model of their project and can begin working on their explanatory piece. Why did they choose the quotes, symbols, or materials they did to use in their project? How do their choices reflect symbolically about the texts? What other connections could they make? As they write their rationale, they will also be concurrently reflecting on their own ideas and may become aware of areas for improvement in their projects.

Day 5: Writing and Making workshop to work on completing the final project.

Day 6-7: Sharing their projects and rationales with their class and receiving constructive feedback.

Day 8: Making adjustments to their projects and modifying ideas in their papers as needed.

**Students will present their final products either at a craft fair/coffee shop night or a cross share with the other freshman classes.

Here is a prototype example of what a project may look like completed:



After receiving feedback from my peers, I found that there are two areas for improvement in my plan. I am focusing solely on paper circuits for this lesson but this is a lesson that could be done with other connective maker kits. I liked the connection between paper circuits, light, and the subject matter but it may be a good idea to leave the project a little more open ended so that students have more creative license with their work and ideas. I do worry about the fact that I may not be able to fully demonstrate several types of maker kits in my classroom and get through the material in a realistic timeframe, which is why I may focus on just paper circuits before branching out into other mediums and kits.

I was also asked at one point during the session, “Does the symbolism of the light have to be the use of light/dark in the texts?” Which really made me think about the constraints I put on the project by telling students that is the symbolism they are looking for. There are several types of symbolism they could draw from and I do not want to limit the connections they may make between the texts. I think that I will modify that aspect of the project and just state that they are using the circuit to symbolically represent the connections between the 3 texts. Finally, why does it have to be just those 3 texts? We work with more than those texts throughout the 9 weeks dealing with WWII. I believe that I will make the directions so that they have to use the 3 main texts that we concentrated on but that they are challenged and encouraged to draw from other class sources as well.


IDEObooks (2013). Design thinking for educators. IDEO. Retrieved from

Maker Project Lesson: Connecting texts through paper circuit symbolism



The goal of this post is to provide other educators with an example of how to use paper circuits in the classroom to enhance and extend the curriculum. The question initially posed for this project was, how do I use maker kits in a language arts classroom to meet course requirements and engage students in participatory learning? After a lot of contemplation and experimentation I came up with a few challenge questions. 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? When have completed their maker project, how can the projects be displayed/experienced at our annual craft show or coffee night?

The purpose of this activity will be to help 9th grade students demonstrate the interconnectivity between the texts they are working with in language arts and social studies. For this unit, students read Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Research a WWII battle for a historical analysis research paper, and watch part of the documentary Inside the Nazi War Machine- Inside the Holocaust by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Using paper circuits as a way to link their ideas and understanding of the events they are studying could be a great culminating project. I really like the idea of using the light from the circuit as a symbolic representation of hope throughout the war, but I also do not want to limit my students to only thinking of that specific symbolic representation.  Making textual connections through the project and the explanatory paper they will submit as part of the assignment will really allow students to connect the dots between not only what we are doing in class but also what they are working on in social studies. According to Mishra and Koehler (2009), “Teaching requires the transformation of content in ways that make it intellectually accessible to students.” I believe that by focusing on the connections between the texts as well as the language arts and social studies connections through this maker project students will be able to discover new ways of thinking about the material.  Students spent the entire unit building their knowledge of the material and this is their chance to creatively shape that knowledge into a finished product that showcases their thoughts and understanding. Below are some of the CCSS standards that can be focused on through this assignment:

Materials Needed for this project:

  • A variety of paper, card stock, cardboard, and donated/recycled materials (bottles, cans, tissue paper, etc.)
  • Copper tape
  • Electric paint
  • Conductive thread (optional)
  • LED lights (at least 1 per student)
  • Coin batteries (at least 1 per student)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Glue

Technology needed:

  • Laptop/desktop/tablet for research, reflection, and document creation

Plan for instruction:

Day 1: Teaching students how to connect the texts

1. Students will be asked to brainstorm as many connections as they can think of between Lord of the Flies, their research from their historical analysis paper dealing with WWII, and the documentary of the war they viewed. They will also be asked to think about symbolism in relation to all 3 texts. *Symbolism has been defined and discussed repeatedly throughout the year and the unit.

2. Once they have their ideas down on paper or recorded online, they will be introduced to the following challenge: How can I use paper circuits to  showcase the connections/symbolism between the texts?

*If students have never worked with paper circuits before then extra time must be afforded to teach them how to use the materials to make a paper circuit.



Paper circuits use copper wire, electric paint, and other conductive materials to connect two circuits in order to operate an LED light.  Students will be using the circuit they build in their project as a symbolic connection between the texts.

3. Students are given time to experiment with the materials available to them in order to work out how they are going to approach the project. They will start by preparing a working prototype of their circuit and an outline of their project idea (this may take 2-3 days of class time).



Above is an example of two circuits that have been created to symbolize envy (green light) and hope (white light) in connection to the 3 texts associated with WWII.

4. Once students have completed a prototype of their circuitry and have a clear outline/rationale for their project, they can build and elaborate on their idea.


In this example, a quote from Lord of the Flies was added, broken pieces of glass and pottery, small change, and dates from specific battles were wrapped around the can.

5. After students have spend time putting together their symbolic representation of how the texts connect using the circuit, they will start working on their explanatory paper, which will showcase their ideas and solidify their creative choices.

6. Students will be asked to reflect on their work after completing the draft of their paper and may add other elements to their projects if they see fit.


Here an extra quote was added to the front of the project to back up an important idea from the text.

7. Once students have completed their reflections and revisions on both their projects and papers it is time to showcase their work.

In my classroom, students would be asked to display their project and written work at the annual craft fair/coffee shop night in order to reach a wider audience and validate their work in the community. Students could also share their work in class or through display cases. The importance of having a venue to show their work is to validate what they have worked so hard to create and allow them a chance to view the creativity and innovation of their peers. Their final product is not only a work of art, but a display of higher level thinking skills shown through their ability to symbolically connect and evaluate multiple texts across two subject areas.




The plan for this assignment went through many stages. I felt that paper circuits were a great way for students to look at symbolism and connect texts but I also did not want to limit students to a specific type of symbolism or hinder their own interpretations of the texts. It is hard to give students the space they need to create while also trying to assess certain criteria. Design learning is a new concept in my classroom and so reflection, self-evaluation, and readjustments will definitely be a part of the classroom experience for not only the students, but myself as well. It is important that students are also given the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with people outside of the classroom about their studies and how they effect them, which is why showcasing their work at a community event would be powerful. According to Design Thinking for Educators,”Invite colleagues, experts, and friends to participate
in your design community. Participants may be
experts or novices in Design Thinking but should
include people you feel comfortable sharing new
ideas and frustrations with” (74).  By providing students with this opportunity to interact with the class material in new ways and giving them a comfortable venue to show their work, students will be able to succeed as students, innovators, and community members.

The example I have provided, in my mind, is far inferior to what one of my students would be able to imagine and invent. It is merely a rudimentary example in order to spark an idea and challenge them to surpass my attempt with their own. I had a fantastic time struggling through the process of designing, connecting, and rationalizing my own project. The level of my own engagement was refreshing and my excitement of having the opportunity to tackle this project with my students in the upcoming year keeps growing. I cannot wait to witness their own interpretations of our WWII unit.



IDEObooks (2013). Design thinking for educators. IDEO. Retrieved from 

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Too Cool for School? No Way!: Using the TPACK Framework: You Can Have Your Hot Tools and Teach with Them, Too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 14-18.


Discovering the Maker Movement

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.


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*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?