MaKey MaKey

screen shot from Makey Makey video

screen shot from Makey Makey video

If you want to spend the best $50 ever on a classroom supply or birthday gift, then I would highly recommend Makey Makey – touted as “the invention kit for everyone.”

For today’s Phun Phriday post, I bring to you the most versatile piece of computer hardware that I’ve ever used.  I’ve seen MaKey MaKey demonstrated at several conferences and STEM events, but yesterday was the first time I set one up out of the box.  The good news for anyone who doesn’t think that you are technologically gifted is that setting it up is astoundingly simple.  Don’t be fooled by the complicated looking circuit-board thingy and ten thousand wires.  Seriously.

To get going with MaKey MaKey, hook up the included USB cord to the board, and the other end to your computer.  There are no drivers or software installations.  Hook alligator clips (ato the board and to whatever you want to use to conduct electricity to the board.  When I say, “whatever,” I mean it.  As long as it conducts electricity, you’re good.  Bananas, Play-Do, people, pencil drawings on a piece of paper, and stairs have all been demonstrated on various videos to be good crowd-pleasers.

The MaKey MaKey instructions give you a few websites that you can go to, but you don’t have to use them.  Basically, you can do anything with the board, that you can do with a computer keyboard.  Just attach the alligator clips (and be sure to hold one that’s attached to the “Earth” section) to whatever commands you want to give the computer.  There are different spaces on the MaKey MaKey board for the arrow keys, space bar, etc…  You could even attach a clip (assuming you have that many) to each letter in the alphabet.

Of course, you can type your name with a set of bananas.  But my students were immediately fascinated with the piano on our first try.  I’ve embedded a video below of one of my students using Play-Doh as the piano keys.

I’ve learned with these types of things that the best thing to do is just stand back and let the students explore.  They tend to do the same thing at first, but once they get comfortable the magic happens. That’s when they start getting creative, and popping out crazy ideas that might just work. We just got the MaKey MaKey, so I’m really looking forward to next week when they come back to class after mulling over the possibilities in their heads.

I am very thankful to the parent who donated our Makey Makey, and urge all of you to find a way to get at least one for your classroom.  You might want to invest in some extra alligator clip wires ( I know that’s not what they’re called, but that’s what I call them) so you can hook up as many parts of the MaKey MaKey as you like. The kit comes with 6.

MaKey MaKey was developed by the M.I.T. Media Lab, the same group who created Scratch.  M.I.T. Media Lab is currently running a free online course that I posted about a couple of weeks ago called Learning Creative Learning.  They also currently have a Kickstarter project for Scratch Jr., an iPad app.

MaKey MaKey Links:

MaKey MaKey Website

THE MaKey MaKey Video

21 Everyday Objects You Can Hack, from a Bacon Sandwich to a Pencil to Your Cat

MaKey MaKey Lesson Plan from Educade

You Might Be a Geeky Teacher if You Introduce MaKey MaKey to Your Students

Scratch Your Itch to Learn Programming

Yesterday I mentioned the free online course being offered by Mitch Resnick and his colleagues at the M.I.T. Media Lab called, “Learning Creative Learning.”  It starts today, so check out my post if you are interested – no registration required!

Mitch Resnick, of course, is one of the creators of Scratch, a great (and also free!) way for anyone to learn the basics of programming.  I noticed that there is a Scratch Day coming up on May 17, 2014, and I want to encourage to mark your calendars for that date.  Even if you don’t choose to host a Scratch day event, you can visit the site to find events in your area.  According to the site, “The events are for educators, parents and children 5 years and older. Beginner Scratchers are welcome!” If you haven’t done any Scratch programming before, this might be a fun opportunity for you to learn.  Last semester, I attended a Scratch class with my daughter, and I was so glad that I did!

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 4.24.59 PM

You also might be interested to know that Scratch Jr. is currently a Kickstarter project.  Scratch Jr. is designed for students 5-7 as an introduction to programming.  It uses the same concept of snapping together programming blocks on the screen to create interactive stories and games as the original version of Scratch (designed for 8 years and up).

Scratch Jr. is being developed for the iPad, but will hopefully be available eventually on multiple platforms.  The creators are determined that it will be free for everyone when it is released, so they are looking for Kickstarter backing now to pay for the cost of creating it.

I have seen how excited students get about Scratch, and about programming.  I can’t wait for Scratch Jr. to be available for my younger students.  This will be a valuable resource for educators and parents everywhere to help their children learn sequencing, logic, and the joy of creating in a new “language.”

To see more of my posts about programming for kids, type in “programming” in the search bar on this page, or visit my Pinterest Board.

 

Build Something Awesome

Screen Shot from "Build with Chrome"

Screen Shot from “Build with Chrome”

It’s Friday.  And we’re going to have fun!  Since it’s all about Lego these days (all of my students are talking about the newly released Lego Movie), I thought I’d share some of the Lego links I’ve been collecting lately for today’s Phun Phriday post:

I hope at least one or two of these are new to you!  Have a great weekend!

The Return of Robot Turtles

This is going to be the Phunnest Phriday ever because I get to share some awesome news with you!  If you recall (though I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you don’t recall), I posted about a game called “Robot Turtles” last December during my Gifts for the Gifted Series.  I debated whether or not to write that post because I had obtained my own “Robot Turtles” game through Kickstarter, and didn’t know when (or if ) it would ever become available to the general public.

I am happy to announce that “Robot Turtles” is now available for pre-order at the great price of $24.99, and it’s being produced by one of my favorite sources of learning toys, ThinkFun!

“Robot Turtles” is a game that was designed by Dan Shapiro to teach children the basics of programming skills.  I have used it with students as young as six years old, and they love it.  You can read my detailed description of the game here.

The new version has a few modifications that will make the product even better, including improved durability and instructions.  In addition, the first 5,000 pre-orders of the game (which will start shipping this June, 2014), will get a “Special Edition Expansion Pack.”  This pack will include: more focus on the “Function Frog”,  32 fancy Gemstones, and 10 Adventure Quests.  I am particularly excited about the Adventure Quests, as these will offer some new ideas for setting up the board, and are bound to motivate the players to think of even more quests to add to their collection!

If you are a teacher, you might want to consider purchasing this game for your classroom.  Once I taught my 1st graders how to play, they quickly took over, and it can be used as a center for hours of fun.  In addition, a group of my 4th graders picked it up on their own to play during indoor recess the other day, and were very disappointed when their time ended!

Families will enjoy this too, and it will make a great, unique birthday gift for children in elementary school.

Whether or not Computer Science, including Programming, should be a part of school curriculum is a hot topic of debate in the world of education these days.(Great Britain has already decided to include it.)  But one thing you can never debate is the value of children learning and problem solving while they are having fun.

Would You Rather Be My Valentine or Do a Few Math Problems?

Would You Rather Be My Valentine

Earlier this month, I saw a post by Richard Byrne that led me to this great site of mathematical “Would You Rather” problems.  John Stevens (@JStevens009) is the clever man who creates these mathematical challenges, and I love the thinking that is required to solve the questions he poses.  I tried a few with my 3rd graders, and they were hooked.  Many of the problems, though, require a little more advanced math knowledge than generally possessed by 8-year-olds, so I thought about penning a few of my own.  Since Valentine’s Day is closing in, I decided to go with that theme.  I asked John if he minded me borrowing his idea, and he generously gave me the go-ahead.

The rule I give my students for these problems is that they must prove their answer using mathematical reasoning.  They are allowed to use the internet to research and/or do some hands-on measurements.  It’s possible that they may be able to justify completely different answers.  For example, on the one about the pound of chocolate, they might choose the lower amount instead of the higher because they are not huge fans of chocolate – though that seems to be rather rare.

I don’t know if you have ever heard kids playing the actual “Would You Rather” game, but it can get a little disgusting.  They seem to enjoy the gross questions, so I threw one into this series for the sake of low entertainment ;)

Feel free to use the Google Presentation, this Powerpoint file, or this PDF.

For more Valentine-related links, check out this post!

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Pzzlr

You can find the answer here.

From pzzler.com.  You can find the answer here.

Yes, I spelled it right.  At least, I spelled it the way the website, pzzlr.com, spells it. Considering this is a Phun Phriday post, I think it fits in quite nicely.

If you and your students enjoy brainteasers, then you might want to take a look at this site.  Of course, you might find it a bit frustrating.  I was kind of upset with myself when I finally gave up and looked at the answer to this one – especially since I realized I was so close to solving it right before I caved.

Roman Numerals

Trust me – you’re going to be upset with yourself if you don’t solve this.

I don’t know that I would necessarily direct my students to the site itself, as it contains ads.  Plus, they will probably cheat – like me.  But you could certainly find some puzzles to print off and give to students who have some “spare time” in your room, or present one a week.

Here’s one more.  I actually solved this one, so it might be too easy for your students ;)

Click here for the answer.

Click here for the answer.