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

Two More Fabulous Ways to Use Aurasma for Education

As I mentioned in “Trends for Education in the 2013-2014 School Year,” augmented reality is going to be big in education.  Really big.  It has the potential to allow students to experience learning in so many different ways.  For kids who do not learn best by reading or listening to lectures, augmented reality could definitely be the key to engaging them.  This is why I recently started a Flipboard magazine called, “Augmented Reality for Education.”  A prime example of the ripple effect of Augmented Reality was yesterday’s post about the ColAR app and International Dot Day.

Aurasma is another free app that can be used to create augmented reality experiences for your students.  You can see an example of how I used it for a presentation for teachers in Monday’s post, but the real power of AR is when it’s placed in the hands of the kids.  If you have not tried Aurasma before, you can find some excellent introductory resources here and here.  You can also find a list of my own posts on Aurasma here.

I recently found a couple of great example of Aurasma being used with students, and shared them on my Flipboard magazine.  But, since there are only about 20 people currently subscribed to that magazine ;) I thought I should share them here, too.

The first video, which you can find here if the embedded version does not work, shows how Aurasma could be used to help a student with a standard worksheet when the teacher is not readily available.

The second video, which is  located here, shows how a music classroom can be brought to life using 2-dimensional photos.

Summer Art

This week, I am focusing on providing resources to “Squash the Summer Slide” as ReadWriteThink puts it. Parents often ask me at this time of year for ideas to keep my students challenged over the summer.  ArtsEdge is a great site for classroom ideas, but here are a few links to articles that might be especially interesting to parents who are looking for unique activities to occupy all of that extra time.

5 Activities for the Car and Grocery – I especially liked the idea of transforming a magazine photograph.

Summer Boredom Busters -  I did not see a lot of new ideas in this article, but there are a couple of website resources that could be helpful for finding art events happening around you.

Strike Up the Band; Creating Homemade Instruments – I think I might actually be able to make the straw oboe!

Set a Poem to Music  -  This is an actual lesson for 5th grade and up, but I think it could be modified for any age.  Wouldn’t it be fun to pick a picture book written in verse and make it into a song?

For other summer suggestions, you might want to visit my posts from Monday and Tuesday.

Painted Pie

“Painted Pie” is a video you will probably want to view more than once.  The post-Impressionist artwork alone is stunning.  But, even better, is the sweet story of a homeless boy who is searching for a human being to connect with him.  The moral of the story, that you never know how many lives you can touch with small kindnesses, reminds me of another couple of videos I have featured on here, “The Kindness Boomerang” and “Monsterbox“.  The film was created by Havish Thota, Kudzai Gumbo, Mehdi Farrokhtala, and Abdulrahman Alansari.  It has already won several awards.  The accompanying soundtrack, “Little Person” by Jon Brion is a masterpiece, as well.

In the classroom, I would, of course, ask the students to verbalize the moral of the story.  You could ask them to retell this silent movie in their own words.  Before even showing the movie, you could play the soundtrack, and ask the students to come up with stories that would go with the music.  If you are studying art, you might see if they could write a similar story based on another work of art.  Random Acts of Kindness Week is fast approaching (February 11th), and this would be a good way to introduce it.

I found this video on the “Kuriositas” blog.  Though the “Kuriositas” blog is not meant for a young audience, I encourage adults to check it out, as it features many interesting videos, pictures, and stories.

Here is the link to the video in case the embedded version does not show below:  http://vimeo.com/57146618

Painted Pie from Mehdi Farrokhtala on Vimeo.

You’re a Firework!

It’s time for our weekly Fun Friday Post, and I have a video for you.  This might bring a tear or two to your eyes, however.  I know that doesn’t quite fit in with the Fun Friday theme, but time is of the essence.  This is one of the preview clips from Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together for Autism Programs, hosted by Jon Stewart, which will air on 10/21/12 at 8 PM. In this particular video, Jodi DiPiazza, a girl who was diagnosed with autism at an early age, performs a duet with Katy Perry of her song,  “Firework”.  In interview clips of Jodi’s parents, they admit that they were afraid that their daughter would never be able to speak, much less perform a song onstage, accompanying herself with the piano.

You can find more clips from Sunday’s show here.  More information about the show can be found here.  I’m not absolutely sure how age-appropriate everything is, but I can promise you that the clip below is an inspiring video that you can show to any audience.

(If you are unable to view the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/QX-xToQI34I)

Choruzz

I have not used Choruzz in my classroom yet, but I can see the possibilities.  This site allows you to create your own playlist of songs.  There is no sign-in or registration required.  Once you create a list, and “publish” it, you are given an embed code and a unique URL, so that anyone you would like to share it with can access it.  You can check out a practice playlist I created at this link.

Last school year, one of my more successful lessons included a center where students could listen to a playlist on my iPod, and choose the song that they would pick as a theme for the novel we had just read.  They really enjoyed it, and there was much discussion within each group about the pros and cons of the songs.  Their written explanations were very thorough.  I could see using Choruzz for this activity, so that more students could access the playlist – or even do the activity at home.

My cautions would be that the videos for the songs are included, and that there are some ads that run at the bottom.  I have not seen anything inappropriate in my short experimentation with this, but will be exploring it further before I offer it as an option for my students.  Another possible obstacle would be that district filters might block the site.

Choruzz has a lot of potential for classroom use.  If this particular site cannot be used educationally, I would love to see a similar one that could be used in a classroom setting.