This morning, one of the students who is in my flex class where we study programming said to me getting out of the car in car line, “I had a lot of fun yesterday. It was cool.” This is a wonderful way to start the day, having a student reflect on an activity from the day before. What prompted this exchange? My pulling out my new Makey Makey interface and setting a challenge for the students to create a game for that our 3 year through our Kindergarten students could play the last week before our Winter Break using Scratch and the Makey Makey.
This may raise another question from you, the reader. What is a Makey Makey? Well, it is an interface that can connect into the USB port of a PC, Mac, Linux, or a Chromebook. This interface allows you to connect to a computer. Using alligator clips and using the electrical connectivity of objects as diverse as Play Dough, fruits, water, graphite, etc. it allows you create electric circuits that can substitute for keystrokes, such as the space bar, the arrow keys, certain letter keys, etc. Below is a 3 minute video which explains the interface:
When used with the Scratch programming language, where you can program certain keys to play sounds or control a sprite, the possibilities are endless. You can also use it to control many Internet based games.
I got my Makey Makey kit the week before Thanksgiving Break and “played” with groups of our 3 and 4 years olds, creating experiments. I learned about Makey Makey listening to Teachers Teaching Teachers’ podcast about EduCon. Mary Beth Hertz was sharing how she found out about it from Kim Sivick at EdCampNYC. A few tweets and I knew that I had to order this. So I did and anxiously awaited its arrival.
The students and I found out if we held hands, that we could make the program play a sound. If connected to a carrot, it would play a sound. If connected to a squash, it didn’t work unless you cut off the skin and exposed the inner part of the vegetable. It was fun listening to their hypotheses and subsequent tests to see if they could figure out why it worked. And after awhile, a few of them got it. Additionally, there is an Arduino chip which can be programmed which makes the choices limitless.
Below is a video from TEDxPioneerValley in which Jay Silver explains why the Makey Makey supports the Maker movement, which I am just beginning to dip my toes into. I am really excited and jazzed about the possibilities.
You can go to the Makey Makey website to order your kit. This is a really cool kit that you can order and get just in time for the holidays. I look forward to sharing the middle school students’ creation with you at the end of next month.