Last week I had one of those lessons again. The ones where you get the kids going, take a step back and watch as massive learning begins. I got the kids set up with a Makey Makey and a few bits and bobs and told them I wanted a games controller making. Obviously I sold this to the kids as me wanting them to create a new Xbox style remote which hooked them immediately! The ability to make a controller for a game using an old cut up cardboard box and a few split pins is brilliant for the pupils. To give them something to work with they spent 10 mins creating a simple little game using 2DIY by 2SimpleSoftware. Quick to do and the only controls you need to play it are up, down, left and right. Makes things loads easier when the kids have only been using the Makey board for a few weeks.

After talking through my expectations and what they had to use I took a big step back. Floated around the room and tried my best not to get involved with the pupils. The discussions going on round the room were brilliant. Children talking about what wires they’ll need, where the connections should be, and trying to work out why things weren’t working. It was the mistakes that gave me the best bits of conversation for assessment. Pupils using logical reasoning to work out their mistakes and look for a fix. Is it a problem with their controller, or was it something wrong with the programming in their game? You can see from the pictures above how engrossed the pupils were, and I struggled to tear them away from the kits at the end of the lesson.

I really would recommend these boards to any primary school. The creativity, independent learning and computational thinking they generate more than repays the cost of the kit! Next week I think I might see if I can trust them to use the copper tape….

 

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Last year whilst trawling through the internet for inspiration I stumbled upon a small child playing a piano made from mushrooms on YouTube. In that 2 minute video demonstration I was hooked!
For the uninitiated a MakeyMakey board works much like a keyboard, but allows you to turn ANYTHING conductive into a button. Link this to something like Scratch or game making software like Kodu and the possibilities are endless. I now find myself walking round pondering to myself with Makey on the brain! ‘Is a marshmallow conductive?’, ‘Can I connect it to water somehow?’. It’s becoming an addiction! 
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In September I started to think about how I could bring them into my classroom, and how logistically they would work with primary pupils. I’ve had experience using them with a small group, but never a full class, but I like a challenge! So far it’s gone well. Pupils showing me learning left, right and centre. Coming into class ready and engaged, so below I’ve popped down some of the real benefits of using a MakeyMakey in your classroom. Enjoy. 
Hands on Learning
I often get fed up of sitting at a desk all day with the pupils, staring at nothing but a screen. With the new curriculum changes I’ve been trying even harder to take a step away from the computer. Working in Bradford however offers a certain challenge (the weather!) if I want to go outside and do something with the ipads/cameras etc. The Makey offers a halfway house on the desk for this though! 
Independent Learning
They breed and instill independent learning in the pupils, which in turn builds up their resilience to a challenge. If it doesn’t work first time the pupils need to work out why. If it does work I get them to think about how then could improve it or upscale it. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I hate hear the words ‘I don’t know how to do it’ in my lessons, especially if I’ve just spent the last 15 minutes explaining it. Due to the simplicity of the Makey this rarely happens. Pupils are free to make mistakes (often working out for the better) and learn from them independently. 
The Price
Compared to the price of a Raspberry Pi (when you’ve bought all the accessories) it’s great and affordable for most Primary schools. £40 odd pound for the deluxe kit really isn’t bad for the learning you get from it. 
Creativity
The ideas the kids come up with when using them are fantastic. They always seem to be thinking of new ways to connect and make their work more adventurous and challenging. They also seem to add different foods to my shopping list each week! You could literally leave the pupils in a room with a ‘box of bits’ and they could be busy for hours!
Time to get Makeying in your classroom!

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Last week my Digital Leaders were given the opportunity to go and show off their work at BMobLe14 in Bradford. With them they took 3 different activities they had created using the MakeyMakey boards. It was brilliant seeing them talk and share their work with other professionals from the region, as well as with other Digital Leaders.

In this post I wanted to share with you the work they produced, and how they set it up so you can have a go yourself. I have posted pics of all the activities and tried to include how they work in the photo gallery above. The 1st activity they set up was a simple music game. Using 2 different boards, running to the same computer, they created 2 ways of playing sounds. Using 2 sheets of cards, staples and a bit of copper tape the pupils made a great little keyboard when paired with a Scratch app. Using the same app they also made some musical art. Using a sheet of A3 paper and a high density pencil (8B) they made shapes and lines that could connect the to board and make amazing sounds. When the other pupils and staff saw this and had a go there were smiles all round. Really simple but really effective.

Another game they made for pupils to use was a simple Frustration/Buzz game. This involved me making the game out of some old firewood and hydraulic tubing (raided my dads garage!), and bending it into shape. The pupils then connected the right wires and made a simple app on Scratch that made a sound when ever the 2 touched. This was another game where we could run 2 from the same board so it made for exciting challenges and competitions at the conference.

The final activity my DL’s produced also used a game created using Kodu. My top leader made a quick single player game on Kodu and then built himself his own Xbox style controller. Using staples and some quick wiring behind the card, it made for an effective gamepad. Just using up, down, left, right, space and the W key he made a working game that everyone had a go at. By the afternoon a few of the wires had come loose which was a shame and he look absolutely gutted. The great thing was afterwards he came up to me and told me 4 different ways he thought would strengthen it.

Overall I had a great day at the conference and the kids left really happy with their work (and a bag full of freebies obviously!). Please share any other ideas you have used in school, or ones you want to try!

 

After an utterly miserable and stressful morning my afternoon brought me back round to feeling human again! It was one of those afternoon where you remember why you got into teaching in the first place.

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Lets forget about the morning and concentrate on the good! I got into ICT club after school to find that the entire network was down (again) apart from a few admin accounts. I instantly saw this as an excellent learning opportunity with the Makey Makey boards, either that or it was just the excuse I was looking for to get them out again!!

Every week the year 5 & 6 digital leaders, along with some amazing adult helpers, take a group of year 1 & 2 pupils and working on their ICT skills. They lead the learning and have regular meetings to think about what they want to cover in that half term. Pupils teaching pupil, fantastic to see!

This week, with the network issues, they took the lead and explain how the Makey board works, and what kind of things that can get it to control. Then moved on to showing them how the board can be used with a simple soft pencil and a lot of sketching. Working in small teams they created the pieces, then took turns (hard enough on a good day!) at connecting their pictures and playing a tune on a piano app I created.

Their understanding of the board, and how is actually interacts with the computer, was fantastic in the end. They understood enough to know that they all conduct electricity, and therefore could all join together to complete the circuit and make a sound. So we even saw some team work! As you can see in the pictures above the atmosphere in the room was brill, and really hit the spot with the latest buzz phrase at school at the moment; ‘Pupils have a real thirst for learning’.

The final highlight at the end of the lesson came when they showed me their mucky fingers! The board works best on this activity when you use a really soft pencil. They higher the graphite in the lead, the better it conducts (I use an 8b pencil). This meant that after 30 mins of running their fingers over the drawings they were covered! Finger, palms and sleeves all shimmering in silver!

What’s your best example of pupils teaching pupils? Do it always work with activities like this? Please like/share/comment!

Makey Makey Magic

May 12th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Lesson Ideas - (0 Comments)

This week I was lucky enough to arrive at work and find a box of 5 Makey Makey sets sitting on my desk waiting for me. Obviously this was VERY exciting, and all my other plans for the day were instantly thrown out of the window. Within an hour I had made myself a little Pacman controller (very rock and roll). Within 2 hours year 6 had made themselves a game-pad out of card and staples to work with Kodu. And within 4 hours a group of year 3 pupils had made some amazing musical art. The creativity in my room  was amazing.

 

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After a day like that I HAD to take the box home and tinker in my office for a few hours (much to my wife’s annoyance!). I spent some time looking online at what others had done with the Makey Makey boards and took inspiration from fruit! I made myself a wonderful working piano from grapes! Really simple to do, and it looked great. I started off with the simple Piano app on the MakeyMakey website and a hand full of the fruit!
I began by connecting the board to my computer, plug-in and go, no need for drivers or installation. Then connecting my crocodile clips to the corresponding places on the Makey Makey board. Before finally attaching the opposite end of the clip to the grapes. The key to making the board work is having a grounding wire. You need to be holding this so that you complete a circuit when you touch the fruit. I hope my little diagram explain this better than I just did, and yes this is the scrappy plan I did before putting it all together! The Makey Makey board is essentially a keyboard override for your computer. Anything you can get your keyboard to do with an app or website can be done on the Makey Makey board. When you complete the circuit the board tells your computer you have pressed the key. Easy.  I could have made this much more advanced by adding a whole bunch of grapes (pun intended) to create my own full piano. If only I knew how to play a tune on it!

When working with the children at school I have been starting off with the app on my screen rather than the tech in my hand. Whether it’s downloading something from the MakeyMakey website, or building one for myself on Scratch. You need to have the software for the hardware to work on! This is something that can be great to do with kids. With year 3 I gave them the musical app, they had to come up with the art work to connect the board to. To challenge why KS2 pupils a bit more, or to begin with my Digital Leaders, I plan on getting them to build their own musical sound effects using Scratch.

Relatively cheap technology like this really can inspire both children and adults with the coming changes in the curriculum, my pupils spent a whole day programming without even realising it! If you have used the MakeyMakey boards, or are planning on, please get in touch and share your creations. Happy Computing!

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