My Vision for the Future of K-12 Education

As I wrap up my final graduate school course — CEP 815: Technology and Leadership — in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University, I cannot think of a more timely and suitable task than to construct a vision for K-12 education. While my vision may bold, I know that, with effective leadership, hard work, and determination, it can be achieved.

My Vision Statement

I envision an educational approach where students are engaged, lifelong learners and respectful, compassionate and contributing members of society. A community of stakeholders will unite to deconstruct and eliminate stigmas rooted in prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes. Implementing these visions will require teachers to design and facilitate social and emotional learning (SEL) experiences, create and maintain equitable learning for students, and implement mindfulness practices to encourage kindness, student reflection and well-being. Collaborative projects, authentic tasks, personalized learning experiences and spaces that are conducive to creativity and mindfulness will aid students in developing into multicultural, empathetic and respectful contributors to our classrooms and our community (Durlak et al., 2011).

Photo by  Matt Noble  on  Unsplash

Photo by Matt Noble on Unsplash

While social-emotionally deficient students become less engaged in school settings over time, it is the responsibility of parents and teachers to reverse this by building meaningful relationships rooted in trust, empathy and compassion (Durlak et al., 2011; Hough, 2014). When emphasis is placed on kindness as much as it is on academic achievement, we can build a community of knowledgeable, caring individuals. Activities, such as infusing academic content in collaborative, community service projects, will not only help students learn desired skills outlined in curricula but, more importantly, prove that helping others is attainable and rewarding. According to Cohen (2006), such service-oriented learning can foster listening skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and selflessness, beginning within our schools and expanding globally. Traditional penpalship between students has evolved in our digital, hyper-connected world, and when students utilize its affordances to immerse themselves in the lives of others outside of there sphere, they can breakdown the classroom walls and forge an understanding of life and challenges outside of their own.

As the needs and abilities of students vary, teachers’ efforts must focus on personalizing learning experiences to provide equitable opportunities for students to succeed academically and emotionally (Freeman et al., 2017). Active learning strategies, such as project-based learning (PBL), can allow students to pursue topics of interest, providing motivation and flexibility in their learning (Bell, 2010). In addition to tailoring instruction, expectations and resources, teachers must display empathy for students; teachers can serve as role models for the types of compassionate students we want to develop when witnessing biases and stereotypes. Recognizing that practices must be consistently evaluated to make proper improvements, teachers and parents must check in with students to gauge if their needs are being met (Hough, 2014). Attending parent-teacher conferences and back-to-school night, staying active in classroom online learning communities (i.e., Google Classroom, Schoology, etc.), instilling effective productivity habits and having daily conversations with children can allow parents to remain involved and support their child’s learning. Only when we peel back the curtains of our students’ veracious perspectives will the state of our efforts to create a culture of inclusivity be revealed. The focus must not be solely on at-risk students, but all of our students.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14” (2019); therefore, equipping students with the coping skills to aid in self-regulating their emotions can serve great importance. Incorporating daily mindfulness practices in our schools, such as meditation and yoga, can provide our students with a keen ability to reflect on their feelings and alleviate anxiety — leading to better preparedness and aptitude for learning. We must support emotional and mental health, beginning in our schools and extending to life at home. As Sir Ken Robinson articulates, the “factory model” that our classrooms still mimic needs to be reevaluated and redesigned to meet the expanding needs of our students (OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design, 2010). Our students have a greater ability to practice mindfulness and exude creativity when their learning environments include flexible, collaborative and independent work spaces, adequate lighting, inspirational decor and technology (Rands & Gansemer-Topf, 2017).

Social and emotional learning experiences, appropriate tools and adequate support, as well as the creation of environments that welcome mindfulness and creativity, can help our students celebrate diversity and widen their perspectives of the world. In addition to teachers committing to fostering these values, it is of utmost importance to assess ways in which the student learning process can be approached holistically and collaboratively. Therefore, teachers must also build strong relationships with parents and keep lines of communication open in order to ensure that proper support is in place and efforts are being made to proactively help our students to succeed both inside and outside of our classrooms (OECD Policy Brief, 2008).


Resources

Bell, S. (2010). Project-based learning for the 21st century: Skills for the future. The Clearing House, 83(2), 39-43.

Cohen, J. (2006). Social, emotional, ethical, and academic education: Creating a climate for learning, participation in democracy, and well-being. Harvard educational review, 76(2), 201-237.

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta‐analysis of school‐based universal interventions. Child development, 82(1), 405-432.

Freeman, A., Becker, S. A., & Cummins, M. (2017). NMC/CoSN horizon report: 2017 K. The New Media Consortium.

Hough, L. (2014). How teachers can make caring more common. Retrieved from https://gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/14/09/how-teachers-can-make-caring-more-common.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2019). Mental health facts — children & teens. Retrieved from https://nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/Children-MH-Facts-NAMI.pdf.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2008). Ten steps to equity in education. Policy Brief.

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. Retrieved from http://thethirdteacherplus.com/s/Ch2-TTT-for-Web-0y6k.pdf.

Rands, M. L., & Gansemer-Topf, A. M. (2017). The room itself is active: How classroom design impacts student engagement. Journal of Learning Spaces, 6(1), 26.


What’s your vision?

Hitting the Reset Button: Calming Anxiety with Daily Meditation

Chances are, at one point or another, you have experienced a moment where your heart rate increased, breathing suddenly became difficult and panic set in. Perhaps you forgot to set your alarm, misplaced something valuable or forgot to complete a time-sensitive task. Worse yet, perhaps you had no idea what was causing the feelings of discomfort in the first place. Anxiety comes in various forms and, for many, it significantly hinders their ability to live their lives to the fullest.

While some individuals may occasionally experience the aforementioned feelings, others may be subjected to enduring and chronic anxiety, potentially being diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder. One in four individuals between the ages of 13 and 18 are affected by anxiety disorders (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2017). This begs the question: as secondary educators given a specified allotted time for classroom instruction, how can we alleviate and subdue anxiety among students in our classes and, further, equip them with tactics to do so on their own, providing the most optimal learning space and experience?

Mindfulness and Meditation

While mindfulness is the practice of being conscious of the present moment and meditation is the practice of repeating a mantra and focusing on breathing techniques to become mindful, the two terms can be used interchangeably. Moreover, the act of meditating promotes mindfulness (Routhier-Martin, K., Roberts, S. K., & Blanch, N., 2017). When it comes to relieving anxiety and stress, enhancing self-awareness and improving focus, studies show that meditation can positively impact students’ learning experiences (Semple, R. & Droutman, V., 2017).

How Teachers Can Implement Daily Meditation Practices with Students

calm-meditate-sleep-relax_icon.png

Implementing a brief daily meditation ritual at the beginning of class can provide students with a fresh start, improving their well-being and paving the way to make the most of their learning. In an interview with Julie Corliss, executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Trauma and the Community at Georgetown University Medical Center, explains that people with anxiety have difficulty “distinguishing between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.” She continues, “Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” (2014).

Voted Apple’s Best App of 2017, Calm is a mobile and web-based application that offers soothing and information-guided meditation practices along with sleep stories. The guided meditations range in length from 3 to 25 minutes and include themes such as improving focus, breaking habits, deepening concentration, gratitude, managing stress, enhancing relationships and calming anxiety. For educators and parents, Calm includes a feature titled Calm Kids, which includes age appropriate guided meditations and is a great starting point for implementing daily meditation in the classroom.

Of course, as with any new digital technology and subject matter, it is crucial that teachers immerse themselves in Calm’s teachings and layout. I have explored a variety of guided meditation apps and found Calm to be the simplest, most informative and enjoyable of them all. Additionally, the sessions are instructive, yet digestible enough for a beginner to dive right in.

Within the Calm Kids section, there are brief introductory sessions broken down by age groups ranging from  ages 5-7, 7-10, 10-13 and 13-17. The sessions provide an overview of meditation and mindfulness in a manner that relates to the specified age group. From there, it is up to the teacher’s discretion how to proceed with the daily practices. I would recommend implementing a routine, spending approximately the first five minutes of class experiencing a brief guided meditation. Depending on the length of your class, you can adjust the amount of time spent to meet the demands of your classroom instruction and needs of your students.

One of the best aspects of Calm is that subscriptions are free for educators — to apply for yours, click here.

See below for an overview of Calm’s features and benefits.

Although some students suffer from diagnosed anxiety disorders, implementing a brief, group guided-meditation can alleviate anxiety and promote the well-being of all students. Further, it can help the teacher do so as well.

If you are skeptical of allotting class time to such practices, think, for a moment, of the students who come to your class flustered, stressed from previous classes, or those who possess too much anxiety to think clearly — If you can hit a reset button, does it not make sense to do so?


Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2017, August). Facts & statistics. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics#

Calm (2017). App Icon (Digital Image). Retrieved from https://calm.com

Corliss, J. (2014, January 8). Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress. Harvard Heart Letter. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967

Routhier-Martin, K., Roberts, S. K., & Blanch, N. (2017). Exploring mindfulness and meditation for the elementary classroom: Intersections across current multidisciplinary research. Childhood Education, 93(2), 168-175. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/docview/1895978441?accountid=12598

Semple, R. & Droutman, V. (2017). Mindfulness goes to school: things learned (so far) from research and real-world experiences. Psychology in the Schools, 54(1), 29-51. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/doi/10.1002/pits.21981/epdf

The Best Recipe for Creativity is Allowing it to Happen

As my second graduate course in matriculating through the Master’s in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University, CEP 811: Adapting Innovative Technologies in Education, comes to an end, I feel incredibly inspired.

I must admit, although at times I have a tendency to succumb to a cynical view of the current state of our world, there has never been a more exciting time to be a student, or teacher. We, as educators, are witnessing classrooms moving away from the traditional 'factory models' and transitioning into fluid learning spaces, encompassing open-collaborative features, welcoming colors, and technology that supports creativity and innovation (OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design, 2010).

Further, our students are being given opportunities to take on projects that showcase a side of them we have never seen before. Take my Imagineering class for example, where students take on a project of their choosing, create a proposal, set goals, outline a detailed plan, work on achieving their goals for an entire marking period, and ultimately produce something upon completion of the process. Of note, the course was modeled after Google’s 20 percent time, otherwise known as Genius Hour or 20Time in the classroom. The concept, although gaining popularity in educational settings, is still quite unconventional.

Nevertheless, there is one crucial factor that has made my own teaching experience significantly more impactful for myself and my students — abolishing limitations. CEP 811 has provided me with a wealth of knowledge on learning through Maker Ed activities, proving that if we restrict our students’ ability to be imaginative, take risks and demonstrate passion for what they are working on in a classroom setting, we are completely missing the mark when it comes to harnessing their full and unique potential.

For instance, for the past two years teaching Imagineering, I required my students to work in groups on their projects, even though some of them had stressed their desire to work independently. My thought was that, by urging them to collaborate, it would enhance their teamwork and problem solving skills. While there were some groups that created impressive projects, fully immersing themselves in their work, this was unfortunately far from the norm. Additionally, some of their ideas were too outlandish given our resources and project scope, leading me to sway them in different directions. Wow, was my initial thinking wrong.

This marking period, after beginning CEP 811, I decided I would teach the course to fit its true purpose — providing students with full autonomy. I allowed students to work independently if they desired and said “yes” to their ideas, even if I was reluctant. I cannot begin to describe how fulfilling it has been to witness students fully engaged and devoted to their work.

The moment we begin limiting students’ ability to think and act creatively is the moment we lose them. If we expect our students to be innovative and critical thinkers, we must give them the necessary space, technology, autonomy and encouragement to do so.

I would like to close my thoughts with a poem I wrote:

Sparks Poem by Jared Wohl.jpg

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. Retrieved from http://thethirdteacherplus.com/s/Ch2-TTT-for-Web-0y6k.pdf

Makerspace: Literally

If you work in education, chances are you have heard of a ‘makerspace’ or, perhaps, you have one at your school or place of business. I cannot help but notice that many people seem to throw the term around without a true understanding of what it actually means. Makerspaces have become a must-have for any future-ready school and, although I agree with the potential they have to enhance learning experiences, it is crucial that we understand the characteristics before putting hammer to nail.

Helping to clarify any confusion, below is an infographic I created, which explains: a) what a makerspace is, b) where they are typically formed, c) what types of equipment and tools they include, d) why they are so popular and e) what they can look like. Of note, it is important to remember that offering a makerspace to individuals will only prove to be as successful as the curiosity they possess, their desire to learn, and their willingness to participate. Nevertheless, I am a firm believer that, when people witness others around them creating, it inspires them to join, contributing to the iterative process that fuels innovation.

As always, I welcome any comments, questions or feedback you may have!

Explee TM (2014). What is a MakerSpace? Retrieved from https://youtu.be/NLEJLOB6fDw

Florin, F. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/fabola/22521685607/in/photostream/

Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-465.

Male, M. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mastermaq/18962871653

Sheridan, K. Halverson, E.R., Litts, B.K., Brahms, L, Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T. (2014) Learning in the making: A comparative case-study of three maker spaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505-565.

Maker Lesson: Designing an Ideal Classroom Prototype

When I first got my hands on my recently purchased Makey Makey kit, I thought to myself, ‘how could it be that a device such as this — so compact and simple-by-design — helps individuals exhibit so much creativity?’ It was not  until I began tinkering with it that it clicked. Although the kit came with a few example how-to instructions for completing different projects, there was not a strict set of rules explaining how to use it. The autonomy and enjoyment that Makey Makey provides its users is what leads to it being used in such innovative ways. It is not that Makey Makey itself is revolutionary, but rather what it offers the individuals using it: creativity without limits.

Building on my exploration of ‘personalized learning’ last week, I discussed in my previous post that educators must be wary of over-emphasizing the use of adaptive learning systems; consequently, it seems to marginalize students’ freedom to choose how they learn (Roberts-Mahoney, Means & Garrison, 2016). Instead, by offering project- and inquiry-based learning activities, students can invest in their learning, finding enjoyment in the process.

My finished prototype

My finished prototype

This week, I have developed a lesson that offers students the ability to design their ideal classroom, challenging their constructivist view of what a traditional classroom is comprised of. Of note, the lesson can be viewed here. According to Angela M. O'Donnell, Rutgers University Educational Psychologist, “Knowledge is constructed by the learner and informed and influenced by the learner’s previous experiences” (2012, p. 61). The task of having students observe and assess their past and current classroom designs, research the future of collaborative learning spaces and then create a prototype of their ideal classroom to meet the needs and desires of students, taps into their previous experiences and suggests that there is always room for innovation. Further, the freedom given to students to explore and use any materials they deem appropriate enhances their ability to be creative problem solvers.

Although I have designed the lesson for my 6th grade Intro. to Engineering classes, it can be modified for any STEM-related unit. Additionally, the concept of using Makey Makey and scratch.mit.edu — a free programming website — to design an interactive prototype can be utilized for any prototype design, not solely to design a classroom. If you are planning on implementing this lesson, be mindful of the following:

  • Although you will be giving students freedom to use any materials they desire, it helps to have cardboard, aluminum foil, hot glue, glue sticks, scissors and other miscellaneous materials available.

  • The lesson is designed for five sequential classes, but if it seems as though students are immersed in creating their designs and/or you have flexibility, you can always give them additional time to create.

  • Below is my sample prototype that you can use as an example for students.

  • Below is a video of how I created my program in Scratch. You can also use this as a model for your students.

Here are some photos of my finished prototype and how I wired it to my Makey Makey. Of note, I used craft wire to extend the alligator clip wires that come with Makey Makey.

Feel free to reach out with any questions or to share your own experience with this lesson. I would love to see what your students create!

 

O'Donnell, A. (2012). Constructivism. In APA Educational Psychology Handbook: Vol. 1. Theories, Constructs, and Critical Issues. K. R. Harris, S. Graham, and T. Urdan (Editors-in-Chief). Washgington, DC: American Psychological Association. DOI: 10.1037/13273-003

Roberts-Mahoney, H., Means, A. J., & Garrison, M. J. (2016). Netflixing human capital development: Personalized learning technology and the corporatization of K-12 education. Journal of Education Policy, 31(4), 405-420. doi:10.1080/02680939.2015.1132774

Getting Personal: Exploring Personalized Learning in K-12 Classrooms

As ‘personalized learning’ has become a widely-used buzzword in education (Horn, 2017), it is crucial to understand its implications on learning experiences for students and the future of K-12 educational institutions. On the surface, it seems unquestionably necessary to tailor instruction to the needs of individual students, but is it possible to personalize student learning in a manner that becomes unduly data-driven and, in some cases, invasive? Netflixing Human Capital Development: Personalized Learning Technology and the Corporatization of K-12 Education (Roberts-Mahoney, Means & Garrison, 2016) poses strong arguments for why we must be cautious and walk before we run with making personalized education in a K-12 setting ubiquitous.

Photo by  Lukas  on  Pexel

Photo by Lukas on Pexel

Unfortunately, the loosely-defined and widely-interpreted term — personalized learning — makes it difficult to pinpoint its implementation in education (Horn, 2017). Personalized learning is not simply differentiating instruction for students based on their varied abilities, but rather linking instruction to students’ interests and abilities, and adapting activities to help them reach their highest levels of academic achievement. One idea of doing so, that is increasingly being discussed among educational technology companies, technology executives and the US Department of Education, is to utilize adaptive learning systems that use algorithmic data to display student growth and design activities specific to each individual learner (Roberts-Mahoney, Means & Garrison, 2016). However, one cannot help but wonder, at what point are we turning students into robots? Focusing on big data in a massive open online course (MOOC) setting, where there is unlimited student participation, seems more appropriate; yet in a K-12 classroom setting, we must implement less-daunting, actionable tactics to personalize learning for students without relying so heavily on numbers dictating what and how students learn. Furthermore, an overarching system that analyzes student growth across all subject areas seems to fall short of providing students with the most optimal learning experience possible.

 

What About Social Welfare?

If teachers are reduced to data-analysts (Roberts-Mahoney, Means & Garrison, 2016), I fear that the focus in the classroom will stray away from caring for students’ well-being and be placed solely on reaching pre-determined objectives. Students are already seemingly overwhelmed as they equate letter grades to achievement and success, along with the paradoxical “fake reality” that social media platforms foster; therefore, what will emphasizing data in education result in? Students need a refreshed perspective on learning, filled with curiosity and creativity, which is why personalization must be simplified.

 

What Teachers Must Do Now

Teachers must do everything in their power to help students foster a love for learning. By providing students with autonomy in choosing what and how they learn through project- and inquiry-based learning activities, engagement improves and an enjoyment in the learning process develops. Teachers should explore Maker Education and the notion that, at the core, we are all creators. Students should have access to an array of materials and educational technologies and use them in a Design-Thinking approach, tasking them with becoming critical, independent-thinkers, and innovators. This is the type of personalized learning that I believe in. It is up to the teacher to fill in the gaps and adapt their curriculum’s objectives to make fires with the sparks of curiosity displayed by students.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to fostering academic achievement with personalized learning. Yes, adaptive learning systems can improve education, but so can a passionate educator with a combination of technological, pedagogical and content knowledge (Koehler, Mishra, Kereluik, Shin & Graham, 2013) paired with the ability to seek out optimal educational technologies or, better yet, create new ones themselves. As educators, it is crucial to begin by having an open-mind and maintaining a classroom filled with eager-to-learn students; what is the best way to do this? Make the experience fun and the learning will commence.

 

Harvard University (n.d.) Design Thinking. Retrieved from https://tll.gse.harvard.edu/design-thinking

Horn, M. (2017). Now trending: Personalized learning. Education Next, 17(4).

Koehler, M. J., Mishra, P., Kereluik, K., Shin, T. S., & Graham, C. R. (2013). The technological pedagogical content knowledge framework. Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology, 101.

Maker Education Initiative (2015). Maker Ed: The Impact of Maker Education. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/3Ml9j1UkeI4

Roberts-Mahoney, H., Means, A. J., & Garrison, M. J. (2016). Netflixing human capital development: Personalized learning technology and the corporatization of K-12 education. Journal of Education Policy, 31(4), 405-420. doi:10.1080/02680939.2015.1132774

Makey Makey: Unleashing Creativity

We have a tendency to blame a lack of creativity on laziness or apathy and, while they are certainly factors, oftentimes we just can’t seem to place a finger on why we can’t come up with an innovative idea. What’s even more baffling is that, it’s as if the smarter we become, the more rigid our views on everything around us become as well. There’s a term for this — Functional Fixedness — the cognitive bias where individuals see objects used only in their traditional sense. Functional Fixedness places a stranglehold on perception and hinders the ability to think creatively.

In my graduate course, CEP 811, this week class focused on exploring the idea of repurposing and its implications on creativity and educational technologies. In an engaging and thought-provoking keynote presentation, Dr. Matthew Koehler, professor of educational psychology and educational technology at Michigan State University, and Dr. Punya Mishra, co-director of the Master's in Educational Technology program at Michigan State University, explain that creativity is “easy to recognize, but hard to define” (2012). We’ve all heard the overused statement urging us to 'think outside the box,' yet how do educators utilize educational technology to creatively construct meaningful activities for students? Ironically, “there is no such thing as an educational technology;” we create it ourselves (Mishra, 2012).

In 2012, Eric Rosenbaum and Jay Silver surprised the crowdfunding space, raising more than $500,000 to fund an invention kit they developed called Makey Makey. They claimed the kit would “turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet.” By simply combining a circuit board, USB cable, a few wires, alligator clips and everyday objects, Makey Makey breaks the barriers of Functional Fixedness. Still not drinking the Kool-Aid? Search “Makey Makey” on YouTube and you’ll find tons of individuals who have explored the world around them and created inventions out of the wildest objects. Take these for example: a compilation of Makey Makey music inventions, a Makey Makey video game controller, or even a way to make a carrot scream when being sliced!

 

My Makey Makey Invention

Adding myself into the mix, throughout the week I explored my own Makey Makey kit and invented a way to help reinforce training methods with my puppy, Lucy (you may recall my training endeavor from CEP 810). Last week, my fiancé, Samantha, and I were visiting her cousins’ house and happened to see that they were getting rid of an old rabbit pen. The idea struck me that we may be able to repurpose it in our apartment as a way to partition the living room from the kitchen (it has the ability to be situated into different shapes), giving Lucy a sizable, controlled space to roam around without getting into too much trouble. The only issue is, since she is a bit hyperactive, she often jumps on the counters and gate, which is something we’ve been trying to curtail. What better way to help reinforce her training than to invent a way to teach her when we’re not in the room ourselves? This is where my Makey Makey comes in!

Here is my invention in action:

 

How You Can Join in on the Fun

If you’re interested in trying something like this for yourself, all you’ll need is a Makey Makey kit ($49.95), aluminum foil, 28-gauge aluminum or copper craft wire (thinner wire is more flexible), tape (conductive tape helps if you have it), and basic computer programming knowledge.

As seen in the video, I began by first creating a program in Scratch, a free website that allows users to program interactive stories, games and animation. The website uses a form of click-and-drag block coding, so there’s no need to have prior computer programming experience. Of note, the website includes a wealth of step-by-step tutorials, which are an incredible way to introduce yourself and/or your students to programming. After recording myself saying, “Lucy, off,” I created a simple command so that when the space key is pressed, the recording will sound off and count the amount of times it occurs.

Below is my Makey Makey setup. The red cable plugs into the USB port on my computer, the yellow wire connects the space key to the foil on top of the gate, and the green wire connects earth to Lucy. Therefore, when Lucy touches the foil, it closes the circuit and runs the program I’ve created, prompting the recording to sound.

I also repurposed Lucy’s harness using some aluminum foil, conductive tape and craft wire. This took a few tries to get right since I had to make sure that the foil was touching Lucy's body.

Next, I connected wire to the foil, wrapped it around the rings of the harness, coiled it around the leash and ultimately connected it to the Makey Makey. The clip on her leash is metal so I knew that once it touched the rings, it would close the circuit. Lastly, I made sure to tether the leash to her crate to avoid my laptop from being destroyed if she tugged. Below is a video that further explains.

 

Final Thoughts

Although this activity was challenging to say the least, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating this invention; it certainly brought out the inner-child in me. I now understand why and how Makey Makey can completely revolutionize learning for students. As I was tinkering with my kit, I was going through the steps of the Engineering Design Process, first defining the problem I was trying to solve — to prevent Lucy from jumping on counters and gate — along with constraints, then moving on to exploring, planning, creating and ultimately improving the invention to be more efficient. With my Intro to Engineering students, Makey Makey can take design challenges to the next level. Furthermore, by integrating computer programming, it can urge students to think critically, sequentially and creatively, fostering invaluable skills in a fun and playful manner.

The sky's the limit when it comes to what Makey Makey can offer students and, as I’ve learned, it’s up to educators to provide them with the tools necessary to become innovative problem solvers. In this case, all we need is a Makey Makey kit and the world around us.

 

Functional Fixedness (2001). In Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/functional-fixedness

Keevill, A. (2014). Makey Makey Screaming Carrot. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/o4iTQ7lr2W0

Koehler, M. & Mishra, P. (2012). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/39539571

Mishra, P. (2012). Keynote Speaker @ 21st Century Learning Conference - Hong Kong 2012. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9bwXYa91fvQ

Rosenbaum, E. (2013). MaKey MaKey Music Examples. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/wkPt9MYqDW0

Rosenbaum, E. & Silver, J. (2012). MaKey MaKey: An Invention Kit for Everyone. Retrieved from https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joylabz/makey-makey-an-invention-kit-for-everyone

Rossberg, D. (2016). MaKey MaKey Game Controller Tutorial. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/81q-n28vOuM

Wohl, J. (2017). Puppy Training w/ Makey Makey. Retrieved from https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/183869285/#player