I know you've heard about the Makey Makey but it just looks so weird that you haven't looked into it. You're right! It's totes weird! And so much fun!
Makey Makey was a Kickstarter in 2010-ish that raised about $500,000. It is the brainchild of Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, two MIT students. Jay Silver has made several videos (that you can find on youtube) about his theory that Invention Literacy is a more important skill than coding, or design thinking, or any of the other skills we've been touting and integrating into our curriculum for some years. I don't know if I'm a believer but we sure do have fun with Makey Makey and the idea that we can invent anything.
here's what you get
Think of the Makey Makey as a circuit board - a friendly circuit board. You get that. And you get some different colors of alligator clips, the USB cable to connect the MM to your laptop, and some white wires that are stripped on both ends. (You get some basic instructions and stickers, too.)
There is no end to the instructions for building different things on youtube and on various websites. Here's the website that we use here for our HSTE workshops. (Hawaii Society for Technology in Education - I am a proud Board Member.)
We offered a full day workshop for educators today on the beautiful Le Jardin school campus (Oahu). We had about 30 folks come, learn about the Makey Makey and participate in our Design Challenge.
We started with a basic circuit exercise to teach people about, well, basic circuits. Play-Doh will conduct electricity (as will your body), so we connected a 9v battery through some Play-Doh and to a tiny LED. We learned that connecting the LED directly to the 9v will blow out the LED (he's very little!) so putting the Play-Doh in the middle made him last longer. This whole kit will cost you about $2 to put together.
Then they made a basic circuit without the 9v...just using the power from the laptop running into the MM through the USB cable.
Next, they learned that with one finger on the Earth place on the MM, you can press on the left, right, up, down places on the MM (the cross there on the left) to activate those arrow keys on the laptop. That's fun for playing this MM piano.
sketch it and play it
Once they connected to the piano program from Makey Makey, we asked them to make a drawing of something fun with different places to connect the alligator clips to the arrow keys on their laptop through the Makey Makey. This spider drawing was my favorite! By putting one finger on the "ground", (in the bottom left of the drawing), you can touch all of the spiders in the picture to play different notes on the piano. All of the teachers drew adorable pictures that connect to their curriculum (or not). All of them thought of applications for this simple "sketch it and play it" activity for their students.
For this project, you need real graphite pencils. The drawing needs to be dark and deep for the graphite to conduct enough electricity.
Jon wanted to connect his Makey Makey to a video game and use a banana as a joystick. (Luckily, bananas also conduct electricity.) This was absolutely hilarious! All of the educators wanted to try playing the game with this unique bananastick (joybanana?). Notice that Jon constructed a Play-Doh collar for it.
The woman on the left is a former school librarian. She converted her space into a place where kids can come to "make and explore". This year, she told me, she just left out materials for kids to use with no instruction but she's ready to take it up a notch. She loved discovering different ways to create simple circuits! She explained to me, "It's a step farther than using Snap Circuit boxes. They will have to understand the concepts involved in order to get their circuits to work." Amen to that!
Educators learned about the wonder that is Scratch. Those already familiar with Scratch learned how to take it to the next level by connecting the MM. When the MM is in charge of your arrow keys and space bar, the ideas were limitless for how to make lessons more interactive...but not computer based.
They also learned how to record their own sounds so now, rather than playing the piano with the MM through Scratch, students can have their own voices saying "That's not quite right. Try again." and "Congratulations! You are right!" for interactive, fun quizzes.
The end-of-day Design Challenge had everyone working in teams taking their Makey Makey knowledge to the next level. Their inventions were inspired and inspiring!
If you haven't explored Makey Makey for your classroom, I hope that you do.
If you are looking for some help, I recommend Colleen Graves and Aaron Graves recent book "20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius. Challenge your students to make a musical hoodie (interactive clothing) or a Makey Makey lock box or a cookie jar alarm! They will love it...and you will contribute to the next generation of inventors.