Integrating Makey Makey into Science

I have been fiddling around with paper switches and copper tape over the last few days and have come up with a load of new ideas. Paper switches open up a world of possibilities for students. They are simple to make and add a control or measurable element to any project that the students are working on.

I have recently written a project in Scratch that works out how far something has traveled in a period of time, the basic speed formula. As I wrote this, it occurred to me that this would be a great Makey Makey project for a standard science investigation, but instead of stop watches and inbuilt inaccuracies, paper switches and my Scratch code would give more accurate results.

I have now built this Scratch, Makey Makey and paper switch rig and tested it, it works really well, so armed with this, students can now accurately measure slope angle, slope length and even slope material variables and get fast accurate results.

Now that this has been completed, I am now thinking about how paper switches and Makey Makey or even Micro:bits could be used on projects such as marble runs. The more I investigate, the more ideas I get…

Ball Bearing Maze

It has been a productive few days. More computational thinking and 3DO ideas have come to the fore. The latest is an adaptation of an Arduino project to make a ball bearing maze and control it with a joystick and two servos. I have taken this idea and adapted to work with a BBC Micro:bit, making the entry level for this kind of project much lower and offers the technology opportunity to a wider breadth of students and ages.

One of the slides from the learning resource for this project

Make My Money

It has been a productive few days for me. I have just uploaded another computational thinking resource, this time a PO4 resource, called Make My Money! This is a Makey Makey based activity, linked to Scratch. The aim of the activity is for older students to create a learning resource for younger students to help them learn about making different monetary values from coins. So the maths required in order to do the task is easy for the students doing the coding, but the coding required to make the resource is far from straight forward, indeed it is a PO4 activity, because the successful outcome requires the use of outputs, iteration, variables and comparative operators, several of them. I am looking forward to trialing this one too. In the pipeline is a Te Reo vocabulary coding activity, I am just waiting on having my Te Reo checked before I go live with this one, watch this space for more on that.

Number Bonds / Basic Facts

I have been working with several groups of students in a couple of schools on separate PLD Numeracy contracts recently, on the same problem, the students have very weak understanding of their basic facts of number and how they are inter-related, their bonds. As a result of this, I decided that a way that the students could build their capacity and their understanding would be to create a game that tested a user on the concept I wanted the students themselves to learn. After all the best way to learn is to teach. So I have created this number bonds resource, that leads into creating a game in Scratch. I have yet to trial it, but it was fun to make.

A slide from learning resource created for this activity.

Star Dome

In preparation for Matariki, I have been working on a resource for students to build a Star Dome in their classrooms from recycled cardboard and then populate the ceiling of their Star Dome with the constellations of the southern skies with LEDs controlled via a simple parallel circuit with resistors and a cardboard switch in it, all connected with copper tape.

I am looking forward to testing this resource in several schools in term 2. The LEDS and resistors have been ordered and are currently inbound from China. Just need to go dumpster diving now for the large cardboard boxes we will need to make the 12 equilateral triangles needed for each Star Dome.

Third Merge Cube Tutorial

We have just launched our third Merge Cube tutorial onto You Tube. In this tutorial we show you how to import images from your computer onto the stage and how to add this to the cube. We then embark on creating a simple animation of an object in Merge Cube, using the CoSpaces coding blocks. These first three tutorials will give the average user enough information and skills to allow them to start to build and code their own Merge Cube environments.

We have started to collaborate with others on creating resources for teachers to use, utilising Merge Cube’s AR features. In one school we are creating an integrated literacy resource based around the novel The London Eye Mystery, where the students will have to create 6 key scenes from the novel as scenes on the Merge Cube and they will then have to animate these scenes, add audio voice overs for the characters and finally write a narrators script for the video they will create in the CoSpaces app when their models are complete. Watch this space for the resource once it is complete.

Also in production is the creation of a Merge Cube resource that will allow students to look at opposing views of the same event. 2019 marks the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s landing in New Zealand and the clash of cultures that sparked. We are creating a Merge Cube resource that will allow students to investigate and share their understandings of how both sides of this encounter may have thought and reacted on that historic day, again watch this space for more information on that resource.


Merge Cube Tutorial

I have spent the last week or so creating a couple of tutorials to support teachers through the CoSpaces/Merge Cube interface. Today I have launched the first of these two new video tutorials. This tutorial covers how to manage and edit the cube and how to add and manipulate content from the CoSpaces library onto the cube.

I am trying to keep these tutorials bite sized in order to make them accessible and skill specific. In watching this tutorial through a number of times I can already see that I will need to produce another supplimentary tutorial in order to cover all of the menu features on objects, but that is for another time. The next video tutorial deals with how to add code to an object using the CoSpaces code blocks and should be out later this week.

Merge Cube tutorial

I have just embarked on a creating a series of tutorials related to creating content for the Merge Cube. As with most of these types of tools, I always find the pre created content too generic and passive for students, often rendering the tool to the realm of gimmick in the classroom. It might look cool to the untrained eye, but basically the content and the student interaction with it is limited and passive. Whilst there is plenty of content in the Merge Cube Gallery created by other educators, there is nothing quite so empowering as ownership.

Therefore I have subscribed to the CoSpaces pro account and have added the Merge Cube add on so that students can create their own content and manipulate that content in their hands with the Merge Cube. One of the avenues I am looking at exploring with my DT/HM contracts is Taonga. I am especially interested in using the combination of student created video and audio content and combining this content with the 3D modelled Taonga of the students.

I have already captured the content for three or possibly four tutorials and am in the process of editing the second video, it all takes time. But this first video is simply an overview of the Merge Cube space within CoSpaces and the location and range of the various tools tools and menus in the Merge Cube space. The real content, will begin to appear in the next video, so watch this space, in the meantime enjoy this overview tutorial.

Updating Resources

I have started the process of updating my Scratch activities so that the support materials I have created over the last few years now look like the updated block design and colours that are in the updated Scratch 3.0 environment. It will be a long job, I have lots of Scratch activities, lessons and tutorials to support teachers and students with integrating coding, using Scratch into their class programme.

I have decided to work backwards, in other words, I am updating my latest resources first and will work my way backwards through time, as I said, this is going to take some time to do. So keep checking back here to see what progress I am making.

The resource I have just updated is my two-part “Dance Mat” activity. This challenge is designed to be integrated into a technology program and so is a mix of coding and hard materials design, proto-typing and construction using Makey Makey as the interface between the hard materials and the coding in Scratch.


A week of PD

This last week has been a busy one for the schools I support. The start of the week saw Jacqui Sharp and I run two days of workshops for teachers at Hingaia Penninsula School. On the first day we ran an introduction to coding workshop, where we introduced teachers to the delights and power of Scratch. The second day was a STEAM workshop, where we extended teachers to integrate several technologies into integrated learning modules.

On Wednesday and Thursday I ran two teacher only days for the teachers at Royal Oak Intermediate. On the first day I took the teachers through the workings of Google Drive, Classroom and a range of learning tools including Google Forms, awwapp and screencastify. On the second day we looked at implicit bias in learning and challenged teachers to allow the hard questions into their classrooms to challenge the orthodoxy of their pedagogy, the content of the curriculum and the impact it has on our students. We then investigated tools and resources that would allow that to happen in their class. After this full on day of learning for teachers, I then drove to Taranaki for the final PD day of the week.

In Taranaki, Jacqui and I were again working together, this time to launch the Kahui Ako o te Kohanga CoL contract on digital fluency, with a focus on numeracy. The day was excellent, with over 54 teachers and principals in attendance, then after this day, there was the drive back to Auckland to contend with. All in all a good week, next week is looking just as busy!