For the last week, the room we used for Makers has sat empty. The space is used for a single sections or emergency overflow for middle school classes, all of which came to a stop last Thursday. Which meant that since the last Makers class, I haven’t needed to go back in and face, in any way, the mess I left.
I bribed myself into reopening the room today with a Kickstarter purchase of Makey-Makey kits. One of my concrete improvement steps is to have every student working with Arduinos at the same time next year. The Makey Makeys help out with that, since they serve as full Arduino-compatiable boards (like the Teensy), plus they’ve got that brillaint and accessible structure. Alligator clips![youtube http://youtu.be/rfQqh7iCcOU]
Any small step can derail a student, and the time they’ll need to right themselves is not a function of that step’s difficulty. If you’re blindfolded and don’t know the terrain, stumbling over something “simple” doesn’t feel any different than any falling into a ravine. Once a student hits a wall with a project, teachers can either support them as they stumble around looking for a solution or airlift them back to the track. The first supports learning, but is completley at odds with 50 minute periods and traditional school schedules. The other has kids solving problems faster, but often at the expense of their independance and initiative.
There’s nothing that these 5 MakeyMakeys can do that’s beyond the capabilities of the Arduinos and Teensys we already own. But there’s a whole world of things that students can build faster and more easily with aligator clips than they could with breadboards. When I think of how many class periods ended under a cloud of frustration due to simple, physical problems stemming from breadboards and wires, I just want to lie in the middle of the street and die.
Buyoed by the nerd-glee of new hardware, I dove into the mess of abandoned projects and half-wired components. Thanks to a tweet from @indieschoollib, I thought to sort everything out and take photos of the current state of our Maker-cart.
Both for my own reference and whatever marginal value it might be to anyone else, here’s the visual catalog of “What’s lruking in the cart?” as of Summer 2012.
I’ll try to narrate exactly what’s in each picture, if I can figure out how to comment on individual images in the gallery.