Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Makey Makey for authentic STE(A)M Learning

Today's blogger is Katie McLaughlin, a K-4 Visual Arts Teacher at Sycamore and Pine Tree Elementary Schools in Avon Community School Corporation. You can connect with Katie on Twitter @k8tmclaughlin and on Instagram @missmacsartclass. Her classroom has five desktop computers and 4 tablets, as well as access to a COW cart and various fun tech toys.

Makey-Makey is one of those tech toys that is so fun that kids of all ages are naturally drawn to it. It links the physical world with the digital world and challenges students to interact creatively with technology. This makes it the perfect tool for integrating STEM and art-making, which we art teachers affectionately call STEAM.

In a nutshell, the Makey Makey is a circuit board which allows you to connect everyday conductive materials to a computer and have the objects act as keyboard keys, controlling web games and sounds. In my art class, students use it to create interactive artworks. I typically do this with 4th grade students because it pairs nicely with their science curriculum. Younger ages certainly enjoy it but tend to think it is magic, since they have no background in electricity or circuits. This unit also supports Math Process Standards as we use and discuss perseverance and appropriate tool selection.

When you introduce the Makey Makey to a class, be sure to give ample time for play. I usually start with a banana piano, which always has wow factor for the kids, and then start making a human piano until all students are part of the circuit (see diagram). Beyond the group introduction, it is important to provide time to test out different materials in order to see which are conductors and which are insulators. After this day of exploration lays a solid foundation, they can apply their knowledge by creating an interactive invention.

Invention Studio:
What You’ll Need:
  • Makey Makey 
  • Computer with internet access 
  • Art supplies (paint, glue, scissors, paper, graphite sticks, yarn, masking tape) 
  • Found objects (tissue boxes, paper towel tubes, aluminum foil) 
When you allow students to have control over their inventions, you will be pleased with the creative ways they demonstrate their knowledge. Some may make things like a new kind of musical instrument while others design their own custom game controller. I have seen buzzers for quizzes, dance games, and DJ turn-tables. Makey Makey has a library of different games with various functions which support many creative ideas. The experimental fervor in the room will be intense as students work through the design process creating, testing, and reworking designs as necessary. Allow time for students to take responsible risks and make mistakes.

I like to individually record student demonstrations of their artwork hooked up to the Makey Makey, since most don’t have one at home. We use digital learning journals to store and share them. Students also supplement the videos with captions to reflect on their experience with the design process. The digital learning journal is accessible to parents so they can see the recording and get the full experience.

For those students who really enjoy new media, expose them to Scratch to create a new game with which their artwork can interact. They will be very excited to show off their extra-curricular projects during class and others will like to try them out with their artworks.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing! Our high school kids take these projects to our elementary kids as a follow up to their study of electricity. They dance on pie pans and use playdoh to make game controls. They experiment to see how long of a human chain can conduct (this usually reveals a break in the chain where a little boy and little girl don't want to hold hands!). It's fun for everyone!