This summer I participated in Michigan State’s Masters of Arts in Educational Technology hybrid summer courses. Through the first year program, I was introduced to the Maker Movement. As part of the classes, I explored various maker kits and created a Makey Makey Guitar Hero lesson plan for other teachers to implement. A Makey Makey board is an electronic device that allows users to repurpose everyday objects into computer buttons through wires and alligator clips. Students are introduced to creating circuits through experimenting with the Makey Makey board by connecting alligator clips and wires in order to program a homemade guitar hero controller. After creating, students should be able to successful play guitar hero on the computer. To read about this lesson in more detail, click here! (If the hyperlink doesn't work, here the web address: https://maetymakers2018.weebly.com/makey-makey-guitar-hero.html)
Our instructors presented us with various maker kits and a planning document. I felt comfortable playing with the maker kits. Since I have a STEM background, I didn’t feel overwhelmed. However, the planning document was very frustrating. This document consisted of a list of questions we had. As we went through the experience, the entire class added questions to the document. The frustrating aspect was not all of the questions were answered. There are still unanswered questions in this document to this day! Although, when we were assigned to read Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question, I realized not all of those questions were important or needed to be answered. Berger talks about how not every question will move you towards the end goal and how we need to learn to ask better questions. I believe that was the point of that experience: how to ask better questions.
My partner, Christine, and I chose the Makey Makey kit because it felt the most fun to play with. Out of all of the other kits, this felt the most satisfying to play with when complete because of how creative this one way. Granted, all of the kits were very open ended in when it came to the possibilities of what you could create. However, this one was by far the coolest when we got it to work. Seeing that we could get anything with an electric current to become a button for the computer was really neat.
One challenging aspect of creating the lesson plan was making it versatile for different age groups. Since I work with high school students, I automatically began planning for them. However, I had to think a lot more about what an elementary student would and wouldn’t be able to do. Since we were going to teach out lesson to students varying from second grade to eighth grade, we had to consider a wide range of accommodations and modifications to take this into account.
If you are planning to implement the Makey Makey Guitar Hero activity, one piece of advice is to spark student interest. If your students have no interest in Guitar Hero, there are other computer games that can be played. Personally, in my classroom, I have some students who would love the Guitar Hero, but I also have many that wouldn’t enjoy it. Thus, I would do a game like Mario or Pacman. Make sure you know your students and their interests.
My biggest advice if anyone is to implement maker activities in their classroom is you have to play first before you give it to the students. I personally purchased my own Makey Makey kit to use on my own. There were things that I found out from playing with it at home that I wouldn’t have learned if I didn’t spend the time with it. That being said, before implementing this in the classroom, you may have to play with it for hours or days before having students complete the lesson. This is where you will learn about the hiccups that students will have and how to address them. When this lesson was implemented, one of the kids had everything clipped together but nothing was happening. It was because she didn’t have the foil wrapped around the cardboard. Since encountered the same problem, I knew that the foil had to be on both sides of the alligator clips. Thus, I could easily fix the problem. This was then a teachable moment about circuits need to be closed for the electricity to flow.
I see a lot of value in the maker movement. People of all ages are learning a new skill and sometimes teaching others this skill. It’s not a traditional method of learning that is done at school, but it is playing and learning from failure. With this, makers are able to think critically and problem solve from their failures until they find success. This is the type of learning that educators and schools are trying to move to. The maker movement is a great way for students to learn and for teachers to teach. Students get to be hands on and learn about how classroom topics apply to the real world. Instead of the content they learn in the classroom and the application being two disjoined learning experiences, they come together through the maker movement. Students learn to be transfer knowledge across content. As a mathematics educator, teaching in this manner is very appealing to me because it helps answer the dreaded “Am I ever going to use this?” question. Students can have a hands on experience of what math is in their lives outside of the classroom. Math is used across various fields is many different ways. The maker movement brings in students’ interests and students can learn how math applies in each of their interests. There is also value in learning from failure. The maker movement has failure at its core. Makers learn how to make improvements every time they fail. This movement teaches makers how to be perseverant and have a growth mindset while learning. Success doesn’t always come on the first attempt. It usually comes after many failed attempts. This is important in teaching and learning because students should gain some level of comfort of failure, but then use metacognition to improve.
As an educator, I feel more comfortable with failure in the classroom. This experience has taught me that failure is a part of the learning process, even if given a set of step-by-step instructions. Not everyone will have success and they need that time and space to reflect on what improvements can be made. Creating a lesson with a maker kit has me reflect on my teaching practices and analyze what do I value in my classroom. This experience has shown me that I need to place more value on the learning process than the correct answer. I believe this shift in focus will allow me to be more flexible in my teaching and be able to see the progression my students have made. A lot of my students come in below grade level. This shift in mindset I will allow me to focus more on their growth and the learning process rather than getting through a certain amount of content. My students will benefit from this because their school experience will change drastically from this shift. They will see the value in the learning process and accept failure as a part of it. So many students are focused on just having the right answer and don’t want to be wrong. However, this shift will allow them to see just because they failed, doesn’t mean they aren’t smart or that they can’t learn.
The spirit of the maker movement is learning from failure. My classroom will be a safe learning environment where learning from failure will be encouraged and praised. During the first week of school, I want to incorporate various quickfire activities to teach students about failure and learning from them to be successful. (Quickfire activities are tasks that, by design, lead to failure and will not be perfect finished products within the given time frame.) This will be a great teaching moment because they will learn that everyone will fail at some point but learning happens through grit, perseverance, and by having a growth mindset. I believe that this will create a safe learning environment where everyone feels comfortable with failing, but then continuing until they succeed. From this experience, I will be able to cultivate students who are comfortable with failure and are perseverant. This will be important in my math classroom because there are challenging topics that will require students to not give up even though they are faced with failure. My goal is to help students understand that this is the learning process and help them embrace it.
If you are interested in learning more about the MAET Maker's Movement projects, click here to go to our webpage!