This month, when deciding what to blog about, I waited to start writing until after I finished a two-day collaboration with a visionary teacher at my high school using Makey Makey STEM kits. She is a creative, dynamic teacher, and she inspired me to share a little bit about how she blends content and instructional technology together for her students.
Collaborating with a Creative Teacher
Just a little background
One of my district’s instructional technology initiatives is the Pinnacle Technology Network. Since the early 2000s, educators have applied to be a part of this program, receiving extra training and resources to bring back to their respective schools and students. As a classroom teacher, I jumped at the chance to be a part of this in 2004, and now as a school librarian, the training has been even more relevant and important. I even renewed my training in 2014. Pinnacle leaders are located in just about every school in the district, impacting student learning and supporting other teachers on their instructional technology journeys.
Wheels Are Always Turning
So, one such dynamic Pinnacle leader is my colleague Jamee P. Webb who teachers English III (11th grade) at our school. She is a frequent collaborator with me in the school library, and she is a lifelong learner. It is fun to watch her discover new strategies, apps, and products that she can use with her students. During the summer, she received some professional development with STEM resources. When she had to opportunity to apply for a grant through the Pinnacle program, she quickly submitted her request for Makey Makey STEM kits for her students. Fast forward to this November and she won the grant! It was my pleasure to help present her with three boxes of Makey Makey kits.
Hands-On Student Learning
With kits in hand, and the masterful teacher organization, she, Mrs. Leatherman, our instructional technology facilitator, and I began a two-day journey with her English students to explore the Makey Makey kits and to ultimately create poetry using the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
I had a small amount of experience with the Makey Makey kits in the past, but I had honestly been a little intimidated. Prior to Ms. Webb winning the grant, our school did not have any of these kits on hand. I knew that working with her on this project would indeed by a learning opportunity for me! What a great experience for me to work alongside the students, following the instructions and exploring Makey Makey and coding using Scratch.com. It was so much fun to try the activities myself, like a student, and learn more about these products!
During the first class period, the students were given minimal instructions. They received some basic information about the kits, and they were tasked with creating a game controller. Working in pairs, using the kits and a Chromebook, they used the controller to play an online arcade game with a partner. The second activity introduced the students to coding and Scratch.com. With a challenge to create a “buzzer system” in Scratch that worked with the Makey Makey kit, students played a “Twenty Questions” style game with their partners.
Bringing a Primary Source Document to Life with STEM
Social media can be a wonderful means for sharing ideas. Ms. Webb was able to take an idea shared on Twitter for #BlackoutPoetry and use it with her curriculum focus of primary source documents. What the students created brought the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights to life. The Makey Makey kits gave students the means to connect STEM skills with English, and it was awesome!
As Ms. Webb, Mrs. Leatherman, and I supported the students, we watched as they created thoughtful poems using the primary source texts. As they worked, they blacked out the words they didn’t need, leaving only the words on the page most meaningful to them. With the Makey Makey kits and Scratch, the school library was full of the sounds of their poetry. Their interactive poems either used students’ voices or sounds programmed in Scratch to play when touched using the Makey Makey kits. It was an “ah-ha” moment for me when I saw how these students were able to create personalized poetry from historic documents and then showcase them in a gallery walk for the classmates to experience.
Ms. Webb’s Makey Makey lessons gave me an opportunity to dig deeper and learn more about something that I had only briefly experienced. I am grateful for the chance to personally learn about this technology in such a unique way. What was so wonderful to see was how quickly the students figured things out and jumped in to accomplish each of the tasks they were given. As a result of receiving this grant, Ms. Webb is going to partner with me and Mrs. Leatherman to offer our staff professional development for the kits. Our teachers will be able to reserve library time for their students to use the Makey Makey kits, making the impact of Ms. Webb’s grant far-reaching. I cannot wait to see what our students will create and discover next in the library!
All three of us love to collaborate and grow our professional learning networks. My contact information is included below. Ms. Webb’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and her Twitter handle is @jpmundo. Ms. Leatherman’s email is email@example.com, and she can be found on Twitter @kleathe615. Have a wonderful start to 2019! Happy New Year!
Author: Laura Long
Laura Long is the school library media specialist at Highland School of Technology in Gastonia, NC, a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her Masters of Library Science from East Carolina University. She is a Gaston County Schools’ Delta Fellow, Pinnacle Technology Leader and member of the Pioneering Educators Team, as well as a National Board certified language arts teacher. Additionally, she is the President-elect of the North Carolina School Library Media Association. She loves collaborating and helping her students connect with others around the world, so feel free to contact her via email or social media.