I teach English as a Foreign Language in a K-6 elementary school in Taichung, Taiwan, and I’m currently enrolled in MSU’s Master of Arts in Educational Technology program. In my current course, CEP 811: Adapting Innovative Technologies in Education, I have been asked to 1) explore a new maker kit, 2) repurpose found or thrifted objects to interact with my maker kit in regards to my teaching context, and finally 3) build a prototype.
For my maker kit, I chose MaKey MaKey. With semester finals done and the Lunar New Year vacation right around the corner, it was the perfect time to bring the kit to my 4th and 5th grade classes and have some fun. The Sketch it! Play it! lesson plan was a nice easy intro for the students to interact with the kit. Using the conductivity of graphite, one can attach alligator clips to parts of a pencil drawing in order to control a computer program. After an introduction, each student drew their own picture and had a turn searching for and playing a program on Scratch.
While playing Pacman, Star Wars, baseball, Tetris, or a variety of musical instruments, the students found they had to evaluate their game controllers (pictures) in order to make them more responsive. While the science behind this lesson was not entirely new for these kids, Taiwanese science classes move at a fast clip, this was still a valuable learning experience that provided opportunities for generating language. From these two play sessions, I realized that MaKey MaKey provided me with a more tactile and novel medium through which students could play a variety of online English games. However, if I were to incorporate MaKey MaKey into my EFL classroom on a regular basis, I would need a reliable control console that wouldn’t take class time to create (drawing the pictures) or turn students’ fingers black.
I knew what I wanted, so it was time to brainstorm and tackle part two of the assignment. My first visions of a game controller suitable for K-6 students looked like the old Simon memory game from the 80’s. Low and behold, one night while out getting dinner for my family, I saw something I had seen a million times, but now it had transformed into just the right object for my project. In traditional Taiwanese cuisine, soup dumplings are steamed in stacks of bamboo trays. The lid would be perfect for the non-conductive base of my game console. Thrift stores are not common in Taiwan, but I easily acquired what I needed from a nearby hardware store and began prototyping. Take a look!
My first lesson plan idea for my EFL classroom simply follows the physical characteristics of the game console which is vocabulary for directions. One student would watch the computer monitor and give verbal directions to the student at the console who wouldn’t be able to see the monitor. I found two online games that fit the activity.
- “Move It or Luge It” – EFL Directions Vocabulary (left, right)
- “Jumping Arrows” – EFL Directions Vocabulary (up, down, left, right)
Here is a guide to build your own MaKey MaKey Game Console.
Tools and Materials:
- MaKey MaKey Classic Kit
- bamboo steam-tray lid (substitute with an upside down basket)
- thin sheet metal
- duct tape
- thin metal wire
- scissors and razor
- metal ruler
1) Test the conductivity of your sheet metal. I used a voltmeter, but you can also use MaKey MaKey by running it through your metal and testing the responsiveness. Copper is great, but I had to settle for cutting up an old (tin) cookie tin. If you also find yourself cutting out your metal from a larger piece, use a metal ruler and razor to score the metal and bend for a nice clean break. Be careful!
2) Stencil out the shapes you want for your buttons. Trace on the sheet metal. Use scissors to cut them out.
3) Use sandpaper to dull the edges and corners of the metal cutouts. Then, just to be safe, use thin strips of duct tape to cover the edges and corners. Get some colourful duct tape for some contrast.
4) Use the auger to bore a starting hole in each button. Screw through the hole to fasten each button to the top of the steamer lid. Be sure your screws are long enough to go all the way through the bamboo.
5) Once all the buttons are screwed on in the places you want, setup your MaKey MaKey and connect the alligator clips to the screw tips poking out under the lid. Be sure to attach each wire to its corresponding button (up to up, and so forth).
6) In order to have both hands free, I made a grounding ring out of a few loops of thin metal wire. It is more durable than tinfoil, faster to take on and off, and provides better connectivity than the bracelets (plural!) I made.
7) Finally, sit back and try out your new MaKey MaKey Game Console.
It is my hope that the visual elements of this blog post give the reader insight to my (THE) creative process. One not only sees what I made and how to make their own, but understands how and why the idea formed.
Berry, Steve. (2006, May 9). Simon (Online image). Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/unloveable/2405593748
Thibedeau, Justin. (2016, January). MaKey MaKey Game Console (Images). Retrieved from personal photos.
Thibedeau, Justin. (2016, January). MaKey MaKey Game Console (Video). Retrieved from personal video files.