May 10th – Adafruit

Adafruit is a small Makery company in Brooklyn with a very large reach.  Adafruit is making the Maker Movement come alive with the resources they are putting in everyone’s hands for a small price.

May 10th – Adafruit

Adafruit is similar to Make: but is just focused on electronics and making some really great ones.  They are a major supplier of Arduino’s, Raspberry Pi and other assorted little developer boards.  There are videos and tutorials for starters, and millions of additional boards for those that are comfortable and ready to grow and expand.

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Boards are all pretty inexpensive, but they sell out quick so keep an eye out!


May 9th – Make:

As we are moving out of the post about Maker Culture (there will be at least one more tomorrow) we should talk about resources.  One major resource was mentioned in an earlier post, but I didn’t really go into it as much as I possibly should’ve.

May 9th – Make:

Make: is the organization for everything Makery and DYI right now.  There are other pockets, but this website is a great introduction to the Maker Movement with ideas, kits and general support.  Make: also runs the Maker Faire’s all across the country (one just finished in Bay Area and the next is June 18-20th in Washington DC) and is home to MakerShed which specializes in DYI projects.

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The Make: organization is also launching the National Week of Making starting June 17th through June 23rd which is sponsored by the White House.

May 8th – ScratchX

After writing about Arduino yesterday, I figured I should connect to some common knowledge that we have worked from, basically from the beginning.  All cool Makery/Physical Computing things have their own Integrated Developer Environment (IDE) that was developed with them in mind, but they have also been built to be compatible with many other IDE’s so they cast a wide net.  One common IDE is Scratch because it’s trustworthy, has been around forever and has a huge following.  Well Scratch has a few plugins (Pico Board, Lego WeDo 1.0, Lego WeDo 2.0) but to really get into it, you’ll need to jump to ScratchX.

May 8th – ScratchX

I’ll repeat the disclaimer found on the website on this blog post, “Warning: all extensions are experimental and not a product of the Scratch Team.” so there might be a few hiccups along the way, but some of the “experiments” do some very cool things.

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ScratchX Home Page taken May 24th

I first found ScratchX when looking for something that was easy to connect for the Arduino board, Scratch is a simple language so interacting with the tool early was key.

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Arduino Experiment in ScratchX

Then I noticed some of the other experiments and they are amazing.  The Twitter search is amazing because there are a dozen websites, including Twitter, that you can do that on, but having it available in Scratch shows the power of code and if you can dream it, you can build in.

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Twitter Search Experiment in ScratchX

In the additional experiments area you’ll find LittleBits and our good friend Stephen Lewis with MakeSense (who has been a hit at some trainings I’ve recently been doing).  So look around, much like the original Scratch you can’t really break anything and enjoy ScratchX!

May 7th – Arduino

This continues the thread about MakerSpaces from April 23-28th…

As your potential Makerspace grows, so will the complexity of the projects your students create will increase as well.  You might need a more advanced circuitry board for bigger and better projects.  A step above the MaKey MaKey and MakeSense is the affordable Arduino board.

May 7th – Arduino

The Arduino board is a great way to introduce students to physics and circuitry.  It’s great to experiment with and universally used, there are dozens of extensions and guides to help you along the way.  The Arduino board uses a solderless breadboard so you can plug and play and has an easy library to install and interact with Processing or the Arduino IDE that you can download.

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Arduino’s can be a bit intimidating to begin, but are really user-friendly if you continue to work with them.  Arduino also has a HUGE community that love the product so you’ll never be that far from someone who wants to show you the power and creativity you can unlock with the board.  Full disclosure: it has a breadboard and resisters which are color coded, which is challenging for color-blind students (like myself) so keep that in mind and think of good ways to support those students too!

April 28th – Maker Culture

I’ve spent the past few days talking about MakerSpaces and Maker Culture, but have yet to really explain what it is.  Hopefully my post explain it well enough, but consider this post as a primer and a few resources.

April 28th – Maker Culture

Education changes based on popular trends and needs. When I was in high school, I found myself with gym everyday, classes that challenged me to think and only the AP exams to really worry about.  These days, gym (along with music, art, and the performing arts) are disappearing because you can’t always accurately measure those – classes are geared towards state test and teachers teach to those test because it’s the only thing that we can be measured on for our jobs.

With this shift we now value book smarts over street smarts.  We value writers over tinkerers and readers over engineers.  Of course I’m never going to say that we should value one over the other, but why does anyone get the backseat.  Maker Culture looks to even the odds and give back to those students that struggle to write a 10 page paper, but can tinker and create something really amazing that represents their feelings and opinions as well as a 10 page paper.  In my former school I saw students slip through the cracks everyday, they could edit a film, code a iPhone app or build a steering column out of Legos during lunch, but couldn’t focus long enough to write a paper.  I spent some time working with teachers to have them create a documentary or interactive project to express their views, and the teachers agreed – but why is that needed in the first place?

Maker celebrates those that choose to work with their hands AND their heads.  Gives all students a place to succeed and teaches them valuable lessons about “Living in Beta“.

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Make: Home Page taken April 28th

Maker Culture is everywhere, and whether or not you have a 3D printer, or a bunch of cardboard toilet rolls, as long as you can create – your are welcome.  Makerfaire is the celebration of these talents with large events happening all over the US (and now World) and Make magazine gives inspiration to those just starting.  Browser the eZine or view a MakerFaire and be inspired – and allow your students to impress you in multiple ways as well!

April 27th – Living in Beta

Beta is a term used by the technology community for years that is starting to creep into the everyday lexicon.  For a developer “beta” is having a (what you consider) working product that people are going to test, understanding the entire time that there are going to be changes made and needed. This idea of ever changing and ever growing is exactly the mindset that everyone needs, especially in education.

April 27th – Living in Beta

For my Computer Science classes I introduce the idea of “beta” early and use it often.  The idea that we can always change and improve is a realistic point of view for today’s society and a mind shift from the idea that when we do something, write a paper perhaps, it is the finished definitive product. Information is constantly coming out and more and more available so everything is constantly changing – we have to have a growth mindset philosophy to make sure we know things are in flux.

Taken from on April 28th

Beta is my classroom has been incredibly helpful in addressing the “rough draft”, “authentic audience” and late work policy.

I found that rough drafts are becoming more and more difficult to come by, mainly because the students are knee deep in information that they want to get it out on the page and struggle to revise and edit it.  Plus with Google Docs and the constant collaboration, there are no longer moments of print, turn it in and then wait for edits.  With “beta” I let my students know that I except the finished product, but with room for improvements.  This, if the students buy-in, changes the dynamic in a final product and then constructive criticism to improve it.

Some times I find that students approach projects differently if they know it’s just for me.  I would setup rubrics and focus on the “4” column, but as long as they were checking off boxes, they weren’t invested.  “Beta” testing their games or websites with their peers and classmates completely changes that dynamic and suddenly it’s something they are proud of and the stakes are raised.

Late work has always been a troubling policy.  You want your students to do well, but sometimes life happens and work comes in late.  If you open that door, you’ll spend the entire semester re-doing grades, but if you close that door, your star athlete is punished because they got a chance to go to the state competition.  I accept late work, only if it’s an improvement on the original assignment.  This allows students to get credit but also know it’s in flux and can always be improved upon.  In my class a majority of the curriculum is project based learning so this becomes difficult but the two reasons above help out at certain checkpoints during the project.

Beta is the Maker Culture in a nutshell, try and try again until you succeed.  Check out this great Ted Talk from Molly Schroeder (which is the blog link for the images as well).

April 26th – MakeSense

As we continue down our road of MakerSpace gadgets, I wanted to introduce you to one of my favorites.  MakeSense is a company started by a NYC school teacher, Stephen Lewis, when he couldn’t find the right physical computing tool to help his class explore.  MakeSense is a great plug and play device that, with a few sample projects on Scratch, allows the students to instantly see data being read and applied.

April 26th – MakeSense

Ironically, how Stephen Lewis describes MakeSense is exactly what I wanted for my classroom as well – he’s just more skilled and handy to create it.  I found out of the two immediate tools available to me, MaKey MaKey and Arduino (post coming soon), there was a huge jump from gator clips to the breadboard and it frustrated and lost/turned off some kids (which speaks to a generational thing – but that’s another blog altogether) – but MakeSense is the perfect in between.

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MakeSense Home Page taken April 26th

MakeSense is basically a plug and play board with 8 inputs and a collection of sensors.  If you visit the website, on the top navigation it gives you getting started directions, examples and then a few Scratch projects that you can instantly jump in and starting using the data! The famous example is the heart monitor and horseracing game, which I made the mistake of showing and playing with my 3.5 and 5 year old niece and nephew and now that’s all they want to do.  The basic board is $50 and the sensors range in the packs you get.  It’s worth spending some time on both the sensors guide and the Scratch page to spark ideas and then learn/play/have fun!