Just Ask…

 

Have you ever run into a problem that is like the writer’s block of learning?  I have been experiencing this feeling lately when it comes to Adafruit Gemma and Flora, two namebrand components that use Adruino open source coding to control LED lights embedded in cloth or clothing. Although I know that all of the components should work together to create a blinking fashion statement, the blink eluded me.

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I sewed with conductive thread. I replaced conductive thread with alligator clips.  I watched YouTube videos, frame by frame.  I downloaded. I uploaded.

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My partner-in-crime asked the essential question.  “Who do we know that could help us?”  We sent out an appeal for knowledge.  Did someone we know, know someone who knows what we don’t know?

My point is that, generally, given a whole university campus, someone knows what you want to know.  And in this case our query was answered with a delightful person we had no previous knowledge of who knew exactly what we didn’t know.

It would seem Adafruit Gemma and Flora are not so easy to get working with conductive thread and the coding is a bit tough to download onto the microcontrollers.  I was having trouble for a very good reason.

Our new contact, from a faculty far, far away, was looking to embed clothing with LED lights, just like we were, but his knowledge led him to create various special components that would make the coding use “Scratch” and he traveled to China to make sure the components were easy to use for makers (yes, I call myself a maker) like me.

What’s my point?  Just ask.  Ask for the knowledge you need.  The world we live in is made very small by social media and email.  Ask if someone you know, knows someone who knows what you want to know.

And I’m very excited to continue to pursue this project with new eyes and new technology and a new person to help out.  The kits and materials we will be using look like they would function well in the K-12 environment.  I’ll let you know what I know when I know it.

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New Maker Resources

After all that Design Thinking work, making seems to be an easy topic to go back and look at.  Two new series are interesting for teachers who have a bit of money in invest in some great resources.

The first series, Be A Maker! Maker Projects for Kids Who Love … (Games, Animation, Robotics, Graphic Design, Music) by various authors feature complete analysis of the area in the title.  For example Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Games gives a brief overview of a few skills, like collaboration, that you will need to be a game maker.  After a two page spread on the history of games and another about the development of Monopoly, discussion around what a games needs to be a game begins.  The first real maker challenge is a “hack,” take apart an existing game and investigate why is works.

After a section that discusses the design process, the next challenge features a few pieces from home or classroom and helps learners develop a game using the pieces.  Through various steps to invent the game, makers are pushed to create with what is available.  In the “Make it better!” section, makers reflect on the constraints of the activity.  Would fewer or more pieces help or hinder the design?

The final section of the book discusses prototyping and testing.  The final task sets makers up for designing a game from beginning to end, testing, revising it and testing again.  In this way, most of the books work through a design thinking process to show students about making.  This series would be great to have in classroom that is set to make.

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The second series, Connect with Electricity, contains titles like How LED’s Work, How Batteries Work, How Sensors Work, and How Conductors Work .  These resources would work best in a grade 4 – 7 class with interest on either side of these grades. These books are considered a very thorough introduction to the subject areas with a table of contents, glossary, answer key, selected bibliography, further resources and index.  Photographs capture the essence of each component as well as the historical context it can be viewed in.  And, I learned things from these books that would help set up a foundation for using electricity in various formats in making activities.  These books would make an excellent addition to your Maker Library of Resources.  They include some projects to build skills and others to promote a maker mindset in the classroom.

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Get your students thinking about making by having resources like these in your classroom library.  Both series make for interesting browsing.