If you want to spend the best $50 ever on a classroom supply or birthday gift, then I would highly recommend Makey Makey – touted as “the invention kit for everyone.”
For today’s Phun Phriday post, I bring to you the most versatile piece of computer hardware that I’ve ever used. I’ve seen MaKey MaKey demonstrated at several conferences and STEM events, but yesterday was the first time I set one up out of the box. The good news for anyone who doesn’t think that you are technologically gifted is that setting it up is astoundingly simple. Don’t be fooled by the complicated looking circuit-board thingy and ten thousand wires. Seriously.
To get going with MaKey MaKey, hook up the included USB cord to the board, and the other end to your computer. There are no drivers or software installations. Hook alligator clips (ato the board and to whatever you want to use to conduct electricity to the board. When I say, “whatever,” I mean it. As long as it conducts electricity, you’re good. Bananas, Play-Do, people, pencil drawings on a piece of paper, and stairs have all been demonstrated on various videos to be good crowd-pleasers.
The MaKey MaKey instructions give you a few websites that you can go to, but you don’t have to use them. Basically, you can do anything with the board, that you can do with a computer keyboard. Just attach the alligator clips (and be sure to hold one that’s attached to the “Earth” section) to whatever commands you want to give the computer. There are different spaces on the MaKey MaKey board for the arrow keys, space bar, etc… You could even attach a clip (assuming you have that many) to each letter in the alphabet.
Of course, you can type your name with a set of bananas. But my students were immediately fascinated with the piano on our first try. I’ve embedded a video below of one of my students using Play-Doh as the piano keys.
I’ve learned with these types of things that the best thing to do is just stand back and let the students explore. They tend to do the same thing at first, but once they get comfortable the magic happens. That’s when they start getting creative, and popping out crazy ideas that might just work. We just got the MaKey MaKey, so I’m really looking forward to next week when they come back to class after mulling over the possibilities in their heads.
I am very thankful to the parent who donated our Makey Makey, and urge all of you to find a way to get at least one for your classroom. You might want to invest in some extra alligator clip wires ( I know that’s not what they’re called, but that’s what I call them) so you can hook up as many parts of the MaKey MaKey as you like. The kit comes with 6.
MaKey MaKey was developed by the M.I.T. Media Lab, the same group who created Scratch. M.I.T. Media Lab is currently running a free online course that I posted about a couple of weeks ago called Learning Creative Learning. They also currently have a Kickstarter project for Scratch Jr., an iPad app.