UPDATE (10-7-15): littleBits now offers Educator Resources!
I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces. I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products. I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.
(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money. If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)
littleBits are modules that snap together magnetically to make circuits. The colors help to distinguish between output and input modules, and there are endless combinations to be made with over 60 modules in their library. You can see an introduction to the product here.
littleBits offers a variety of kits, and gives discounts to educators. If you are unable to purchase directly through littleBits due to vendor approval complications, you can also often find their kits on Amazon.com.
If you browse through the lessons page on the site, you will get an idea of the unlimited creativity and learning that these pieces potentially provide. Math, science, and storytelling are all included in this curriculum gallery.
When we first got our littleBits set, I found these Task Cards that help to introduce some of the basic pieces. They were great for me to learn how the modules worked. However, most of my students preferred to figure it out on their own. You might want to try these Challenge Cards instead. If you like those, here are some more. Of course, you need to make sure the challenges match the supplies you are providing as different kits offer different modules.
Organizing your littleBits can be a challenge. I’ve seen some librarians mention that they have a “littleBits Bar” with plastic drawer organizers that sit on the table. I was thrilled when littleBits offered this Tackle Box on their site – perfect for separating hundreds of tiny pieces. One maker space presenter at TCEA advised us not to get “hung up” on labeling all of the littleBits containers. As long as the students organize them by type so the next users can easily find them, that should suffice.
Ayah Bdeir, an engineer and founder of littleBits, gave a TED Talk about her product in 2012. She speaks about how her product helps students to make sense of the world. “The nicest thing is how they start to understand the electronics around them from every day that they don’t learn at schools. For example, how a nightlight works, or why an elevator door stays open,or how an iPod responds to touch.”
If you are given the opportunity to purchase littleBits for your classroom, library, and/or maker space, I definitely recommend them!
For more maker space resources, check out my Pinterest Board, “Make.”