Revisiting Makey Makey

I’ve written a lot about Makey Makey in the past, including recommending it in my “Gifts for the Gifted” series in 2014. (See all of my past recommendations here.) I recently visited their website, and noticed that there is a now a nice layout of lesson plans to use with this versatile tool. Some other ways I’ve seen people use it are as a Book Tasting tool and an Exit Ticket Data Tracker. My students used it for interactive onomatopoeia in one instance, and as a game controller for their Scratch games in our game design unit. There are plenty of ways to get creative with Makey Makey, and it’s very user-friendly. If you are considering integrating more Design Thinking into your classroom, a Makey Makey is an inexpensive way to encourage innovation and experimentation with your students!

image from Josh Burker on Flickr

Thoughts on Critical Race Theory

When news about the teaching of Critical Race Theory becoming a “hot-button” topic started trickling into my social media feeds, I knew I needed to do some research. I had never heard of CRT, and I suspect the issue may even be new to many history teachers. That’s why I thought I would include a few links on the topic in this week’s anti-racist post. I did my best to look for different perspectives on CRT because I think it’s important to understand why people support it as well as why people would like to ban it. The first thing I noticed was, well, there are a lot of words in any article I look for a definition. So, as often happens, I think that people are trying to simplify something that is quite complicated.

The first thing those of us new to the term need to know is that, “CRT is not itself a substantive course or workshop; it is a practice. It is an approach or lens through which an educator can help students examine the role of race and racism in American society,” as Janel George writes in this article for EdWeek. George goes on to explain, “In the K-12 classroom, CRT can be an approach to help students understand how racism has endured past the civil rights era through systems, laws, and policies—and how those same systems, laws, and policies can be transformed.”

What, then, is the threat of Critical Race Theory, according to its opponents? Some people believe that it vilifies White people, and some Black adversaries believe that it actually promotes racism. “I don’t know about you, but telling my child or any child that they are in a permanent oppressed status in America because they are Black is racist – and saying that White people are automatically above me, my children, or any child is racist as well,” stated Keisha King to the Florida Board of Education, according to this article by Sam Dorman of Fox News.

Polarizing attitudes like these generate anger on all sides. I even felt enraged before I knew anything about Critical Race Theory. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for teachers to find themselves in the middle of these battles, and then put into the precarious position of dealing with controversial issues in the classroom. In this NPR interview with Scott Simon, Julian Haynter, a professor at the University of Richmond, advises, “That racial reconciliation is not a zero-sum game, that we can tell a more complete story of American history without making people feel guilty or being made to feel guilty.”

In the Twitter thread below, you can read some other valid points, made by author and historian Justin Hart (@foredoma74):

It seems that many people are forgetting that teachers are practiced in giving information while we remain neutral. I’ve had students discuss and question me about: abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, gun control, and hunting many times over the years, and have never revealed my very strong feelings about any of these issues. We give them the facts and tools to make their own decisions. Though there may be some unprofessional educators out there who “indoctrinate” students, the vast majority of us recognize the value of diverse perspectives and values. More importantly, we want all of our students to feel safe and treasured, so the better educated we are, the better we can help them.

As someone who was never taught about the Tulsa Massacre, Jim Crow laws, or Japanese Internment camps during my K-12 years, I am an advocate for giving our students a complete picture of our past so we can learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and do better in the future. Learning for Justice has curriculum materials for “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” here. And Edutopia has a very helpful article by Hedreich Nichols for “Productive Classroom Debates on Sensitive Topics.”

Skipping over the difficult parts of our history, where we were anything but heroic and benevolent, will continue to weaken us as a nation, and contribute to destroying us from within.

This post will be added to my collection of Anti-Racism resources here.

Tower of Reconciliation, Tulsa, Image by redkudu from Pixabay

Get Inspired by the Sunshine Sisters!

Venture Lab is all about bringing entrepreneurial learning to students. One way they do this is with Pitch Events, and you can see a variety of student pitches on their YouTube Channel. The Sunshine Sisters pitched their idea in December of 2020, and you can watch these three adorable girls talk about their product and answer questions from adult business leaders in this video.

Learn more about all of the programs that Venture Lab has to offer here. And don’t forget to join me for a Design Thinking Q&A this coming Monday!

The Wizard of Oz Prototype

As I was doing some prep work for my Facebook Q&A on Design Thinking next Monday, I came across the term, “Wizard of Oz Prototype.” I realized that we had done prototypes like this in the classroom, but didn’t know there was a term for them. As you know, the Wizard in that famous book and movie uses the art of illusion to appear much larger, louder, and smarter than he really is. When making a Wizard of Oz prototype to test out, you may want to find out if the end experience is going to be worth all of the work needed to create it. For example, you may want to design a robot that dispenses fortunes to people. Before spending time on programming a robot, you might dress up as a robot and present fortunes when someone presses a button to find out if this is a product people will like. So, it’s kind of a twist on “Fake it ’til you make it.” You can read more about it in this handout from Stanford’s d. school.

Image by Beri Garrett from Pixabay

There’s a System for That!

John Hinds was the principal at one of the schools where I worked for 10 years. Since then, we have remained friends and he moved on to lead two other schools. He and I both retired in December of 2019, and he has his own consulting business, JL Hinds Consulting. John is passionate about sharing what he has learned that works when it comes to leading a school — and he is also very honest about the mistakes he has made. He has started a YouTube channel of short videos with advice for school administrators.

Though I know most of my readers are teachers, I want to share this with you in case you are considering administration or know someone who might benefit from these. The videos are about building community and paying attention to all of the pieces that come together to make a school thrive. John has been a wonderful mentor and coach for me throughout my career, and I think he has very practical and helpful suggestions even experienced administrators may appreciate. So far, my favorite videos are, “Foyer Triage” and “Collaborate with Your School Community”. (See my post, “Thinking Outside the School,” to see an example of John’s collaboration with the community.) He has more videos on the way, so please subscribe and share!

Camp WeWow

I recently authored an article for NEO about using podcasts in the classroom, but that certainly isn’t the only place educational podcasts can be enjoyed. One podcast for kids and adults to listen to together, Wow in the World, is embarking on a special summer edition beginning next week. On June 14th, the podcast will begin streaming daily through the end of July. Each week will have a theme and the episodes will encourage interactivity with STEM projects and “bonkerball antics galore!” Click here to find out more about Camp WeWow, and mark your calendars for this summer (or winter – depending on which part of the world you live in!) activity the entire family can enjoy.

Photo by Emma Bauso on