Looking for ways to incorporate coding into just about any subject area? Re-imagine student poster projects as interactive exhibits by combining the digital storytelling power of Scratch, a kid-friendly, block-based programming language with Makey Makey, an invention kit that connects everyday objects to computer programs! In the specific example shared below, 5th grade Science students working in groups of three, created interactive displays as part of their study of food chains. This interactive exhibit project idea could easily be adapted to a wide range of grade levels and topic areas. The total time for the project, which assumed no previous Scratch coding experience, was just under five hours (Five, 50 minute class periods). A summary of this specific project follows and you are welcome to use the complete lesson plan which includes sample Scratch programs created by students for your reference.
Day 1 & 2 (approx. 2 hours): Student Research & creation of display boards
Students working in teams of three research their topic
Each team member creates one panel of the display board using a piece of 8.5″ x 11″ cardstock. Display board includes images or student drawings.
Teacher walks students through the creation of recording sound clips inside Scratch, Each sound clip is named and contains key facts that will become part of the exhibits.
Teacher walks students through creating a basic Scratch program to call up an individual sound recording when a specific key is pressed. See example right. Students repeat this process, creating multiple mini-programs made up of just two commands to initiate the playing of each recorded key fact.
Students connect their display boards to the Makey Makey. This is done by connecting an alligator clip to the bent tines of the brass fastener located on the backside of the display. The other end of the wire is attached to the appropriate place on the Makey Makey, for example if the brass fastener, when touched should play the facts about “Food Chains”, the other end would connect to the “up arrow” on the MakeyMakey according the the example program shown above.
Day 5 – Sharing our Interactive Displays
Students connect up their Makey Makeys, display boards and Chromebooks (or laptops) and participate in a gallery walk to share their creations.
Note: In our school, I worked with five classes, so between days 4 & 5 kids disconnected their Makey Makeys from the display board so that we could share the same Makey Makey devices with each class. It only takes a few minutes for kids to re-connect them on day 5 and is more practical than purchasing enough to accommodate multiple classes.
This project is just one example of how you can incorporate Scratch and Makey Makey into the general education curriculum, while exposing students to computational thinking skills and allowing them the opportunity to create using code. For a more detailed lesson plan, click HERE. Makey Makey’s can be purchased for $50 directly from the folks at JoyLabs or other online vendors. They can be used in a wide-range of project and are a great resource to have in your school. Creating a Makerspace in your buildings? Makey Makey’s are a must-have for any space serving students in grades 3 and up.
There are so many great choices for teachers and students when it comes to free, engaging formative assessment games. It may not be practical for educators to take the time to compare the features and benefits of each option, but understanding the differences will allow teachers to make the “best fit” selection for their students and use-case.
To make it easier for teachers to choose the best tool for the job, I’ve created the Formative Assessment Comparison Guide. I’ve tried to includes some of the most popular tools available and clearly show the differences between them. Red text is used to indicate a particular strength / unique attribute. The considerations most important to teachers determined the categories and information I included. In order to keep this as a quick reference guide, it was not possible to list all available features, but please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below if you notice any errors or critical omissions.
Teacher / Student Sign in: How easy / difficult is it for teachers to create accounts and begin using the tool? Does it support Google Sign In? Do students need accounts to participate?
Quiz builder: How easy or difficult is it for teachers to create quizzes? Can teachers find and use questions and/or entire quizzes created by others? What question types can you generate? Are special characters available for math and foreign language teachers?
Student vs Teacher Driven: How is the pacing of the assessment set? Do students progress at their own pace, or does the teacher control when new questions are revealed and how much time kids have to respond? Do students work independently or in teams?
Data Collection: Teachers use formative assessment to adjust instruction in real-time, however, many of these tools allow teachers to capture and save data over time.
With so many schools starting the year off with 1:1 Chromebook classrooms, why not put that awesome technology to use right away by having your kids introduce themselves with their own uniquely created avatar? Using the free web tool, Voki, kids can do just that! Voki works perfectly with Chromebooks, PCs or Macs and is a great way to have kids practice their speaking skills! An email is required to register, so if you have younger kids, just create a single account and set up center so kids can work on making their avatars over the course of the week. Avatars can be shared with a web link, so consider having kids add their links to a Padlet wall!
Creating a Voki Avatar
To get started, login to Voki and choose “Create a Voki”.
Select your avatar – TIP: Be sure to scroll through to see all available options . Some avatars are free, while others are only available with a paid subscription. Those will be flagged with a “Only in Voki Classroom & Voki Presenter” on the top left corner of the avatar preview (see example right).
Customize your avatar’s features. You can scroll through hair, clothing, bling and more depending on the avatar you choose.
Use the color and Tweek customize options located below your avatar preview window to further personalize your Voki avatar.
Want to roll the dice and see what avatar Voki autogenerates for you, instead? You can click the undo icon if you don’t like what you see. Remember to avoid those with the premium banner in the top right (see example right) if you want to stick with the free version.
Give it a voice! Record your voice for up to 60 seconds using any of the following options:
Calling a phone number provided & entering a passcode to record
Type & use text to speech feature
Record using your devices built-in microphone
Upload a previously recorded audio file
Select a background. Tip: As with step 1 above, be sure to scroll through the available choices.
Publish your Voki avatar which can be shared via the link provided to you.