Teaching with Talking Topography

Students at Ekcoe Central public elementary school in Glencoe, Ontario, Canada have been exploring the topographic makeup of their diverse nation with a little help from a Makey Makey or two.

Ray Van Geel is the teacher librarian behind the project. While he’d used Makey Makeys before as part of an initiative to create musical instruments, he saw a new opportunity to explore the technology when collaborating with third/fourth grade teacher, Ms. Pope, to teach the physical regions of Canada.

Students were divided into eight groups; each one was given a Makey Makey and matched with a physical region of Canada. Students were asked to investigate six aspects of their region; which they recreated in Plasticine. Using Scratch, students designed an interactive interface and recorded explanations of each aspect of their region. Each Makey Makey acted as a link between the map and a Chromebook, so that when an area was touched the corresponding explanation was activated.

The project was a resounding success. When the relief project was complete and on display in the library, Ray noticed a greater teacher enthusiasm for using creative technologies in their own classroom. Plans are now afoot to use Makey Makeys in a ‘Communities of the Past’ project for six graders and a ‘Parts of Plants’ project in grade two/three.

“When teachers can see technology in action in their classrooms and in their schools they will begin to take risks, discover new applications, and experiment with new ways to learn and teach with Makey Makey,” says Ray. “I think Makey Makey is the most creative technology tool we have in education.”