Teaching with Talking Topography

Ray Van Geel is the teacher librarian at Ekcoe Central public elementary in Ontario, Canada. Ray has also been running a Learning Commons with a makerspace for a year now. Ray reached out to show off using the Makey Makey to teach topography.

Ray explains how this project began as a tried and true musical instrument making project his school had been doing for a while. To revamp the project, Ray decided to add Makey Makeys to bring school made instruments, such as a cardboard string guitar and pan flute, to digital life. “When student instruments are capable of playing authentic notes,” Ray notes, “students can actually use their creations to compose and perform music.”

“I think Makey Makey is the most creative technology tool we have. Particularly in how it has allowed us to transform tried and true student learning projects into new 21st Century learning and teaching opportunities” - Ray Van Geel.

Having experienced the creative capacity of the Makey Makey while making instruments, Ray collaborated with Ms. Pope and her third/forth grade class to explore using a Makey Makey to teach the physical regions of Canada. Logistically, students were divided into eight groups, each group was given one Makey Makey and matched with a physical region of Canada.

Students were then asked to investigate six aspects of their region which they recreated in a Plasticine relief. Using SCRATCH, students then designed an interactive interface that would use their recorded explanations of each aspect of their region. Each of the eight Makey Makeys were then connected to seven terminals along the edge of the map, which then becomes the domain of one of eight chromebooks. According to Ray, “When the Makey Makey is added to a relief map, students become teachers and presenters, recording the evidence of their learning and sharing it with their peers.”

By adding the Makey Makey to a humanities project that Ray noticed a greater teacher enthusiasm for using creative technologies in their own classroom. When the relief project was complete and on display in the library, Ray had two teachers ask about the map project. The conversation led to the teacher’s own plans to use Makey Makeys for a “Communities of the Past” presentation in grade six and parts of plant project in grade two/three.

When it comes to using creative technologies like the Makey Makey in education, Ray observes, “I think that when teachers can see technology in action in their classrooms and in their schools they will begin to take risks. Our experts are the front line teachers working with students to discover new applications and new ways to learn and teach with Makey Makey and it’s limitless potential.”