Girls Just Want to Have Fun(damental) IT

Women in STEM, or the lack there of, is a hot topic these days. An increasing number of programs and not-for-profit efforts are aimed at increasing the number of women in STEM fields. An example of a school that is learning while leading this charge, is Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona.

Xavier is a Sisters of Charity, all girls, college bound, diocesan school. Forty percent of students attend Xavier on some form of scholarship. As a Sisters of Charity school, Xavier has a unique link to this country's computer science history. It was the Sister of Charity, Mary Kenneth Keller, who was the 1st person to get a PhD in Computer Science.

At Xavier College Prep, computer science has more than an historical connection, taking programming is a graduation requirement for students.

When art educator Frances McMahon Ward and computer science educator Catherine Wyman, read the study “Why so few?” by The American Association of University Women (AAUC) they decided to make a change. The study states that girls have an equal interest in tech as boys, but that interest drops by 9th grade. “If we are going to make a difference,” Wyman announced, “we need to do something in middle school.” Thus "Girls Have IT Day" was born. In collaboration with their high school girls, Wyman and her colleagues began offering technology outreach to middle school girls.

“We are big fans of Makey Makeys,” shares Catherine, “and we have used them in both our outreach to middle school girls through “Girls Have IT Day” and “Girls Have IT” camp. “Girls Have IT Day” happens on a Friday afternoon in March. Hundreds of middle school girls - mostly from Title 1 schools - are mentored by high school girls on fun STEAM topics. A thousand girls attend this conference model, designed and delivered by high school girls. Funded by a grant from the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation the “Girls Have IT Day” starts off with a guest speaker and then becomes a day full of hands on STEAM activities taught to the middle schoolers by teen peer mentors.

The “Girls Have IT” camp is one week in June featuring hands-on STEM activities designed, developed, and delivered by high school girls. "Girls Have IT" camp draws from 100 local schools. “We have the Arizona Department of Ed contact information for every middle school," explains Catherine Wyman, "so we sent an email and postcard to get the word out.”

Five years running, the tech camp week is the same cost as normal sports camps and scholarships are available. During the camp, Xavier Prep teens are the counselors. The camp director is an also alumna. “The alums are so innovative,” Wyman notes, “they come with great ideas and the near peer mentoring model really works.”

A final report available on the “Girls Have IT” programs shows that 66% program participation comes from Title I students. A post-event survey revealed that 92% of participants said they were inspired to work harder in school, 73% wanted more extra curricular STEAM activities, and 91% stated that “Girls Have IT” gave them the opportunity to explore more ideas.

Further evidence that the near peer girl focused model begun at Xavier works, comes from one of their alumna. Sarah Godbehere, now at Gonzaga University, has put together her own outreach program called “Girls Rock IT Day.” “They (Xavier alumni) are going out and starting social entrepreneurialism endeavours of their own.” Wyman reflects, “That’s how you know the peer mentoring system works, when you see women pay it forward.” Watch Sarah’s “Girls Rock IT Day” promo video below.


25 STEM Teachers Win FREE Makey Makeys!

We Have a Winner!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate their favorite STEM teacher for Teacher Appreciation Day! We loved watching your videos and are delighted to announce that we have selected the winners. Please look out for a message on Twitter or FB to claim your Makey Makey.

While we did get many wonderful nominations, we did have to chose only one top winner to receive the STEM pack and one year membership to ITEEA. And the winner is...

Makey Makey is stoked to be partnering with the fabulous International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA), in showing our appreciation for all the brilliant and creative work teachers are doing! We are showing our love for those teachers by giving them a free Makey Makey! The top 24 winners will receive their own Classic Makey Makey kit.

The grand prize winner will receive their very own Makey Makey STEM Classroom Pack ($599 value), a one year professional membership from ITEEA for themselves ($80 value), and a school/group membership for their school or institution ($160 value)!

Thanks again for everyone who took the time to support their teachers! STEM teachers rock!


Influential Women Speak Up

The following story was originally shared on Twitter by Krista Inchausti, Educational Innovation Coordinator at Convent & Stuart Hall in San Francisco. Krista works in the Spark Studio, a collaborative learning studio space shared by the boys school (Stuart Hall for Boys) and a girls school (Convent Elementary) on the same campus. The following blog is in her words.

A few years ago we purchased several Makey Makey kits to use in our school's Spark Studio. We began hosting Friday lunches in the Spark Studio, inviting classroom teachers to come eat and play with our new tools. After we demonstrated the Makey Makeys teachers began brainstorming how they could be used in the classroom. Building upon the demo Makey Makey piano project, they started talking about replacing the piano notes with recorded voices.

Diane Holland, second grade teacher, then came up with the idea of her girls creating a huge "teaching cricket." Her students recorded facts and sound effects for each of the insects' body parts, wired the cricket up with the Makey Makey and then took it into Kindergarten classrooms to teach the younger students science. Crystal the Teaching Cricket was such a hit (pictured above) that Diane was motivated to take this kind of interactive teaching tool to the next level.

Diane came up with the idea of talking, life-sized models for her annual Influential Women projects. This years project would have second graders building figures on top of rolling dress forms, then wired up with the Makey Makeys. The girls researched, then recorded facts about each woman. The voices were then put into Scratch and activated by pressing copper buttons connected to the Makey Makey.

The girls built four women all together, Maya Lin, Althea Gibson, Louise Nevelson and Sonia Sotomayor. As the Educational Innovation Coordinator, I simply helped Diane and her students put the pieces together and make it work properly. The great thing about the Makey Makey kit Is that it provides an easy-to-use technical foundation to build on, leaving plenty of room for teacher and student creativity!


Mexicali Invention Challenge

In February, Tom & Liam (the Makey Makey Education team) travelled to Mexicali, the capital of Baja California, Mexico, to teach a workshop to elementary school teachers and makerspace volunteers. The Workshop was hosted at el Garage Makerspace at the Universidad 16 de Septiembre. The workshop was organized with support from the US Consulate in Tijuana keen to promote STEM educational initiatives in Mexican schools.

After the training, El Garage continued hosting Makey Makey teacher trainings for educators in Baja. Teachers who attended the workshops then used Makey Makeys with their classes in a design challenge organized by el Garage Makerspace.

The Makey Makey design competition wrapped up in Mexicali on Friday March 24th. Tom & Liam inspired 10 teams and projects with their workshop. According to the event organizer Preeti Shah, “each of them was fantastic.”

The Makey Makey invention competition had a panel of five judges, who toured the projects awarding a winner and a runner up. “Without Tom and Liam’s enthusiastic support," Preeti points out, "and willingness to come to Mexicali, we wouldn’t have had such a great turnout and program.”

Many of the final inventions addressed particular problems, others were interactive teaching tools. Preeti notes that “it was wonderful to see the creativity and energy with which the kids approached the design of their projects, and we were very happy to see the results.”

The winning teacher received a scholarship to the Institute of the Americas STEM teacher training camp this summer where she can build on the skills and ideas introduced by the Makey Makey Education team in February.


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.”


Now Available for Purchase!

The STEM classroom pack is now available for purchase at the introductory price of $599.95!

We have created the ultimate resource for teachers who want to bring the Makey Makey into their classrooms! The STEM pack allows teachers across subjects to use the Makey Makey to create physical interfaces to all kinds of work being done on computers. From hacking poetry. to sculpting the digestive system, to exploring art history, not to mention game design and circuitry, you will find the potential for invention is endless!

“The STEM Pack is the result of a year’s worth of conversations with educators about what they would most want in a classroom set. The $200 of free supplies that come with the kit will allow students to complete a wide range of projects. It’s these inventing supplies that will making such a positive difference when it comes to releasing the genius of young minds.” - Tom Heck, VP of Education Initiatives.

The Makey Makey STEM Pack contains:

  • 12 Makey Makey Classics,
  • 12 alligator clips 6ft,
  • 12 6ft connector wires,
  • 72 extra alligator clips,
  • 144 connector wires for the back,
  • 12 Makey Makey optimized conductive graphite pencils, and a super cool case to keep it all tidy.

Each of the 12 Makey Makeys has its own box that comes out of the case containing the Makey Makey, USB cable, 7 alligator clips, 6 connector wires, and how-to booklet.

Watch Makey Makey's VP of Education Tom Heck and Darcy Grimes open their STEM pack.

Need project inspiration for your new STEM pack?

We've created Makey Makey Labz, a platform for people to share project guides and lesson plans - a great place to start. If you want to go further and want training for you or your teachers on how to use Makey Makey in the classroom - we offer Makey Makey professional development.


Global Maker Project Reveals MakeKey Findings

As the maker movement in education gains speed, more and more initiatives are seeking data to show the value of the makerspace as classroom and the creative technologies they contain. One such project, seeking to understand the benefits of student-directed learning and making has come from HP and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom initiative called the Learning Studios Project. The Learning Studios project is a network of schools willing to try projects and explore technologies, then share their experiences through anecdotes and pre and post surveys. The aim of the project study is to collect qualitative information about changes in engagement, agency, empathy and design thinking in students.

A Learning Studio was created at each site by providing teacher’s with a guide to facilitating student-led, creative processes, as well as a startup kit of free creative technologies to explore. For instance, each Learning Studio site was provided a set of Makey Makeys and two live webinars with JoyLabz (Makey Makey) VP of Education Initiatives, Tom Heck. "We've thoroughly enjoyed partnering with Digital Promise Global on the Learning Studios project," shares Tom. "Working together, we've been able to support teachers and students from around the world." Teachers could choose from many possible projects using various tools and prompts. After four months of projects, teachers shared the following highlights of using the Makey Makey kits in their classrooms;

  • Makey Makey kits are accessible to learners across varying ages and skill levels

  • Students do not not need close supervision or guidance to experiment with the Makey Makey kits.

  • Makey Makey kits help educators introduce basic circuitry concepts and build on those concepts by using the kits in more complex projects.

  • Projects using the Makey Makey kits do not need to focus solely on circuitry--they can pertain to a wide range of subjects and topics.

  • The Makey Makey kits make it easy and fun for parents to engage with what students are learning

Sample projects made with the Makey Makey ranged from game design to set design for a school play. “Our students designed, performed and hosted a holiday production at their school. They created an interactive experience of “magic” by configuring the Makey Makeys to trigger sounds when actors, actresses and audience members interacted with the props and scenes,” a 6th grade teacher from a USA site shares.

A highschool teacher in New Zealand shared that “Students selected a game and then worked on creating a game controller that will be effective as a control, but also reflect the nature of the game. This stage involved them creating 2D drawings and then a cardboard model to allow them to determine how the controller would feel in a player’s hand. The models (were) then created using CAD software and exported for printing on a 3D printer. The challenge (was) then completing the wiring to allow the Makey Makey board to operate as a game controller.”

Broader areas of focus in the study centered around student benefits in three areas; peer and social learning, persistence and curiosity, and agency and initiative. Significant findings from all of the Learning Studio sites showed increases in student and teacher confidence and comfort using new tools, 3D modeling, and defining problems. A key finding from the white paper states, “Student responses to “Are you a maker” were significantly lower for teachers with little making background, and were relatively high for students of teachers who reported prior experience with making and facilitating students in making activities. In other words, role models matter when trying to foster creative confidence and peer relations in a space designed for collaborative problem solving.

Read the full initial findings from the HP and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom Learning Studios Project here.