Yes! My Banana Works! Adventures with the Makey Makey

I started the first lesson of today by taking a bit of a risk. Can I hand over a set of seriously fun toys and actually relate this to something linked to the syllabus? The answer is yes.

I needed to find a way of getting my year 12s to want to understand and write a technical and a user manual. I could give them a scenario to work with OR we could make something wacky with a Makey Makey and write the documentation for that.

There were two things that proved to me that this was a success. Firstly, I’m teaching technical manuals to a group of teenagers at 8.30am when I’m teetering between walking dead and exhaustion-induced homicidal tendencies and we spent the whole hour flitting around the classroom making “oooh!” and “cool!” sounds. And then someone shouted the immortal line “yes! My banana is working!”

I guess by now you either agree with me, or you are totally lost and need to know what the hell I’m talking about. Let me present to you the Makey Makey:

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From the geniuses at MIT, comes a circuit board which allows you to turn any mildly conductive material into a keyboard / mouse click through the clever use of jump leads and crocodile clips.

So what did my year 12s create? Something with computer chips? Using their maths compass for something productive aside from stabbing each other in the ankles? Oh no. The minds of my students are wonderful places. Scary, very geeky, but ultimately the most fertile ground imaginable.

I present the coin-controller (Mario game pad created using coins as the various buttons)

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Second is minecraft high fives (the mind boggles sometimes) – essentially the humans were buttons…

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Then there was Mario-Cart, the banana edition (don’t ask what happens when you click them too hard. Suffice to say, you need a damp cloth on hand.)

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And finally, a flight simulator, entirely controlled by a cup of water. (Seriously, this worked!)
Sadly, they wanted to call it the “joy cup” and this meant that I had to keep a straight face. I deserve a medal for that.

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I’ve tried these with year 9s, 10s and now sixth form just this week and I haven’t seen such productive and creative sessions in ages. They engaged, they created and now they’re really up for creating technical and user manuals for the weird creations they made.

It’s sessions like that that tilt the balance away from homicidal back towards walking dead. But at least the walking dead appreciate BRAINS!

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Dealing with doubt by impressing yourself

I’ve been reading a book on how positive thinking can actually make you even more depressed than usual. (How very British!) but actually, I’ve put this theory into practice today.

The idea is that you consider what is happening, what you think you want to do and consider why you are too scared to get off your backside and do it. When you think about it rationally, the worst that could happen is usually not as bad as what you are imagining, and actually the human condition can survive a hell of a lot.

This isn’t about the pursuit of happiness, but contentment, or the absence of unhappiness.

To be content, we need to stop thinking we must have everything. A term coined “musterbation”.

And for now I must stop twittering on about the latest psychology study I’m reading and show you my little project of the evening: My CV

Nothing like listing what you’ve actually achieved to create a sense of contentment.

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