“The times, they are a-changing”…CEP 811 Reflecting Thoughts

WOW!! The past 8 weeks have flown by…As this week marks the end of CEP 811 (adapting innovative technology to education), I will conclude my work in this course with a reflective blog post that addresses my experiences in this course, my work with Squishy Circuits, my plan for incorporating design, creativity, and Maker Education into my curriculum, and my growth both personally and professionally since starting the MAET program.

When I concluded the CEP 810 course, I felt like I had a handle on how to effectively use technology to support learning but I wasn’t quite sure how to do so effectively. Now, as I reflect on CEP 811, I am aware of an abundant amount of tools and resources that I can use in my classroom to effectively support learning and understanding; this course addressed and answered the questions I left CEP 810 with. This course forced me to consider the resources and the purpose they serve in my classroom.

After deeply engaging with Maker Education & Squishy Circuits the past few weeks, I feel like I have been exposed to a whole new approach to teaching and learning…well not entirely, creative learning by doing is not a new concept nor is it new to me as a teacher; however, somewhere along the way, I lost track of my purpose for becoming a math teacher: to take learning from a noun to a verb by providing authentic, creative tasks that spark learners’ curiosity and make learning math worthwhile and meaningful and got caught up in the logistics and politics of public education. And lets be honest, sometimes I’m just trying to keep my head above water, but still, it’s kind of sad how a kid who hated math became a teacher who so easily lost site of her teaching goals. This course was kind of a reality check for me. It really made me consider the teacher I want to be and the teacher that I am.  It forced me to consider the purpose for my choices- every step of the way. Did I plan according to my purpose? Do my goals match my purpose? Does my blog post match the purpose of the assignment? Can people that read my blog see the purpose of my post? Do my learners see the purpose of the task? Does the purpose intrinsically motivate? Does that tool serve a purpose? And so on… everything in this course seemed to boil down to the purpose for the choices I was making, whether they were choices I made as a MAET student or as a geometry teacher… and I really had to think hard about those choices! Reflection really helped me understand everything I was reconsidering about teaching and learning.

In terms of our maker kit, Squishy Circuits turned out to be a fairly easy kit to set up and use. The website included instructions that were easy to follow and video tutorials that explained how and why squishy circuits work. The “play” stage was exciting. I was so excited when I got the first LED to light up. However, once I began to create my first Maker Experiment using a repurposed thrift shop item, the excitement faded and the frustration set in. I felt like my students often look when I introduce a new concept: a deer in headlights. The idea of using a dough circuit in Geometry class was not ideal. I had no idea where to begin. I started several activities using Squishy Circuits only to find that the task I planned was not authentic and could be more effectively completed without the maker kit. It wasn’t until I spent time reflecting on my commitment to relentlessly creating a worthwhile task for my geometry class using Squishy Circuits that I realized the value of the maker kit and repurposing assignment was actually in the learning process itself.  You can read about this in my maker experiment lesson plan blog post as I explain how my students could use Squishy Circuits to support their understanding and development of writing proofs as a logical process, not a final product. If my teaching goal is to help learners understand the learning process or get them have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, then I would consider Squishy Circuits. However, in terms of “making” and “doing” in geometry, I believe there are far more creative and effective methods of approaching the content, which I will elaborate more on towards the end. I often felt like I was forcing Squishy Circuits into my curriculum…it only seemed to work as a way to understand logical thought processes, which, again, could be explained using a scenario or more timely activity.

Although I don’t plan to use Squishy Circuits in my classroom, playing and designing with the Squishy Circuits kit, at minimum, gave me a greater appreciation for the learning process and forced me to reevaluate my teaching practices. As I progressed and designed using my kit, I was reminded of the importance of experimentation and play while developing new understanding. Using the kits forced me to be a creative thinker, approach learning from new angles, and use tools that I would not typically use. For these reasons, and several listed above, I plan to refocus my teaching and curriculum to include design thinking and “making” through creative experimentation. Actually, it was through this creative process that I learned to love math. I learned math by writing…and never erasing. Through writing I was able to see a purpose for learning math that was more than the mundane. I was able to identify patterns, reflect on mistakes and connections along the way. However, this course helped me realize that not everyone will appreciate the creativity and freedom I found through writing in math class. The assignments, especially the maker kit, forced me to learn from angles I wouldn’t typically choose using tools that made me uncomfortable. It helped me value choice and individual approaches to learning, but it also helped me value the new learning that is achieved by considering different methods of learning. Throughout CEP 811, it was the diverse learning approaches and tools that helped me realize the importance of providing a variety of tools and choices that serve a purpose and make learning worthwhile. Through these experiences, I learned how to assess learning goals and present problems that force students to think and reflect; problems that are designed to change their way of thinking, spark their curiosity, encourage them to try new things, and encourage them to grow as learners and doers of math… just as Squishy Circuits did for me.

“The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.”
Albert Einstein  

In the future, I hope to better embrace my learners’ curiosity. Unfortunately, Grant Wiggins (2012) an assessment expert found that mathematics teachers are prime offenders in encouraging creative thinking in the subject-despite the fact that real mathematicians create all the time. Mathematicians have worked for years to create formulas and theorems that make complicated ideas simple. Consider Euclid, he created a beautiful, axiomatic system for writing geometric proofs, a system that all high school geometry students have experience using. Harsh truth: I’ve become one of those offenders. I don’t know if I’ve become a realist or a tiny bit jaded, but this year I seem to find my self thinking and saying, “wouldn’t that be nice?” regarding my students’ creative thoughts and dreams. But, like JT said: “the old me is dead and gone.” This course has inspired me to reinvent myself as the creative math teacher I once was. To constantly question, “how can I do this better,” and while I don’t believe Squishy Circuits is the most effective method of embracing curiosity in geometry, I do know of several other experiments, problem scenarios or activities that support creative thinking and problem solving. Last year my math support classes and geometry classes created math music videos. Groups of students picked songs and rewrote the lyrics to teach a math concept. It was through their writing that they were forced to reflect on their understanding of the concept and whether or not their lyrics made sense. I had students consider whether they were being deceived as shoppers by evaluating the surface area, volume and unit pricing of grocery products. Through this learning activity students began to question whether there was a way they could design packages better. We also created tetrahedral kits and flew them. In small groups, students identified algebraic patterns in the kite’s structure and naturally began to wonder about how they could re-create a kite with a better structure. Through these activities, my students wondered about things in terms of their goal as a designer. They questioned the weight of the kite, the materials of a product, the words and their meaning, etc. Better yet, I didn’t have to prompt them. They were intrinsically motivated.  I was teaching with a purpose, which is kind of like when you read a really good book or watch a great movie and feel changed; you are transformed. Teaching this way allows you to watch your students transform into learners… and better yet, I (the teacher) am transformed watching them transform. There’s nothing better than watching someone cease to hate math and begin to love it…besides maybe feeling that way yourself. Like I said previously, the creative process of “making” and “doing” in math class isn’t new to me. Based on my experiences I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that these are effective learning practices…this course helped re-inspire me. I was able to see the value of this learning first-hand. Through my reflection, I was reminded the effectiveness of reflection and writing as a way to evaluate understanding. And while Wiggins (2012) provided a great rubric for assessing creativity, I believe the bulleted points on his rubric occur naturally in the classroom when students are given the chance to creative problem solvers…a rubric isn’t really necessary. The interactions in the classroom allow me to formatively assess understanding and inform my instructional decisions. Like I discussed in my post, the curiosity and discussion that occurs as students create, play, and try new things allows me to assess their understanding. Through formative assessments I will be able to assess the effectiveness of the task in terms of the learning goal and purpose. My students’ ability to take a tetrahedral kite activity to the next level by wondering how they can recreate a more effective kite structure, whether they consider the materials or lift, shows me that they are learning, understanding, and ready to make something great.

Overall, this course was much more of a challenge for me than CEP810. Squishy Circuits wasn’t as enjoyable as the task I completed in CEP 810: learning to play the guitar using only help forums online. I was uncomfortable using circuits and often wondered if there were other maker kits that would better support math curriculum. After learning about the Maker Faire I began to consider the “maker kits” I could potentially create for my classroom. Since geometry literally means the measurement of the earth, I began to wonder about maker kits that would support geometric learning outside of the traditional classroom. Comparing the Maker Kit project in CEP811 to the Network Learning Project in CEP 810 helped me value choice in learning and assessment methods. We really had no limitations on what we chose to learn. At times I felt limited by the Squishy Circuits Maker Kit, but like I reflected on above, I did learn a lot from working outside of my comfort zone. Moreover, this course was especially beneficial in terms of putting ideas into practice. I learned a TON about resources available to me as an educator and how to assess whether the resources are effective tools in my classroom. Within that realm, I learned the importance of providing diverse learning experiences that remove barriers. I considered small details, such as text-t0-speech, that I had never considered before and I learned where to find them FOR FREE online. Most importantly, this course helped me realize that I need to focus on my purpose as an educator and reflect on that as I plan learning activities for my students.

References

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: Yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retreived from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

Maker Kit Lesson #2 UDL

Part #1: This week we spent a significant amount of time learning about Universal Design. After we read the UDL guidelines and explored free tools online, we used what we learned to modify our  original Maker Kit Lesson Plan to include elements that support the UDL framework . The revision process entailed focusing on how I could minimize barriers and maximize learning by implementing multiple methods of representation, expression and engagement in terms of what I wanted my students to learn and care about. Embedded you will find my modified lesson plan. To see what changes were made, check out my original lesson plan and read my reflection underneath the document below.

Part #2: Reflection

After reading the UDL Guidelines published by CAST Center, I felt slightly overwhelmed by all of the details. For each of the three principals there were several guidelines and within those guidelines there were several checkpoints with various implementation examples. However, after analyzing my notes and original lesson plan, I found that I had actually included several of the UDL components in the activities I originally planned; I just hadn’t specifically stated them as supports. I was surprised to find I could show evidence for at least two of the teacher implementation examples on most guidelines. With that said, UDL is intended to increase access to learning for all students by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers, and although I am confident I provided options and supports, I did realize that I hadn’t considered all learners while planning. I left out supports for HI students, CI students, and ELL students. So, the goal for my lesson plan rewrite is twofold: to go back and add specific details regarding the options and supports that I already have in place and to implement tools and supports for students who are CI, HI, and/or ELL (because I teach students with those specific impairments I am choosing to focus on them).  Moreover, I believe that the changes made for those specific impairments will actually help students without disabilities as well, kind of like how wheelchair ramps also service individuals with strollers or luggage.

My lesson plan is A LOT more detailed and looks different in format. I started by downloading the UDL lesson plan format and copied what I had from my original lesson plan into their design. I added a few boxes to their design that they didn’t have because I felt they were important components and the UDL Guidelines did stress the importance of short and long term goals, which is why I added a box that shows what they learned, what they are currently going to learn, and what they will learn in the future. I also added a box for materials because it is a cooperative learning lesson and the materials were improved to provide supports that would remove barriers, such as headphones for text-to-speech. Aside from that, my lesson plan is true to their format. I really believe this helped me refocus my planning and re-writing because I had to consider what background knowledge my students should have and how I could help them make connections.

In my original lesson I planned for an exploratory cooperative learning lesson & as explained in my original post, the content actually allows for students to learn in way that it makes sense to them.  Moreover, by focusing on constructivism and choice theory, I found that my original lesson actually covered most of the 3 principals in the UDL guidelines. By paying close attention to the teacher implementation examples for each guideline I naturally began to consider small details that I may have left out, such as print documents for all auditory components I use or visuals to support vocabulary and/or instructions. By exploring online resources and reading about UDL before rewriting my lesson, I was able to easily identify barriers that existed in my original plans and I had a better handle on the supports available to remove those barriers. If you read through my new lesson, you will see I added a ton of support for hearing impaired students, ELL, and students who are cognitively impaired. I used the ideas I learned about on the free resources page we explored. Read my tweet!!

In terms of multiple means of representation, the goal of my lesson is to learn how to write a two-column proof, so there isn’t much autonomy in the structure of their written proofs. However, as I stated in my original post, the path that each learner takes to complete the proof is NOT linear. There are choices each step of the way…that is the beauty in mathematical proof. With that said, to help learners understand that there is not one right method to write a proof, even if it regards the same exact visual element, I added the “driving directions” analogy to my lesson plan (you can read it in my new and improved plan). The UDL guidelines suggest that analogies and metaphors help learners make connections and assimilate new information. I did, however, add additional presentation options, different methods of taking notes for reflection, different methods of communicating and receiving feedback, and alternate methods for viewing and playing with circuits (online switchboard/drawn out circuit). I believe that the original lesson plan included appropriate levels of challenge and support, so, in the rewrite, I focused on providing more options and descriptions that would make the existing challenges and supports explicit and accessible to all learners.

By learning about the three primary principals that guide UDL, I was able to rewrite my lesson plans with improved goals that were specific to the purpose, with differentiated teaching methods that provided support and matched the goal, with materials necessary for learners to access, analyze, organize, synthesize, and demonstrate understanding in varied ways, and with informed assessments that accurately measured learner knowledge, skills, and engagement. You can read about each of these specific changes in the actual lesson plan above. 

This weeks activities helped me re-think my teaching practices and supports. I have hearing impaired students that I wear a microphone for, but I hadn’t really considered all of the other supports they could potentially need that would help their classmates as well. The same idea goes for my ELL and CI students. I have some curriculum redesign ahead of me!!

References

CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.

Maker Kit Lesson Plan

This week our goal was to create a lesson plan that connects learning theories with our Maker Kit. Right off the bat I had no problem connecting Choice Theory (and other learning theories) with my Maker Kit, Squishy Circuits. However, the biggest problem I faced was the interdisciplinary connection between science and mathematics, which seems weird because the two are so closely related. After tinkering and imaging how I could use my Maker Kit in my classroom last week, I came up with several possibilities of how I could implement Squishy Circuits into my curriculum. If I had more tools in my Maker Kit I could build a logic circuit and have students explore truth-values for conditional statements, which would be my first pick. Also, if I had a better handle on circuits, I could’ve had students explore graphing shapes and translating them on the coordinate grid, since we will re-visit coordinate geometry in the near future. I also tried to explore Graph Theory using LED lights as vertices, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work & make sense. While I managed to come up with a game, I felt like it was a stretch and that I could play a similar game in class without circuits that was just as beneficial but took less time to set up. With that said, after reflecting on my learning process, I decided that making circuits is a lot like constructing a proof.

A mathematical proof is an argument that begins with known facts, proceeds from there through a series of logical deductions, and ends with the thing you’re trying to prove. There are several intermediate conclusions—if I do this, then I get this—that lead to the final conclusion. Similarly, when building circuits, we are given a battery pack, a light emitting diode (LED), a motor, and two buzzers (similar to the picture we receive in a geometric proof). Along with the given materials we have to make sense of circuits using with background knowledge or basic facts: conductive dough lets electricity pass through it, insulating dough does not allow electricity to pass through it, electricity is directional-the current runs from positive to negative, the LED, motor, & buzzers are directional- they have a positive side (the longer leg on the LED) and negative side (shorter leg on LED), and a circuit has to be closed (a continuous loop). From here, we have to have to use what we know to create logical steps that help us reach our conclusion or what we are trying to prove.

As I was building my first simple circuit, I realized that if I did something wrong, like put my LED in backwards (so the positive and negative leg were flipped), the LED would not light up because the circuit was not closed. Likewise, we can use unnecessary information in mathematical proofs that direct us away from our conclusion. Building a circuit is a procedural, logical process much like geometric proofs. Thus, for my activity, as an introduction to proofs I would have my students play with circuits and write a two-column proof for each of their steps towards creating a more complex circuit using the motor, several LEDS, and both buzzers.  This activity seems more practical than the game I created last week and it fits better into my curriculum.

Connection to Learning Theories:

The guiding principles explored in my lesson plan [above] are driven by Diene’s Theory of Mathematics Learning, Choice Theory (Glasser), and constructivist principles. This framework allows learners to take learning from a noun to a verb. It compels learners to think critically within a metacognitive framework that requires them to formulate the problem and reflect on their thinking. Further, by blending progressive pedagogy with modern tools and resources, such as Squishy Circuits, my learners will achieve the skills they need to become innovative, original thinkers.

Writing geometric proofs is about connecting the dots. We have a starting point and an end goal, yet we somehow have to logically fill in the middle so that it gets us to the end (Ryan, 2008, p.49). It’s kind of like giving a friend directions to your house. The coolest thing about proofs is that there isn’t one correct way to reach the destination. You can have them take the back road shortcut, the city streets, or the scenic route. However, regardless of the route you give your friend, if you leave out a step or are too vague, you risk them getting lost. If you think about it, it would be nearly impossible to give someone directions to your house if you have never driven there yourself. You have to experience and understand what you are trying to communicate before you can write it in a logical organized manner. So, you have to play and experiment, make note of your observations, then order your findings logically, filling in the gaps as you go. The squishy circuit activity allows students to do just that. The lesson allows for students to experience different ways of building circuits, make conjectures and observations about how circuits behave, and then go back and write their findings in such a way that not only shows why their process is true, but also allows others to see why their process is true.

This process, in accordance with my squishy circuits lesson plan, is supported by several learning theories. In terms of learning math, Dienes’ Constructivity Principle simply states that ‘construction should always precede analysis’” (Dienes, 1969, p.32). Likewise, in the lesson with squishy circuits, learners are given “play time” to experience and observe before they begin to analyze and deduce. This process allows students to see the “big picture” in a way that fits their unique needs and abilities. Similarly, Dienes’ Theory for learning mathematics states: “When children experience a concept in more than one embodiment, they are more likely to conceive the mathematical generalization independent of the material” (Dienes & Golding, 1971, p.47, 56.). By allowing students to play with something tangible, like squishy circuits, they will be able to form an informal process for writing proofs that is unique to their personal needs. That is, the learners will gain an understanding of how to construct a proof before they actually get a formal definition of what a proof is.

In lieu of learning the learning process, Dienes’ Constructivity Principle (1969) closely aligns with Piaget’s work in that they both imply learning requires embodied experimentation, play time, group work, individual reflection, teacher as facilitator, and student responsibility/ownership. Learning is not a spectator sport. In order to gain conceptual understanding learners must experience diverse learning and make connections between old and new. By using the constructivist approach as a foundational framework in my planning, I was able to ensure that my squishy circuits lesson gave each learner the opportunity to explore and create his or her own understanding through differentiated instruction at a level that makes the content meaningful (Piaget, 1971). For example, as creative problem solvers they will make qualitative and quantitative observations as they build the circuits. Then, they will organize their observations to make sense of their findings through tables, graphs, or other visual representations, which equates to the activity where they write steps with explanation. Finally, they will make connections within their findings and to their previous knowledge by reflecting on the experience (Polya, 1957). In essence, their learning will build on what they already know and will establish new or more extensive relationships within their mental frameworks. Consequently, as learners begin to write mathematical proofs, they will make connections to their squishy circuits proof writing process and use that experience as a foundation that they can build from. This problem solving process is not only relevant to material in the mathematics classroom, it also relates to problem solving skills needed in real life situations and is highly associated with critical thinking skills.

Further, this theory suggests that if the student is given the opportunity to interact with others and question new ideas, they will move from the known to unknown. I personally experienced this during my playtime last week. I really started making progress and understanding circuits when I had my roommate and her boyfriend there to discuss ideas and complications with me. For this reason, my squishy circuits lesson allows the learners to play with the circuits and collaborate in cooperative learning groups, which will help them build of each other’s experiences. Perhaps they will make mistakes within this process, but by accommodating what they thought to be true with what they have found to be true, they are learning from their mistakes and experiences. Moreover, during the creative problem solving process (circuit making) I will act as the facilitator. I will be passive and the learners will be active. By implementing carefully designed partner activities and periods of reflection throughout my lesson, I will be able to create a classroom climate, a “math lab” if you will, that supports experimentation, discovery, and play, while providing learners with choice, which leads me to my final point (Reyes & Post, 1973).

Lastly, this learning model suggests that learners need to have choice in the process. In the squishy circuits lesson, learners will have choice to construct and play with circuits as they please, choice to write their process as it makes sense to them, and choice to create a “masterpiece” that interests them to present to their classmates. In turn, students will feel empowered and will be intrinsically motivated, which aligns with Glassner’s Choice Theory (Corey, 2012, p.402). When learners have a say in what and how they learn, they take control of their learning and achieve a sense of ownership. They will become the teacher when they explain their final product to the class. Their demonstration will show how they consolidated several concepts throughout their playtime and will convey their new understanding of the material.

By using these theories as a foundation for my lesson, I am confident I will be able to appropriately respond to the diverse, intellectual needs of the student body as well as the needs of individual learners who are culturally, socially, and economically different, too. The most rewarding thing that a lesson like this has to offer is seeing the creativity learners bring to mathematics. Processing information, making connections, reflecting, and learning through constructivism are qualities of creative problem-solving mathematicians and innovative learners and defines the educational ideology of the 21stcentury.

References

Corey, G. (2012). Theory and practice of group counseling. (8th ed.) [Print]. Belmont, CA : Brooks/Cole

Dienes, Z. (1969). Building up mathematics. (rev.ed.) [Print]. London: Hutchinson Educational.

Dienes, Z., & Golding, E. (1971). Approach to modern mathematics. [Print]. New York: Herder and Herder.

Piaget, J. (1971). The psychology of intelligence. [Print].  Boston: Routledge and Kegan.

Polya, M. (1957). How to solve it. (2nd Ed.). New York: Doubleday.

Reys, R. & Post, T. (1973). The mathematics laboratory: Theory to practice. [Print]. Boston: Prindle, Weber, and Schmidt.

Ryan, M. (2008). Geometry for dummies (ed. 2). [Print]. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc.

The Squishy Circuits Lesson Plan may be distributed, unmodified, under the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives License 3.0. All other rights reserved.

Thrift Shopping…There’s a first time for everything

This week we we’re given the task to visit a local thrift shop and find items we could potentially repurpose so they interact with our Maker Kit and fit into our classroom curriculum (or serve some purpose in our classroom).

Before I headed to the local Thrift Shop, I decided to play and experiment with my Maker Kit so I had a better idea of what types of objects would interact well with my particular kit. I purchased the Squishy Circuits Maker Kit. I decided on this kit because the price point matches what my school could potentially afford in case the kit turns out to be something I want in my classroom. I also chose it because I don’t know much about circuits and after exploring my other options Squishy Circuits seemed like the most straightforward kit for a newbie like myself. I liked the Makey Makey Kit, too but I wasn’t sure how I could use it my classroom. I saw more potential for Squishy Circuits to be implemented into my math curriculum. Before I could start my playtime, I had to make the conducting dough and insulating dough. The instructions & materials for the dough are given inside the box. There are also video tutorials or step by step tutorials with photos on the Squishy Circuits website, but I had no problem following the instructions using the box. After that I tuned into the video page on the Squishy Circuits webpage and began creating the circuits. I started by creating a circuit with just one light and then worked my way to adding lights, the motor, and one buzzer. The video also helped me understand how electrical currents work and what the purpose for each dough was.  I played for about two hours until I felt comfortable and then headed off to the thrift store with ideas in mind.

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With the “maker movement” fresh in my mind from last week, I headed local Thrift Store, literally. However, the inside of the store was chaotic…there wasn’t organization and a lot of the materials were past their repurposing days, so I headed two stores down to Goodwill, which had plenty of good options. I was hoping to do something with graphing, gaming, or matching so I was looking for metal objects–such as a cheese grater, noodle strainer, cooling rack—or a board game. I didn’t find any game boards I felt I could work with but I did find plenty of metal objects. I was hoping I could use the metal like I used the conducting dough, which I later found out worked to my disadvantage. I found a cooling wrack, cheese grater, metal triangle, and a broken locker stand. I opted for the broken locker stand at the low, low price of $2.49.

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At home I spent the next 7.5 hours trying to come up with something useful to make. You can watch some of my videos and check out some pictures below.  I tried to make a Connect Four-type game where the learners would use their colors opposed to the traditional red and black game pieces. The wire grid on the locker stand would be the game board and the option to add a light would be based on math questions (perhaps using the buzzers) not on turns, like the original game is set up. However, with only five LEDs for each color, I realized this would not work. However, I could always buy LEDs if it were something I wanted to pursue. I also tried to make a matching vocabulary game. I used a plastic sleeve over the grid so I could change out the questions and answers. I had it set up where the questions were listed 7 down the left and answers were listed 7 down the right.  I thought the wires on the rack would help me connect the correct answers, but instead the wires used the battery, dimmed the lights and made all of the answers work opposed to just the correct one. I thought about using dough instead of wires to connect answers but there would be a ton of overlapping and crisscrossing and the conducting dough would eventually touch another piece of conducting dough on another path, even if it started out separated by insulating dough. Next I made an adding fractions game. One square had the question and its match had the answer. The player would use the wand to touch the question and the answer, if the squares were a match they would light up the same color and the player would remove the lights. Just like the traditional game, the player with the most LED pairs would win. This idea worked well, but I felt like I didn’t need the locker stand I bought… it wasn’t a necessary piece. I just slide a game board over the metal and put the conducting dough underneath. The metal grid could easily be removed and it wouldn’t make a difference. My final idea came after brainstorming with my roommate and her boyfriend. The power of communication was AMAZING. At this point I was frustrated, so it was nice to have them help me reorganize my ideas. Now I understand why the Maker Faire is so great. Not only do individuals get to share their inventions, they get to collaborate and brainstorm new ideas with one another. I came up with a game and used the repurposed locker stand as a game board.  My roommate’s boyfriend was nice enough to rip the stand off of the grid part for me so I could lay the “game board” down flat. I’m still not positive that the metal grid (repurposed locker stand) is a huge component, but it is part of the game so I went with it.  Thankfully I had the game Cranium so I repurposed the dice and implemented it into my game, too.Check out the How to Guide below.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/77028904@N05/10657120664/

Wanna hear the most annoying sound ever?

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Playing around with using the motor as a spinner, the sushi roll circuit, and how to attach the buzzers so the lights work and the buzzers make a noise:

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HOW TO:

My creation using Squishy Circuits is a game called Race to the Top. The game uses the embodied nature of learning mathematics while connecting technology and creativity (Punya, 2012, p.15). The goal is for two players to complete math tasks, based on the luck of the roll, and the first person to buzz in with the correct answer gets to put their color LED light in their tower. The first player to the top wins.

Stuff You Need:

  • Squishy Circuits Maker Kit (comes with kit except dough)
    • Conduction Dough & Insulating Dough (here are cooking directions & ingredients)
    • Two different colored sets of five LED lights
    • Two buzzers
    • Battery pack (need four AA batteries for battery pack)
    • A repurposed locker stand or grid with large squares (shown in image at beginning of post)
    • Construction paper, scissors, and markers for Game Board

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  • Four Different Colored Game cards (you can create the categories and cards as you wish) http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixies/11688117/
  • Cranium game dice http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashleyv/80722209/ 

How to Set the game UP:

Using the conducting dough, you need to make two “u” shaped paths as shown below. It is important that one “u” is connected to the positive cord on the battery pack and the other is connected to the negative cord on the battery pack, or one is connected to the red cord and the other to the black cord.

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Next you need to attach the two buzzers from the kit- one for each “u” shaped path. I placed mine on opposite sides, but it doesn’t really matter where you place them as long as you connect the red wire from the buzzer to the “u” shaped path that is connected to the red wire off of the battery pack.

You will leave the black cords unconnected. When they buzz in their answer they will touch the “u” shaped path that is connected to the black wire. This will complete the circuit and make the buzzer make the noise.

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**it is important to make the “u” paths close enough (but not touching) so the LED lights can have one leg in the negative “u” path and one in the positive “u” path so they light up when they are placed in the tower.

Once the circuit is set up you can place the repurposed locker stand or grid with squares on top of the circuit. Then place the game board on top of the metal grid so that the five squares show through the holes. You will want to cut the section out of the construction paper to fit the grid you use for the game.

**before placing the grid and game board down test out your buzzer and LED lights.

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The game is ready to go. Now you just need to create your four-color categories for cards. I would choose vocabulary, constructions, computation (ex: what is the slope of the line perpendicular to the give line), and critical thinking (multi-step problem), but that matches my geometry curriculum.

Game Play:

The youngest play will roll the dice first. Then they will draw the matching color card and read it aloud so both players can attempt the task. Whatever player finishes the task first connect the black cord from their buzzer to the circuit. If they have the answer correct they get to add their color LED light to the bottom square in their tower. It should stay lit up. The first player to fill their tower wins.

In the event of a tie, each player will read his or her answer aloud. If both are correct the player who is up to roll next will roll the dice and the players will complete that task for double LED squares, like the card game WAR.

In the event that neither player can complete the task or they both get the answer wrong, no one will gain a square in the tower and the game will continue on normally.

Troubleshooting:

If a buzzer doesn’t work you will need to check out your “u” shaped circuits and each red/black cord connection. The paths may be too thin for the current or you may need to moisten the dough. Sometimes the cords can become loose as the play dough stretches during gameplay. Just re-roll the dough and reinsert the cord. As LED lights are added to towers it is normal for the lights to dim because the current is giving power to more things (buzzers, additional LED lights). This is visible in the video above. Watch when I use the buzzer, the light dims. You may also want to check your batteries if all your paths and cords seem to be attached and laid out correctly. Worst case scenario, one of your buzzers doesn’t work. One of mine didn’t; however, you could play with one buzzer.

If you have trouble with circuits use this site here for support: http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/videos2.htm There are several how to videos that will walk you through the ins and outs of building circuits.

You may also use this gaming approach to educate players on how to create the circuits before this game is played:  http://learn2teach.pbworks.com/w/page/40939766/Power%20to%20all%20the%20People

Now You’re Ready to Play:

You’ve just used Squishy Circuits to create a game board using buzzers and lights. The game play is practical and fun. It requires learners to complete different math tasks as they race against their partner. In terms of the process, putting together the circuits for the game requires learners to follow logical steps, which is much like a geometric proof. If they do not complete a step correctly, they will not have a working circuit. From the set up of the game board to actually playing the game, Race to the Top supports critical thinking for geometry classes.

Resources

Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group (2012). Rethinking technology & creativity in the 21st century: Crayons are the future. TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16.

Squishy circuits video page. (n.d.). In Squishy Circuits. [Website].Retrieved October 29, 2013 from http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/videos2.htm