Our local school district is one of the sites for the Students Involved with Technology Conference that happens in several sites around the state of Illinois. Kids, parents, and teachers presenting workshops on things they love best. Kid led workshops. Isn’t that great?
The district asked the library if we were willing to provide a maker space for the conference. With very short notice, we decided to create a play space for participants to try different technology. (Maker space? Play space? Are they the same thing? I guess I’m not 100% sure of that. They were definitely creating things.)
Given two work days to make this happen, I was able to recruit two co-workers and my husband to spend time with me for four hours on a Saturday afternoon. I also recruited one of the kids from my Robot Test Kitchen sessions last summer.
We brought with us items familiar to anyone who normally reads this blog: Little Bits, Makey Makey, The Finch, Bee-bots, Snap Circuits, Cubelets, the 3Doodler, and Circuit Scribes. (My husband is writing a guest post on the Circuit Scribes…) Armed with five Chromebooks, lots of extra batteries, and a MacBook for The Finch. I rearranged the desks to create as close to tables as possible.
Much to our delight, kids decided they wanted to come to our session. According to the site, the conference was open to kids in 3rd through 12th grades. I would say we saw a majority of kids that were 3rd – 9th grade. And they were all engaged and excited about our program.
On when it was time to switch sessions:
I don’t want to go to my next session, can I stay?
Yep! And many came back too.
Here’s a play by play of what we did with things. (I documented the day’s events on Vine and for longer videos YouTube.)
Makey Makey: this is where I sat my kid volunteer. He needed prompting to stop playing the games and actually assist kids in using the Makey Makey. A few of our alligator clips broke. One Makey Makey board wouldn’t respond, so we went down to three and kept on playing. Here are two girls laying down a bongo beat:
Little Bits: We have several kits and the staff member working on this site knew his way around Little Bits. It was always busy. Investing in Little Bits was a great idea.
The 3Doodler: a 3D pen. It’s not easy to use, but it was an excellent hands-on activity. Kids could see that you have to build up on a structure to make it work. This timelapse video is a taste of trying the 3Doodler for the first time:
Cubelets: Cubelets have always been successful in my programs. Even kids in middle school seemed to enjoy them. This version has the girl walking her cubelet like her pet. I even think she named it.
I love this picture. She looks so focused on getting the robot working the way she wants it to.
Snap Circuits: We have four small Snap Circuit kits. The big ones are great, but they only come with one snap board. There was a lot of trying to get the whirligigs to fly. I overheard one teacher having a really neat interaction with a participant, trying to figure out how to make the circuit complete. That’s the thing about teachers, they ask the right questions. Here are two whirligigs flying away! https://vine.co/v/OQbhLYWd1DQ/embed/simple
The Bee-bots were sort of hidden in the corner on the ground. I had to direct people to them…but once I did, they were popular. My two favorite memories were when a third grade girl looked at it and said,
Oh. It’s coding.
Yes indeed. My second favorite thing of the whole day was when I discovered three middle school boys on the ground with the Bee-bots. You know, that bees have that special synchronized dance they do…
The Finch and I haven’t always had the best relationship. When it was my turn to test it last summer, I sort of failed completely and didn’t write about it. In part, because I had the hardest time loading the software onto our computer. This time around I had a better experience. No software problems. While I only know how to make the Finch walk 1000 repetitions, I imagined someone at this conference would have a better understanding of the situation. And indeed they did.
I captured this. I tried taking a picture of the Snap screen. He was able to make Finch do his bidding, going forward, backward, left and right. Smart kids.
Circuit Scribe: The Robot Test Kitchen review is forthcoming. I bought these last summer. Circuit Scribe was a Kickstarter. Basically, it’s electronic ink and you can draw your own circuits. There were lots of hits and misses. This was my favorite moment. My husband (who’s an excellent teacher, btw, although he’s not an educator), guiding this young girl (8th or 9th grade). He described it as doing it with finesse. She wrote out “Brightly Shine” and the circuit did just that. https://vine.co/v/OQqTgHj0Udr/embed/simple
It was an excellent conference. We had about 115 students, parents, and teachers pop in to our session. It was fun to watch teachers leave the sessions they were babysitting to come see what the library had to offer.