Friday, October 14, 2016

Makey Makey Exploration: Collaboration Day #1

It's hard to believe it is already the middle of October. It seems like just yesterday, that the incredible Mike Mohammad and I were spending an August afternoon at Panera, planning out the upcoming year's collaboration days. I think we would both agree that these days are some of the best days of the year, and we were going to head into the school year with multiple days in the books. As we booted up our computers and nibbled on our lunch, we started to talk about how the 5th grade curriculum and his physics curriculum could overlap. We shared thoughts about how the expertise of him, and his high schoolers, could support the learning going on at Swanson. Some of our units aligned beautifully...others not so much. During our short lunch time together, we were quick to realize that with or without alignment, collaboration days were going to take place- several of them!

Like usual, Mike is always on his A-game. He's ridiculously intelligent, highly creative, fun, and organized. Plus, he always makes Angela and I feel like rock stars...honestly, it's quite humbling. At the end of last week, he sent me an email reminding me of the upcoming days together and the expectations he had for his learners. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little intimidated and freaked out. I knew our students would be exploring Scratch...that didn't worry me so much, we've done coding in our learning environment, and our 5th graders are pretty savvy in that department. I can even hold my own if needs be. What worried me a bit were the boxes of Makey Makeys that I had yet to unpack. I had seen them in action before, knew the premise behind how they worked, definitely knew the kids would love programming them and exploring. The problem was I didn't have the first clue as to what to do with them. Mike, being the gracious gentleman that he is, reassured Angela and I that we would be just fine. I put my trust in him and took another sip of my morning latte.

Well, today was Collboration Day #1. As the morning bell rang, 25+ juniors and seniors walked through the doors of our classroom. Did I mention they're really big? They smiled at the 5th graders, and quickly made themselves comfortable on the couches around the room. I loved it. Every minute of it. The enthusiasm and excitement in TEAM Togetherness was contagious. Our 5th graders L.O.V.E. our collaboration days. They can't wait for them! Quite frankly, so do the grown ups! Within seconds, I quickly recognized several familiar faces...faces that took me back 7+ years in my teaching career. In the faces of those 6 foot tall giants were my former 4th and 5th graders. It's amazing to me that in those moments, names can still slip off your tongue. Kennedy! Tyler! Nick! Breanne! Regie! I can look at them, all grown up, and see them as a 10 year old. Besides the amazing interaction with my current students, seeing my former students several years later, on the cusp of their adult life, is so incredibly rewarding. I called them by name, was quick to hug (and probably embarrass) them, and then proceeded to find their school picture from way back when...not sure if they love or hate those moments, but honestly it doesn't matter.

After a quick trip down memory lane, the students were organized into groups and the "bigs" shared the Makey Makey creations they had brought from BCHS. Our 5th graders had the opportunity to check out the programming and play, knowing that in no time they, too, would be creating alongside these high school kids. Angela and I could NOT believe that we had 75+ students in our room. The room was relatively quiet. The loudest ones in the room were her and I...surprise, surprise! Our students were enthralled and hanging on every word that those big kids said. Initially they were a little shy, but in no time, they were digging in and knee deep in FUN!

After seeing what the big kids could do, we pushed their creations aside and dug into Scratch. Many of our students have used Scratch before during coding, but they loved the pointers from the high school friends and soaked up the attention. Realizing that we could offer little to no support in this department, Angela and I instantly felt the need to try to control something. You give up a lot of control when you teach in a PL environment. That is actually something we are completely okay with. Typically though, we know deep down, that if necessary we can jump in to offer help and support. This morning, that was not the case. This was one of those moments in our learning environment when our students are more knowledgeable in a subject area than we are. This is a very gratifying moment for a teacher...we usually love it. Today, though, with almost 100 kids in our room, we felt the need to control something. So, we quickly turned to the one thing we can always control- organization. We had to organize something...anything. This time, it was the Makey Makey boxes. By labeling boxes and bags, I was reassuring myself that my 5th graders would be able to crack open the contents and WOW us with their creations. Once everyone was feeling good and ready, each partnership picked up a brand spanking new Makey Makey (in it's appropriately labeled bag) to get to work.

Within seconds, the boxes were torn open, the contents were dumped, and the students were at work. Before you knew it, we heard drums drumming, cows mooing, and even a "TEAM Togetherness Rocks!" coming from all corners of the room. The kids were quickly searching for cardboard, bananas, water, gummy worms, candy, aluminum foil, cups, anything and every thing you could think of to invent something. That was the moment we exhaled and realized it was all going to be okay. Our High School Super Heroes swept in and saved the day...they read the challenge off the board and helped the kids code, program, and create. Mike, Angela, and I just sat back and took it all in. It was another amazingly wonderful morning!

In the blink of an eye, it was 11am and our high school friends had to make their way back to Brookfield Central. We sent them off with HUGE thank yous, knowing they'd be back at Swanson in less than a week so our kids could show off their creations. Our room was buzzing and our students were all smiles as they cleaned up their inventions and organized their supplies into bags. I know they are going to be super excited on Monday when they get to dive back into their Makey Makey creations.


 This is Zach's way of saying he's in heaven :) This video pretty much sums up how we were all feeling today! Somehow it got left out of the movie, I had to include it in the post! 

Thank you, Mike, for another incredible day of collaboration. Angela and I are so fortunate to have you in our personal learning network. You push us to think outside of the box, and you help us grow in our practice in ways you'll never realize. Can't wait to see you guys next Thursday.

Next up...Sphero Ball Mini Golf!

~ Kate