Making is one of the seven key aspects of Digital Literacy

Media Smarts: Canada's Centre for Digital and Media Literacy
I've been thinking a lot about Digital Literacy lately. It's something we work hard with our boys to explore. As parents, we spend a lot of time and energy focusing on safety. Quite appropriately. But are we spending an equivalent amount of energy helping them create?
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December 10, 2014


Classroom › School ›

What I would put in a middleschool makerspace

I've been lucky enough to visit some cool makerspaces lately. A couple of weeks ago, Nanik and I toured the new makerspace at the University of Ottawa. (We can't wait to go back!) We love to visit the ImagineSpace the Nepean Centrepointe branch of the Ottawa Public Library. And I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the opening of the Elmwood School Fab Lab.

One of the questions I often get asked is what would I put in a makerspace? Most of the making I do is with kids, and the age I most often work with is middleschool, grades 5-8. So if I was building a middleschool makerspace, this is how I would get started:

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November 28, 2014


Classroom › Events › News ›

Toronto Mini Maker Faire 2014: Hitchbot Jr meets Hitchbot

One of the things we were really excited about doing at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire was meeting
Hitchbot. If you haven't met HitchbotJr yet, he's a project of EPCOTclass at Churchill Alternative public school. They were inspired by Hitchbot's travels across Canada. He's got a GPS running watch in his backpack. View full article →

How to safely take things apart

If you've been following along for a while, you know that at Maker Junior we love to take things apart. Taking something apart is a fantastic way to learn how it works. Seeing a part in context provides great clues to understanding its function. If you're going to drop something off with electronics recycling, why not take the time to take it apart first? When we take things apart, we are always focused on safety. It is Safety First when we select what we're going to take apart, when we prepare the pieces to take apart, and when we get down to work. View full article →

Back with @churchill209

Remember the Rainbow Eggheads? I first visited with them back in December. I had a chance to visit with them again at the end of February. Their teacher, Shauna Pollock, asked if I could come up with something that combined the Grade 5 science topic, states of matter, with the Grade 6 science topic of electricity. What we decided on was a project that combined questions on the states of matter with the quiz card project that I've worked on before.  I'm going to let their tweets tell this story:



























Now, did they like it? Everyday this class blogs about "What Stuck With Us Today". There are lots of comments about this activity in their daily blog post:

And hey, Shauna liked it too! What stuck with me? This class is great. It can be frustrating working with new tools - but they asked questions and stuck with it until everybody got their quiz card working. There were kids helping other kids - I like that. And there was lots of curiosity and wanting to do more. Like, how do I hook up a red LED too? (I still owe them an answer on that one!) And just like last time, they are inspiring me with their social media skills. Thanks, @churchill209, it is always great to spend time with you!


January 16, 2014


Classroom › Ideas › School ›

Maker Club

I had a great time last term helping with some school-based Maker Club's around town.

Dunlop PS sold t-Shirts to bring me in for a fully facilitated club.  That means I led the club members through complete projects and supplied all the materials.  There was a Primary Club for grades 1, 2 and 3 and a Junior Club for grades 4, 5, 6.  Each club was held over a 25 minute recess so we generally did one project over two weeks.  A lot of prep went in to making sure the kids spent most of their time working with the project and not waiting for components or instruction.  We had 18 students in the Primary Club and 25 students in the Junior Club.  We were successful working with such large groups because of the wonderful parent and teacher volunteers who came in to help!  With the volunteers we were able to have the students work in small groups so they had help on hand to answer questions and didn't have to wait for me to make it to the table.


We all had a lot of fun.  We learnt some new skills and worked with new tools.  Some kids found some new areas of expertise that they were able to help others with.  The Primary Club and Junior Club worked on similar projects with either different components or different levels of prep by me before the club began.  Here is some of their work:

I have also been volunteering with the Maker Club at my son's school, JH Putman PS .  My son just started here this year.  JH Putman is a middle school that has a lot of extracurricular activities that are run by staff, students and volunteers.  This year, JH Putman has started transforming their old darkroom into a makerspace and I have volunteered to come and supervise the makerspace once a week.  When we started out the year we had some computers and a handful of MakeyMakey's and we were waiting for more equipment to come.  My son convinced a few of friends to come join him in the makerspace and we started playing with the MakeyMakey's.  Some of the older kids already had a cool game controller going, but I needed something to get the new grade 6 kids involved.  I brought in a few different project ideas from Make that involved hooking the MakeyMakey up to Scratch.  They spent a week or two modifying the "Door Knocker of Doom" to work with a foot pedal.  And then I left them this:

I fully admit that by this point I was experimenting with how little information I could give them and have them get a project to work.  And by the time I came back the week after, we had this:


It's not hooked up to the MakeyMakey in this photo - but they had it hooked up and working. We experimented with adding new notes.  I love it.  Since then, we've had a fantastic donation of equipment to the makerspace and they are interested in learning how to solder and, of course, de-solder.  I can't wait to see where this group heads this year.




December 13, 2013


Classroom ›

Maker Junior visits @churchill209

Have you met the Rainbow Eggheads yet?  They are a grade 5/6 class at Churchill Alternative PS who are very comfortable working with technology.  They have a blog where they write about their learning adventures.  And they tweet as a class from @churchill209 .  I met their teacher, Shauna Pollack, at Ottawa EdCamp 2013, and we set up a visit to their classroom to make Electro-cards .  Electro-cards are light-up greeting cards made with a battery, LED, construction paper switch and conductive paint.


The class works closely with a Grade 1/2 class down the hall.  Each student is paired with buddy.  I visited the class over 2 days to give everyone a chance to make a card.


First we covered some basics - batteries, simple circuits, open vs. closed circuits (ie. switches), and positive to negative electron flow.  We started by making sure we could each light up an LED with a battery.



Everyone was give a card with a very basic schematic on it.  Their card designs all took advantage of the light.  I enjoyed the creativity of the designs that were created!

As the cards were drying, I set out some of the other projects I work with.  They were well received.

The Rainbow Eggheads and their little buddies were great to work with.  It was fun helping them build their cards.  And when I was able to check the twitter feed after the event, I felt good knowing that they had enjoyed themselves.

So thank you, @churchill209, I had a good time too!