CEP811: Maker Experiment #3

This week I am reflecting on my experiences in my CEP811 class and the Maker culture. The emphasis on Maker culture fascinates me because I teach in a discipline that is and has always been about making. Art and specifically graphic design involves creating or making whether for personal pursuits or for clients. My students create almost every week in the class. I have struggled a little with making my Graphic Design Survey class more interactive than a traditional art history type class. This course has provided some thoughts about how to better incorporate making into this course that really doesn’t lend itself well to interactive activities. I chose the Makey Makey kit because I saw several artistic experiments on the site and felt it could be a good tool for use in my classroom. I still see the potential and plan to spend my break exploring it further beyond my past experiments. Additionally, I did try a few new things this semester including having the students create animations using GoAnimate based on researching art movements discussed in class. Some were successful and others were not. In general, the students respond better and learn better when actively creating as opposed to just sitting and listening.


Example of Maker Culture in my Classroom – This week in class my students created a design for a letter that they then carved into a linoleum block. They were then able to print the design using a letterpress.

Design is also based around on the creativity and problem solving Paul Gee believes is key to the next incarnation of education. (Gee) Students are given problems for assignments where they must work through a process to solve. We do not provide step-by-step instructions. Student must come up with their own original solutions and often these solutions involve problem solving such as answering a “How do I ….” question. My education was also oriented around this same methodology and I think it makes me better at problem solving and approaching new and unfamiliar situations. I can quickly make a plan to attack the problem and find the resources I need to solve it. It has also taught me not to view a solution not working as failure, but as a chance to grow. This skill serves me well both as a professional designer and as a teacher. I was able to my problem solving skills to work in class by finding a topic to unite my group of seemingly unrelated teaching disciplines. Art educators take great pleasure in this new focus on creativity because we have been advocating the importance of the arts and their role in developing these very skills for decades (should be STEAM instead of just STEM). The arts lead the way in developing creative problem solvers.

Grant Wiggins talks about how educators shy away from assessing creative thought. (Wiggins) I will admit it can be a challenge. It is difficult to explain to a student that an idea that them deem original may be an obvious solution to the problem or done before. This is why it is important for them to start reading about both past and present artists and designers just like CEP811 and the MAET program encourage us to further expose ourselves to past new ideas about teaching, education, and the use of technology. I try to show students examples of work similar to their solutions to provide support to my critique as well as point them towards artists and designers who push the boundaries. Creative thought can also be assessed on the outcome of it. Did it succeed? Was a problem fixed in a new or more efficient manner? How effective is the solution? There is a whole range of ways to evaluate creativity routed in objectivity. I use rubrics with my students like Wiggins advocates for in his blog. (Wiggins) They better assist students in understanding why they got a specific grade and on how they can improve than the typical “Good Job” or “Needs Work” comments I got in my undergraduate education (and they speed up grading). They provide specific, actionable feedback. Parts of the rubric focus on following directions, which is important in design, and parts are focused on the more subject part of creativity and execution. Great ideas also needs follow through. I tend to value the same thorough feedback on my own work. I want to be pushed to improve even when awarded a high grade.

While some of the material was review, the readings for the course provided confirmation of my own believes from a pedagogical standpoint and also often got me to think in new ways. Overall, the MAET courses continue to provide support for my beliefs and challenge me to push even further.

Gee, J. P. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games . YouTube. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JU3pwCD-ey0

Wiggens, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. Granted, and… ~ thoughts on education by Grant Wiggins. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

CEP811: Maker Kit Experiment #1

For this week, we were tasked with exploring our chosen maker kits further. Then, we were supposed to connect it with both pedagogy and make use of it in an actual lesson plan for our classroom. My chosen kit was the Makey Makey because of some of the art related experiments I saw on their website. The Makey Makey is basically a circuit board that can be connected to your computer and that you can connect it to other objects like bananas. It can be used like a controller or programmed to do more creative things like use bananas to make a piano. (Find out more at http://www.makeymakey.com/) The Makey Makey seems like the perfect tool to teach students about experimentation in art using programming and other technological devices.

Art and design classes are typically centered on learning theories like Experiential Learning and Constructivism. Experiential Learning, developed by C. Rogers, tends to be self-driven and self-motivated allowing users to make better connects to the material and its value (http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/experiental-learning.html). Constructivism, developed by Jerome Bruner, also involves user centered learning motivated by the specific student’s interests and encourages explorations of a hypothesis actively gain knowledge (http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html). Both methods encourage exploration, evaluation, and essentially involve problem solving in some form. Design has always focused around problem solving. A typical assignment or activity involves the student being presented with some base knowledge to frame a problem and then using a given problem statement, like create a logo or develop a social campaign, that they solve individually in some manner. Even when given very limited and specific criteria, solutions tend to vary widely as students employ their own perspectives and backgrounds in their problem solving. These methodologies also allow for far more student centered learning where each student guides their own understanding of the material.

I teach a Graphic Design Survey course that is similar to an art history course. I find they learn little from straight lecture and continue to find ways to put what were are talking about to hands on use. Most of my students do better with the hands on activities over rote memorization and lecture. I believe the Makey Makey can assist with this task when talking about experiments in art and design that cross over and make use technology and programming. I end the semester with a two week exploration of contemporary design and the boundaries being pushed as a result of technological advances. In some cases, it seems like an obvious connection like using html to create websites or computer software to do what used to be done by hand. However, in others, the lines of between art and technology get blurred. One person in particular I like to cite is John Maeda who started as more of a scientist and programmer and now is President of Rhode Island School of Design. His work shows the possibility that exists between blending art and programming (View Work). There are a number of people who have come after him, but he really pioneered this blending of discipline.

After discussing artists/makers like John Maeda, I would then present the students with Makey Makey kits and explain the basics of how to use them as well as guide them to some electronic resources to aid in their projects. After assigning them to groups, I would task them with the open ended problem of combining the Makey Makey with their own art in some meaningful manner. I would provide the below examples of others making use of the Makey Makey  in a similar fashion to give them a jumping off point for the possibilities. The students would then have to use problem solving within the constructs of Experiential Learning and Constructivism to explore the kit itself to figure out what they could create and would want to create. The experience would demonstrate the process of experimentation that the other artists and designers explored while also helping them to connect with the material on a meaningful and personal level thereby increasing the likelihood of mastery of the material (Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L. & Cocking).

Makey Makey Artistic Experiments for Reference

≡ A MACHINES SKETCHBOOK ≡ from Philippe Dubost on Vimeo.
This installation allows you to control drawings of machines that generate words and poetry under your eyes. Technology: vvvv.org, makey makey, projection, hand drawings
Done within the Moment Factory LABS (http://www.momentfactory.com/)

Makey! Makey! from Wolff Olins on Vimeo.
It’s a simple piece of electronics based on an Arduino Leonardo micro controller that lets people from all ages explore new ways to interact with computers. We thought it’d be neat to toy around with the idea of an interactive poster, and Jody has just created a lovely one for the do the green thing campaign. Borrowing a bit of tin foil from the kitchen and a projector, the idea here is that a print based poster gets layered with a video graphic. By touching the poster, you control which movie is playing.

makey makey – fonk and cats 1920×1080 from FONK on Vimeo.

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.), How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-27). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368

“Constructivist Theory (Jerome Bruner).” Constructivist Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html>.

“Experiential Learning (Carl Rogers).” Experiential Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/experiental-learning.html>.

Maeda, John. “Selected Works by John Maeda.” MAEDASTUDIO. N.p., 16 July 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <http://www.maedastudio.com/index.php>.

CEP811: Thrifting – Creating a Quiz Buzzer System

This week we were tasked with visiting a thrift store whether virtually or physically to come up with ideas for re-purposing materials. This is something I’ve done for most of my life. Artists are masters of re-purposing whether it’s using old jars as paint containers or finding a tackle box to store art supplies. It’s a great way to save money and to reuse materials that might otherwise end up in a landfill. At first I was a little perplexed because I teach adults not children, so it didn’t seem like there were as many possibilities to do this. However, the perfect answer came to me when I was thinking about playing Jeopardy to review for exam. I have done this in the past, but fighting always ensues when relying on my judgment to see who raised their hand first to answer. I saw a system of lighted buttons that locks out after the first one was hit. It was perfect, but cost $250 for the system. As usual, necessity (and cheapness) is the mother of invention.

After a little bit of play, I realized the Makey Makey kit would be the perfect tool for creating a buzzer system. I went in search of possible ways to do this online. No one had directions for using the Makey Makey, but I did find a variety of directions for other homemade buzzers. I wanted to figure out what might work for buzzers and what I else I might need before shopping. I typically approach projects in this manner. I figure out what I might want and what might work and then hit the store. I have more success when I have a better idea of what’s needed. Luckily, I found some Staples Easy Buttons at a thrift store. There were a number of them, but I only needed three. It seemed a little serendipitous, but I’ll just be thankful that no one else was interested in them. Based on my explorations, my other idea was plastic bowls. The remainder of the items were gathered from Radio Shack as I did not locate them during my shopping trip. I figured that would most likely be the case. If I wasn’t using the Makey Makey, I would have looked for a USB keyboard to use for the processing. I found several sites that mentioned that was an option.


At this point, I went to talk an electronics instructor that I know to make sense of the electronics part it. I am not an expert on the electronics. I understand the programming part, but needed a better idea of how the electronics worked to reconfigure it to the materials I wanted to use. I showed him some of the examples I found and he drew out the below diagrams to explain how it worked. This helped me better understand some the flaws in my initial thinking and to work out how everything needed to be wired to each other. I’m at the point where I’m ready to start creating the physical parts, but need a little more time with the programming. I would like to have the ability to use this soon with my class.

Electrical Wiring Drawing courtesy of Terry Taebel

3 Staples Easy Buttons
Red LEDs
LED Holders
Project Box
2 conductor wire
Glue Gun
May need a soldering iron w/solder
Arduino Software



  1. Remove the pads on the backs of the Staples Easy Buttons to get access to the screws. Unscrew the screws to expose the wiring of the buttons. I can disable at the sound at this point either by removing the connecting wire or simply remove the batteries. The batteries are unnecessary for making this work. I will also need to drill a hole for the alligator clip to run to the button when the button is reassembled.
  2. I then need to connect the buttons to the Makey Makey via the alligator clips included in the kit. When the button is pressed, it should generate a feed to the program written for the Makey Makey to process the information.
  3. The Makey Makey then needs to be connected to the LED that will light up indicating which buzzer rang in first. (I realize this step may be unnecessary as I may be able to program it to just put a message on screen, but I think the light may be more beneficial with students.
  4. The LEDS than need to be secured inside the project box. I will start by drilling three hole the LEDs in the top of the box. I will feed a LED holder into the whole. Then, I will place the LED inside. I will need to also make a hole in the side to feed the wires back to the Makey Makey. It was suggested that glue be used to secure the items in the box.
  5. Write the program for the Makey Makey. You will need to download the software posted here: https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/388. This software will give you an editing window to reprogram your Makey Makey for a new purpose. The site also breaks down the basics of working with the console. It will be helpful to have some understanding of programming for this step.
  6. Continue testing your program as you go until the pressing one of the buttons causes the corresponding light to light up and locks out the others.
  7. Test out in class and enjoy the fun.


At this point, I’m still testing the specifics. The electronics instructor thought I was crazy to try to get it done in a weekend and it looks like he may be right. I will update with more specific instructions once it is completely worked out. I think this would be a great tool for teachers of all grade levels. In my past experience, Jeopardy is a great tool for reviewing for an exam. My hope is this project can help others teachers implement this into the classroom and eliminate disputes about who “rang” in first while still being affordable. Right now, the project is costing my under a $100, but I would like to reduce the price further.

Arduino – Learn the basics. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/HomePage>.

“Cee’z Blog.” RSS 20. N.p., 25 Sept. 2008. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://my.opera.com/ceez/blog/buzzerlockout>.

Chrétien, Philippe. “public pchretien / quiz.”GitHub. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <https://github.com/pchretien/quiz>.

“Electronic Games.” Game Circuits. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://www.techlib.com/electronics/games.html>.

“Game Show Buzzer System.” uosuıqoɹ ɯoʇ / projects / easybutton / buzzer.php. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://tlrobinson.net/projects/easybutton/buzzer.php>.

Hoover, Dan. “DIY Game Show Buzzer System.” DIY Game Show Buzzer System. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://http://danhoover.net/dh/index.php/diy-stuff/diy-game-show-buzzer/21>.

“MaKey MaKey Quickstart Guide (Part 2) – SparkFun Electronics.” MaKey MaKey Quickstart Guide (Part 2) – SparkFun Electronics. N.p., 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/388>.

“Quiz Show Buzzer System using Staples Easy Button.” Instructables.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://www.instructables.com/id/Quiz-Show-Buzzer-System-using-Staples-Easy-Button/>.

“Quizshow buttons on the cheap – Intro.” Quizshow buttons on the cheap – Intro. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://hackadayhttp://spritesmods.com/?art=quizbtn&f=tw>.

Robinson, Mark. “How to Create a Lockout Buzzer System | eHow.” eHow. Demand Media, 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ehow.com/how_12112065_create-lockout-buzzer-system.html>.

Szczys, Mike. “Building a Quiz-show style buzzer system.” Hack a Day. N.p., 1 June 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://hackaday.com/2012/06/01/building-a-quiz-show-style-buzzer-system/>.

“basbrun.com.” basbruncom. N.p., 30 May 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://basbrun.com/2012/05/30/quiz-buzzer-system/>.