Thrifting and Storytelling with the Makey Makey Kit

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This week in CEP 811 we explored the relationship between technology and creativity. In “Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the Future”, Punya Mishra and the Deep Play Research Group (2012) describe technology as a “tool for living, working, teaching and learning” (p. 13). So what is our role as teachers? Simple, to creatively repurpose these technology tools to “make them fit pedagogical and disciplinary-learning goals” (p. 14). What does creativity entail? Well, in a keynote entitled “Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy”, Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra (2008) describe creativity as a “variation of a theme” or the “tweaking of knobs”. But what if we are not very creative? The truth is that as teachers we repurpose technology all time and as the authors kindly remind us, we are “designers of the Total PACKage!”

With this new understanding (and confidence) in mind, our task for this week was to experiment with our Maker kits and discover how we could use them to support classroom instruction. To begin this assignment, I spent a few hours engaging in “playtime” with my Makey Makey kit – going through the instructions in the box, reading how-to guides on the official website, and watching YouTube examples. I felt the most learning occurred when I created the sample mini-projects suggested in the instructions – a true hands-on learning experience!

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While I wasn’t able to visit a thrift store in my area, I did visit the neglected store room in my house! And this is where I found lots of interesting “junk”. One of the items was a bag full of old halogen lights – made of metal and ideal for conducting electricity. So I decided to give these objects a go!

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My next step was to think of how to repurpose the halogen lights together with the maker kit to design an innovate learning experience for students in the classroom. I wanted to explore the concept of combining sound and dramatic play in an environment for young children (lower elementary). I figured I could experiment with this idea by creating sound effects for a popular children’s story, such as “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen (the author also has his own video performance of the story available online). I envisioned that the sound effects would provide an interactive feature for the story, especially for the exciting action scenes. For example, I could create sounds that would accompany the journey through the swishy grass, splashy river, squelchy mud, howling snowstorm, and tiptoeing in the cave.

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I needed to clarify my objectives for this engagement and consider how it would support the students’ learning. So I created a lesson plan, which outlines the activity and provides details on the learning outcomes and assessment.

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In order to create a prototype with the Makey Makey kit, I used Ableton Live (a music production software) and (a database of Creative Commons Licensed sounds) to produce the sound effects. Below is an outline of the steps and materials required to reproduce the project:

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Materials: Laptop, Ableton Live software, Makey Makey kit, sound effects from, old halogen light bulbs (or similar metal objects to conduct electricity).

Step 1: Create a free account on Search for and download required sound effects.

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Step 2: Open a new live set in Ableton Live. Import all sound effects under a single “audio clip”.

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Step 3: Use manual key mapping in Ableton Live to assign each sound effect in the audio clip a different keyboard input. For the purpose of Makey Makey, use “a,s,d,f,g” keys.

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Step 4: Connect Makey Makey to the laptop using USB cable.

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Step 5: Insert connector wires into “a,s,d,f,g” inputs on the Makey Makey board.

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Step 6: Attach alligator clips to connector wires on one side and halogen light bulbs on the other side.

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Step 7: Use keyboard keys to test the sounds!

Below is a short video demonstration of my Makey Makey creation. You will notice a slight delay in the transition from one audio track to the next. This is because in Ableton Live tracks must complete a full bar of music/sound before switching to the next one.

This learning engagement would provide students a unique opportunity to inquire further into dramatic play, language and visuals arts through a story book. Students would have the opportunity not only to become familiar with a new piece of technology, but also to listen to the story with increasing detail and to respond and express their understanding through discussion and role-play. By extending the activity and asking the students to re-tell the story in their own novel way incorporating sound effects, they will develop problem-solving skills and learn how to think creatively and imaginatively. The photos below provide examples of possible role-play environments that could be created with this story and learning experience.

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Deborah. (2013). “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” Activities and a Giveaway. Learn with Play at Home Blog [web log]. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group (2012). Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the Future. TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16.

(2008). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy. [Online video]. Punya Mishra. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from


3 thoughts on “Thrifting and Storytelling with the Makey Makey Kit

  1. This is a great idea. I love the way you are allowing students to get a better sense of what is going on in the book. I can see many applications for this type of makey makey creation. You did a good job of providing visuals throughout your post, this allowed me to see what you were writing.

    Does the sound application you used allow for customization? Is there a way to have the students create the noises that will then be played while the book is being read? Just some thoughts I had as I read through your blog. Great Job, I really like your idea.

  2. I LOVE this idea! This is something I would’ve never thought to use the MakeyMakey for.
    This would be great for teaching that good ol’ onomatopoeia as well.

    At the beginning of you blog, you mentioned how you learned the best once you created the sample mini projects. I feel the SAME way. I really did need those projects to help me conceptualize what was happening and how it was happening.

    Upon reading this, I instantly thought, perhaps this is something we should allow our students to do….create the sample mini projects too. That way, if they are at all like us, they will gain a good understanding in the beginning and before moving on to creating a larger project. Great job!

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