For the past two terms I have worked closely with technology teacher Brian Nelson to deliver a video game controller programme to the Year 6 students at Scots College.
I have to admit, when we first began this project I was a bit nervous. I have done controller projects with MaKey MaKeys and recycled materials before, but this was my first time helping kids create durable controllers made from wood. Woodworking is not a strength of mine, being in a workshop often leaves me feeling awkward and out-of-place. This was as much of a growth challenge for me as it was for my students.
We began the project by introducing the boys to basic electricity. We explored circuits, insulators, and conductors. We even tested our own conductivity by creating a 22-person chain to control the MaKey MaKey. After the discovery and planning stage we were ready to enter the workshop.
It hasn’t always gone so well, students have broken countless saw blades whilst doing what Mr. Nelson calls “the saw dance”. The boys haven’t always taken their time, some controllers are clearly slapped together while others were assembled with great craftsmanship and thought. Certain students really considered the practicalities of their design in regards to how it felt in the player’s hand and how the buttons would connect to the MaKey MaKey without interfering with the users ability to hold the controller.
All the students discovered the importance of measuring twice before cutting, planning out their design, and creating a perfect circle using a piece of cardboard, pencil, and nail.
Once the controllers were complete the students spent two weeks adjusting the Scratch games they created with me in Term 2 to make sure they worked with their controllers. They then had the opportunity to show off their creations at their end of term Arcade.
Teachers, administrators, and even the headmaster came to see the result of the boys hard work. It was lovely to see adults interacting with the kids and their games. There was even a little friendly competition between the headmaster and middle school principal to see who could complete the most video games. The adults were having such fun we had to extend the last class into the next period.
It was incredible to hear about the challenges the students faced as well as what they feel they learned over the course of the project. Perhaps my favourite feedback was when a student told me he really enjoyed seeing how far his project had come from the planning stage to become his finished product.
Now that I have seen the project carried out to fruition I can’t wait to get back to tweaking my lesson plans so it will be even better next time. After all, an educator is never finished learning.