“Thrifting” to Repurpose and Make Your Own Ed Tech

Before this week’s assignment, I never thought I would have been able to create my own educational technology tool and, let me say, being able to do this was awesome! Learning about repurposing and TPACK in my CEP810 course, allowed me to begin to think of educational tools differently and think beyond an object or tool’s originally intended purpose. Also, learning from Dr. Mishra’s TPACK framework in CEP810 and now reading the Rethinking Technology & Creativity article, I have an even deeper understanding of how to approach educational technology in my teaching practice.  While reading the article, the statement, “we must eschew the chrono-centric way of thinking about technologies, and focus on what’s important and useful about any technology in the interaction with disciplinary content,” really resonated with me (Punya Mishra & the Deep-Play* Research Group, p.2).  This statement echoed my own philosophy that technology is merely the tool and it’s how teachers and students use it that makes the difference.

With all of this in mind, I began to think about how this week’s focus on “thrifting” and repurposing could extend my thinking and approach to educational technology. I opened up my Makey Makey kit, my first thought was, “Oh, this will be cool and easy.” Boy was I wrong! Before starting any of my own play, I watched these videos and was beyond impressed with what adults and kids were able to create – especially the kid who created the cat treat dispenser – SO COOL! I have a golden retriever, so I really want to try to figure out a way to make a dog treat dispenser. I’m definitely not up to that challenge quite yet!

It was a little challenging to make the circuit work. I tried to make a Swedish Fish piano first and it didn’t work, so I tried baby potatoes…which worked! I was so excited when I finally heard sound coming from my computer when I tapped each little potato! After watching the musical painting, I really wanted to figure out how to create that.  My creative juices were flowing, but I was challenged with the question of, “How do I make this educational?”

My initial thought as a teacher, would be to use this kit as a means for students to practice their creativity, problem solving, and team work. I could provide students with a box full of random items and they would have to figure out a way to repurpose them – basically what I’m tasked with this week!  As an educational consultant, I’m not currently teaching. However, I used to teach, so I began brainstorming how this could apply to former classes that I’ve taught. As a former Math teacher, I was trying to a math activity that I could use to incorporate my kit. I searched through Scratch and found a math game called Yoshi’s Math Game that focused on addition skills. So, I decided to use my Makey Makey kit as a game controller.

Here’s a view of the game:


Traveling for work all week and the chaos of the Cubs in the World Series here in Chicago prevented me from being able to do my “thrifting” at an actual thrift store so I resorted to thrifting through my house for a random assortment of objects. I found a lot of random stuff, but had trouble when I began to figure out which objects would work as strong conductors.

Here are some of the objects I tried and either didn’t work or weren’t easy to use:


After my trial and error of objects for my game controller, I came up with the setup of these objects for each control.  I read in my “how to use it” guide in the Makey Makey box that I could wrap tinfoil around my wrist and clip the grounding wire to it to ground the circuit. This did not work, but I didn’t realize that the wrist apparatus was the problem until I failed to make multiple conductor objects work.  I finally figured this out and decided to just hold it with my fingers in my left hand. I used my husband’s old watch, a lime, a bracelet, a quarter and a Harry Caray cupcake. I had to honor my Cubs 🙂  Below is my prototype.

How to create and use my game controller prototype for Yoshi’s Math Game:

  1. Attach 4 alligator clips to the Makey Makey each arrow (i.e. left, right, up, down).
  2. Attach 1 alligator clip to “Space”
  3. Organize conductor objects (lime, quarter, watch, bracelet) in place for their associated arrow. Set space function conductor to the side (cupcake).
  4. Attach alligator clips accordingly to each object.
  5. Attach 1 alligator clip to “Earth” for grounding.
  6. Plug USB cord into computer.
  7. Open Yoshi’s Math Game from Scratch site.
  8. Click green flag to start the game.
  9. Use conductor objects to move Yoshi and Mario left and right to the correct answer for each addition problem.
  10. When you get close to the correct answer, tap the cupcake to select it.
  11. Repeat for all addition problems.

Here is my video of how to use my game controller:

I think it was important to use photos, videos, and written explanation to create this “how-to” because everyone learns differently. Also, I used all of these modalities to learn how to use my kit and create this project. Without all of these, it would have been much more challenging.


Mishra, P.,  Henriksen, D., Kereluik, K., Terry, L., Fanhoe, C., Terry, C. (2012). Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the Future. TechTrends, 65. (5).  Retrieved from: http://www.punyamishra.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Mishra-crayons-techtrends1.pdf.  


Remixing Fashion Design

My first assignment for my CEP811 course was to learn about the Maker Culture and the power of “remixing”. I was challenged to create my own remixed video using the WeVideo tool. When I began thinking about this assignment, I tried to think of times that I learned how to make something. This brainstorming session brought me back to memories of learning to sew with my mother. I never learned to create anything too exciting, but I was pretty proud of myself for making a skirt all on my own using a pattern and fabric I liked at the time. Looking back, this activity made me a “maker” and I didn’t even realize it.  Thinking back to this memory led me to think about fashion design and what influences the creation and evolution of fashion design and the Maker Culture of the industry.

Fashion designers are the definition of makers. They must use a variety of materials and resources to create clothing and other fashion items. It seems some of the most successful designers are those who continually “remix” materials and resources to push people’s perception of what fashion is and can be. Fashion designers’ ability to repurpose, reinvent, and innovate to create new and exciting fashion trends is what inspired my WeVideo this week.  I wanted to represent the Maker Culture of fashion and the innovative ideas designers use to create the looks that are walking down runways today.

Here’s my attempt at a remix video.

Although I have a great deal of experience using tools like iMovie and Widnows MediaMaker, I was a newbie with WeVideo and it was definitely a challenge to use and it took me a while to figure out how to upload online videos. I eventually found and utilized keepvid to download, convert and save my videos so that I could upload them to WeVideo.


Cruz, M. (2016, October 11). Fashion Design Studio Spring Summer 2017 Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8b8qzC0Tj8

Global Fashion News. (2016, August 22). Marc Jacobs I Fall / Winter 2016 Women’s Runway Show | Global Fashion News. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC3Om-TGN_o

Caracciolo,  A. (2015). Wild Things. On Know-It-All [MP3 file]. Def Jam Recordings.

Evolving into a Better Teacher & Learner

When I first enrolled for this course I had no idea what to expect. I completed a couple blended courses in my undergrad and taught in a blended learning model using flipped classroom elements, but never participated in or completed an online course for myself. I wasn’t sure how I was going to balance my crazy work travel life with the demands of this course.  Much to my surprise, I was able to manage my responsibilities in both environments relatively well, but I know that I still have a lot of work to do to be a better, more engaged graduate student in my future coursework.

Beyond learning about myself as a graduate student, I learned more about teaching with technologies than I thought was possible.  I came into this course with the preconceived notion that I possessed much of the knowledge and experience that would be addressed in this course and I was really excited to realize in Week 1 that I was going to learn far more than I expected. As a special education teacher who taught at a blended learning high school for four years, I was using technology every day. My students had their own personal laptop and I utilized digital curriculum and online curricular programs and resources on a daily basis. I thought I knew what it meant to effectively integrate technology into instruction, but I quickly learned that there was SO much more to this that I ever know.

My biggest “a-ha” moment was learning about TPACK and the repurposing activity.  Watching Dr. Mishra’s video resonated with me very deeply as an educator and truly made me rethink the way that I would plan instruction going forward.  I’ve always upheld the mindset that the technology is just the tool, but that week’s lesson allowed me to think completely outside the box of how to use technology tools to elevate learning opportunities for students and allow them to demonstrate their learning in a myriad of innovative ways.  This learning will absolutely influence my instructional planning and professional practice going forward.

It was also extremely powerful to be able to access and learn from my colleagues’ work throughout this course.  With each person bringing their own background and experiences, my learning was expanded and enhanced. I learned so much from reading my colleagues’ opinions, viewpoints, and practices and this continually influenced and challenged my own approach to this course and my own philosophies and practices.  Also, while preparing my own reflection, I read through a few of my colleagues’ reflections and had to laugh when Tom Day referenced the functionality of D2L. I share his sentiment for disdain of the platform. Other than the course content, the platform is hard to navigate and find features and information.  I struggled with this throughout the course. I definitely missed information and just figured out how to see my grades two weeks ago.  This technology, in my perspective, is not user-friendly and would not be successful in my classroom. However, it’s another tool I need to learn how to use in order to be successful in this graduate program so I need to “play” more and figure out how I can best utilize this platform to improve my learning!

When tasked with this reflection, my initial thought was, “I survived,” but when I began to really dive into my reflection, I realized how powerful each week was for my approach to teaching in the future.  Although I have a lot to learn and change about my own learning habits and practices in future courses, I think my reflection has changed from, “I survived,” to, “I’ve evolved into a better teacher and learner.” I really enjoyed this course and it made me even more excited for what’s to come in my graduate journey!

Using Tech for Multiplying Fractions

This week we began to loop together all of the concepts that we’ve learned throughout this CEP810 course by creating a lesson plan that incorporates technology tool to enhance students’ learning.  I really liked the message of Thomas & Brown (2011) when they explained that students need to not only learn where to find what they need to know, but also know how to make things that represent their learning.  This is something that teachers, including myself in the past, often forget when utilizing technology in the classroom. As a basis for developing my lesson plan, I used Renee Hobbs framework which outlined five critical components of instructional practice: Access, Analyzing, Creating, Reflecting and Acting.

The lesson that I created for this week was for a fourth grade, self-contained math class and targeted students learning how to multiply fractions by whole numbers.  In order to achieve this objective, the technology tools I incorporated included: iPads, Google Apps, iXL Math app, AppleTV, a website, and Vimeo.  Each of these tools served a different purpose from introducing the instructional topic to providing students an avenue to demonstrate and share their learning.

I used the idea for Vimeo from our assignment last week where we had to create a video based on the TPACK framework.  Just like my “how to” fruit salad video, I wanted to use this tech tool to allow students to create a “how to” for solving a specific type of math problems, demonstrate their learning and share their strategies with their classmates.

As highlighted in Thomas Friedman’s New York Times article, Tony Wagner stated, “We teach and test things most students have no interest in and will never need.” This statement resonated with me because when I was teaching 11th grade Advanced Algebra, most of what I was teaching was focused on ACT prep and not on what my students would actually need in the real world.  In my lesson, I tried to focus on including student interest and creating an opportunity for real-life application. To do this, students will choose their favorite food recipe and then apply the skill of multiplying fractions by a whole number to multiply the quantities of their ingredients.  There have been many times that I have had to double a recipe in order to make enough food for a dinner party. My hope is that my students will be able to transfer the skill of multiplying fractions by whole numbers to a future task like this one. Check out my lesson plan here.


Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Friedman, T. (2013). Need a Job? Invent it. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/opinion/sunday/friedman-need-a-job-invent-it.html?smid=pl-share

Networked Learning Project: Final Post

Learning without the human element was a challenge. I think this goes to show that technology is just the tool and this is something teachers need to be mindful of as they integrate technology into their classrooms.  As I work with school districts to integrate our personalized learning system, one of the greatest initial fears is that the teachers will be replaced by the technology.  I have heard this fear from parents as well who are concerned that their child will be learning from a computer.  It is my belief that technology should enhance and elevate the learning experience and enable teachers to be more effective in their craft.

This philosophy became very evident to me in my learning of American Sign Language. While learning through YouTube was effective in that I learned MANY words and phrases, my greatest challenge (like I mentioned in my post from last week) was making sense of everything I’ve learned in isolation. I was often writing sentences that I wanted to say but was not always able to find the right signs to translate my sentences into actual sign language.  As a result, I am fairly certain that the sentences that I put together for my other video posts were, at the least, grammatically incorrect. All I knew how to do was break down each sentence, find the signs for the words in the sentence, put the signs in place, and repeatedly watch videos of each sign to memorize the finger and hand movements.

Watching YouTube videos was helpful and I did learn a lot, but I think I would have learned more if I had someone to interact with directly who could answer questions, demonstrate signs for me, and identify and correct my mistakes to help me improve. As a strong visual learner, watching videos of other people signing was effective, but I also thrive when I can collaborate and talk through problems with others. I would have loved a live tutor or even to meet with someone for coffee who is fluent in ASL. In this learning experience, the technology removed the human element and did not help me learn as much as I think I could have.

I have really enjoyed the challenge of learning American Sign Language. I’ve always wanted to learn and assumed that it would be hard, but did not realize how hard it would be to learn in this “networked” way through YouTube videos.  I do not think this approach worked that well for me, but I think it could be extremely effective for learning other competencies or skills like learning to cook a new recipe, solve a math equation or a step-by-step process.  I will definitely keep this learning method in my instructional repertoire and encourage students to use this approach for their learning where appropriate and effective.

Here’s my final video:


The Magic of Repurposing

This week I learned about the TPACK framework created by Michigan State’s Dr. Matthew Koehler and Dr. Punya Mishra. This framework focuses on the fusion of technology, pedagogy and content for teaching and learning.  In his presentation, Dr. Mishra explained how technology can change how and what we teach, but the magic happens when teachers repurpose technology to create meaningful learning opportunities.

The activity we were asked to complete is based off the TPACK framework of repurposing the tools you have to complete a task. The tools that my husband picked out for me to use were a plate, bowl and fork. The task I chose at random was to slice fruit for a fruit salad and had to do so using the three tools I was given.

I liked this task because it related directly to Dr. Mishra’s view at all things can be tools and, with the right innovation and application, all tools can be used to create learning opportunities.  When considering how TPACK can influence my teaching, Dr. Mishra’s statement about textbooks being one of the few technologies actually designed for education really resonated with me. I wouldn’t have thought of textbooks as a technology, but thinking about how teachers have to take the curricular tools they have and modify them to meet their teaching objectives is particularly interesting. This modification is much like repurposing. Teachers are continuously having to repurpose the resources, content, curriculum, assessments, and technology they have available to meet the needs of their students.

When I started this activity, I took it for face value: repurpose kitchen utensils. However, after I was finished and actually started to think about the activity more deeply and consider the connections to TPACK, I realized how much it could apply to my own experience as a teacher. As a special education teacher at a blended learning high school, I frequently found myself trying to figure out how to do things like use Edmodo as a means to deliver each student exactly what they needed to learn their targeted skills and work at their own pace. However, this activity and Dr. Mishra’s presentation made me realize that I could think outside the box, beyond just using tools as they were meant to be used and use tools in innovative ways to create new and exciting learning opportunities through the magic of repurposing.