“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.  


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