Makey Connections

07/01/2020 6:00 AM | MSET Webmaster (Administrator)
From “Makey Connections,” by S. Bradbury, 2019, June 27. Used with permission.From “Makey Connections,” by S. Bradbury, 2019, June 27. Used with permission.


Innovation is a word that is thrown around a lot, but can have different meanings to different people.  Often, it is tied to the integration of technology.  While I think this is a fair connection, what makes an innovation truly innovative is the nuanced approach taken, rather than just the tool (or technology) used.  My project, Makey Connections, utilizes technology, but that is not what makes it innovative.  The innovation is found in the way the project reshapes the design and environment of my traditional classroom.

Wagner (2012) encourages the empowerment of students through the power of play and discovery.  The Makey Connections Project harnesses this power and will help deepen the teaching and learning in my 6th grade computer science classes.  My traditional computer science class consisted of typing practice, mini-tasks and projects on Google Docs or Slides, and computer programming through  While classes ran smoothly, I controlled the majority of the class.  To give space for innovation in my class, I have to relinquish that control.  For approximately 90 sixth graders during the 2019-2020 school year, the Makey Connections Project will afford them the opportunity to take over and make an authentic impact in their community.

Project Concept

The Makey Connections Project is all about making connections between students and their learning, to each other, and to their community.  They will be incorporating a Makey Makey kit to help solve authentic problems in their own community.  If you have never heard of a Makey Makey, check out the link.  Imagine an invention kit that connects a circuit board with everyday objects “to interact with computers as creative tools” (Makey Makey, 2018).

From “Makey Makey Piano,” by S. Bradbury, 2016, October 20. Used with permission.   From “Makey Makey Race,” by S. Bradbury, 2016, October 20. Used with permission.

In this project, students utilize the Makey Makey and work collaboratively to design an application for a student or staff member with special needs, limitations, or conditions.  An example is designing a keyboard for a student who cannot manipulate a standard computer.  Another idea is designing an activity to combine computers and movement for physical education class.  Students research their design concept, then create and test a prototype.  Finally, students present their final design to a panel of educators.

Deeper Learning

My classroom admittedly lacks deeper learning.  I am my own biggest problem!  Of the four big educational shifts outlined by McLeod and Shareski (2018), student agency is the most glaring need in my classroom.  The Makey Connections Project is not a cure-all for this need, but it certainly helps move me out of the way and puts my students center stage!  Student agency swings the control of the classroom environment from the teacher to the students (McLeod & Shareski, 2018). Through the Makey Connections Project, I aim to have students experience ownership, control, “personalization, individualization, and differentiation” (McLeod & Graber, 2019).   

Adhering to the TPACK model for technology integration will further support deeper learning and improve student outcomes.  The Makey Connections Project firmly lands at the intersection of technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge.  The TPACK model helps marry the different types of knowledge so that they are not just individual parts, but combined to create a more powerful and effective product. McLeod and Graber (2019) state that effective teachers live at the intersection of these different types of knowledge.  The Makey Makey kit alone will not be what drives the change to student outcomes.  The Makey Connections Project brings together best practices of empowered, student-centered learning, with computer science content knowledge, and technology infusion.  There is a lot of overlap between the types of knowledge leading to a more powerful learning experience.  

Project Goals and Standards



1. Students will utilize the Makey Makey kit and everyday objects to manipulate controls of the computer. 

(3a) Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits (ISTE, 2016).

2. Students will persevere through challenges by fixing mistakes and solving problems that arise.

(1d) Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies (ISTE, 2016).

3. Students will collaborate by testing designs together in which all members play an active role.

(4c) Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process (ISTE, 2016).

(7c) Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal (ISTE, 2016).

4. Students will design a project using a Makey Makey kit that will enable someone with special needs or conditions to operate a computer.

(3d) Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions (ISTE, 2016).

(4d) Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems (ISTE, 2016).

5. Students will create a presentation to communicate their Makey Makey design to a panel of educators.

(SL.6.4)  Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010).

(6d) Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences (ISTE, 2016).

Project Design

The Makey Connections Project is a three week activity for students.  The first week consists of introductory activities and Makey Makey demonstrations.  The remaining two weeks are broken into four main parts: research, design, iteration, and presentation.  In collaborative teams, students select the profile of a student or teacher who has special needs, conditions, or limitations.   The needs are not limited to learning needs, but could be environmental limitations.  All needs will relate to some limitations in using a computer.  Students research the needs and possible solutions.  Then teams collaboratively design a product to meet the needs and troubleshoot issues as they test their designs.  When students arrive at a viable solution, the student teams create a presentation for a panel audience of educators.  Highlighting their conditions, research, and design, student teams will demonstrate their product, then respond to feedback or questions from the panel.  As a final reflection, students will incorporate the feedback into a set of next steps for their final product.

The materials needed for the Makey Connections Project will vary depending on the needs of the teams.  Each team will need a Makey Makey kit, laptop, and student or teacher profile.  At this point, students have a lot of choice as to what they will utilize in their designs.  Material requests are formally made during their research time in order to gather the appropriate resources.  


By the end of the Makey Connections Project, students will have an authentic product that will empower their profiled individual to manipulate a computer.  In addition, the Makey Connections teams will deliver a polished presentation to a panel of educators.  Both products provide the opportunity to dive deeper into authentic tasks with an authentic audience.  Ultimately, my desire is to empower my students to make deeper connections with each other, with their learning, and within their community.  This can happen with them in control of authentic work that impacts real life.  I am excited to have my students make connections with Makey Connections!


Steve Bradbury is a computer science/technology teacher at Armistead Gardens School in Baltimore, MD.  You can connect with me through Twitter, @MrBradbury08


  • Bradbury, S. (2019, June 27). Makey Connections [Digital image].
  • Bradbury, S. (2016, October 20). Makey Makey Piano [Digital image].
  • Bradbury, S. (2016, October 20). Makey Makey Race [Digital image].
  • International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE Standards for Students.  Retrieved from
  • Makey Makey. (n.d.). Home page.  Retrieved from
  • Makey Makey. (2018, January).  Makey Makey Educator’s Guide.  Retrieved from
  • McLeod, S. & Shareski, D. (2018). Different schools for a different world. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. 
  • McLeod, S. & Graber, J. (2019). Harnessing technology for deeper learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
  • NGA Center & CCSSO. (2010).  Common Core State Standards (Speaking and Listening).  NGA Center & CCSSO: Washington D.C.  Retrieved from
  • Wagner, Tony (2012). Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. New York: Scribner.

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