Thrifting Thresholds

Last week I discussed my initial embrace of the maker movement and how it debunks many of the fears people have about technology. The maker movement embraces connectedness, physical activity, and imagination in ways that people feared were long-lost with the advancements in technology. However, this week it wasn’t about just talking about the maker movement it was actually becoming a part of it.

I have to admit – at first I was completely clueless as to where to begin. I received my Makey Makey kit and was shocked to discover it was just a little box with basic instructions. I felt extremely inadequate – like I’d missed the novel that should go along with this little tool! However, the internet had a plethora of ideas. With the framework of a high school social studies assignment in mind, I researched Makey Makey ideas. However, most of the Makey ideas I found centered around geography or maps & navigation. Although these ideas were fun and enjoyable to look at – they didn’t really strike at the higher-level order creativity I was looking for to adopt in a high school class. Then I started thinking about what class I teach. I work in a hybrid teacher leadership role at my blended learning school program (instruction can be blended and personalized in a mixture of F2F and online learning). We have a series of interdisciplinary workshops where students can earn credit. One such workshop is taught by me (the only class I teach & I teach it 2x per week) – the Big History Project*Teaching Big History.

*Full disclosure – I also blog about my experiences teaching Big History on the BHP website.

The Big History Project looks at how there were thresholds of increasing complexity that spawned the modern world we had today. Instead of teaching about world history in the same manner that it is usually taught (somewhere around the Incans or maybe Mesopotamia), BHP starts with the Big Bang and shows how and why people are in the areas that they are and where the real world’s history begins. I decided to do my Makey Makey Project centering around the 8 thresholds of Big History as defined by the Big History Project.  Even though I knew the thresholds were going to be my topic, I still wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, especially because I needed to incorporate the “found materials” part of the assignment. Then, it struck me!

idea-light-bulb-clip-art-black-and-white-MTLEnkBTaI always love the part of teaching where students have to justify their choices. It is part of how I have always taught & it is a part of BHP. Students can pick anything they want as long as they justify it. That is the spirit of my Makey Makey project as well. I picked 8 items that I chose to represent each of the 8 thresholds in BHP. This selection of found objects as well as justification of how they represent each threshold will be a part of my Maker lesson plan for BHP.

Here are some selections of items I used to represent each of the thresholds (the complete threshold with each item is present in the video).

20150530_225419 20150530_215149 20150530_215129

I also used the Soundplant program to create keyboard triggers that would play when someone touched the item. I plan on requiring more elaborate explanations than what you see here.

So here’s a video glimpse of what I came up with


Watch my blog in the coming weeks to track my progress in making this demo into a lesson plan that the BHP community can use and give me any feedback for improving this prototype.

One thought on “Thrifting Thresholds

  1. Ben Rimes says:

    You’re right on with the preconceived notions about the Maker Movement. If anything, it’s a complete throw back to the garage tinkering projects and basement builds of yesteryear before screens and apps were even commonplace in homes. I’m glad you felt the kit was inadequate at first; not the in the sense that you couldn’t handle it, but that it forced you to rely on your wits, and the network around you!


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