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Back 2 Basics

After many years as a part time teacher, I’ve recently moved to a full time position.

As part of this move I’ve found myself in a very low edtech environment with not a lot of funds allocated to changing that.

As I plan my lessons for the year, I decided to not focus on what’s missing but on what I can do with creativity as my main currency.

I doubt I’m the first to use this, but I’m starting from Scratch. It’s free and works on the sluggish pcs that I’ll have to work with.

Also looking at some cheaper micro PCs as well as the new Raspi Zero is only 5$. Not sure if that is the right tool for us right now, but happy to start thinking about easy entry projects.



I’ve also stock piled some great cardboard….just need the right design challenge.

A Last Minute Collaboration



It is IT: A great project with kids teaching kids programming

This past weekend was the school festival at my main job Tokyo Gakugei University International Secondary School (TGUISS).  The IT club, run by the amazing Soto Yamauchi and his group “It is IT”. Their mantra is ‘of the kids, by the kids, for the kids’ and Soto is the right kid for the job. When he is not donating his time teaching other young students how to program his is busy winning programming contests. I think he is a geniusbut don’t take my word for it, Microsoft thinks so as well!


Soto on the right.


Minecraft workshop


I saw in the festival guide that they were presenting on Minecraft, Scratch and littleBits. I wondered how many littleBits they had and if they wanted to use the Maker Toolset kit; a handsome collection of Bits I must say. They agreed and I began labeling the bits.


They were running Raspberry Pis for the workshop.


Some pretty good art! They were using littleBits to lure people in. That buzzer is hard to ignore.


While labeling, the IT club and I had a good talk about integrating littleBits into TGUISS’s curriculum and making it the first littleBits school. We had some good ideas floating around, like students programming their own e-flashcards in English or using the littleBits in a play for drama or a classroom performance.

We will revisit these ideas when I crash their upcoming club meetings!

More to come on this…


Rube Goldberg or Pitagorasuichi?

This Friday the 11th our third installment of the Maker Toolset after school club at Tokyo International School will begin. The theme is create Rube Goldberg inventions.

Full disclosure: I didn’t know what a Rube Goldberg contraption was until that viral Ok Go! video, actually the TEDx talk that summarized the process.

I was, however, quite familiar with ピタゴラスイッチ (pitagorasuichi) an NHK kids program that includes many short sections and usually including 2 Rube Goldberg contraptions. Its katakana for Pythagoras’ Switch, the math legend who came up with A2+B2=C2, but I don’t know the history and why it’s called that. It was one of the first tv shows I saw when I moved to Japan. It was love at first sight. I’m pretty sure that ピタゴラスイッチ now means RG machine.

What I am looking forward to is connecting the new digital and the analogue. ピタゴラスイッチ will sometimes include some electrical devices…but I haven’t seen any with programming involved. It seems to me that with some programming you could create some more complex and precise movements…really adding to the visual aspect of the RG contraption.

Looking forward to this installment!

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Electronic Arcade Club: A Few Lessons Learned

After wrapping up our first session of the Electronic Arcade Club, two things stick out in my mind.

The first was that having the last session before Game Day as an optional extended period. What a great idea. We saw a lot of progress that day combined with a lot of playing around. Playing around is great, and we don’t want to create a strict environment, but in a 1 hour session, it’s easy to lose a lot of time to play testing.

Second thing, was watching the amount of time each team would spend playing their own game and looking for a link to how it fared on Game Day. The winning team, Candy Inc, was giving away chocolate to players, something that really impressed me as they obviously thought about empathizing with their target audience, but definitely a lesson learned and something to mention next time as we want the games to popular for their own sake’sI mean, who doesn’t love chocolate? The second place team spent a considerable amount of time playing their own game. This either tells us that it was in fact a well designed really fun game, or that all the play testing helped make it better, or both. Win-win.

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