Are you trying to develop an EdTech Brand? I meet people all the time who are trying to create a brand that they can both speak and write from, and I thought it might be helpful to some to write my story with "Big Guy in a Bow Tie." I am no expert in branding, and I think there are some better experts in EdTech out there, but I have made some good and bad decisions along the way that lessons can be taken from.
How did Big Guy in a Bow Tie Start? Well, I think it started with me getting the speaking bug. I went to my first ISTE in 2011, and I just thought folks like Adam Bellow and Leslie Fisher were incredible. I wanted to be like them so, in 2012, I applied to GAETC as a presenter for the first time. I started with a 60 apps in 60 minutes presentation (I still do an updated version of it today), and the presentation went over great. I did try and print out resource sheets though, and soon after that conference, I thought it was time to start my website.
With my presentation being a 60 apps in 60 minutes presentation, I thought "Ed Tech Speed Dating" would be good and memorable. I got the domain name, and I started the build. Around the same time, I also started building my PLN with my Twitter account, but I used "ld112265" which I would later come to know wasn't a great tag. It all was a start, but it just wasn't good enough to make a difference. That would come later.
Fast forward to GAETC in 2014, and my friend Heather Cox gave me the kick to start "Big Guy in a Bow Tie." I had been speaking for a while, but I still had that crappy Twitter tag. After the conference, she had the guts to come up to me and tell me my Twitter sucked. As I sat there, I thought "Yes, Yes it does." I started to think of what could be unique, and I recently picked up wearing bow ties, so why not combine my large size with a bow tie. I shared what I was thinking with Heather and Stephanee Stephens, and their reaction made me feel I hit on something. Big Guy in a Bow Tie was born. It brings me to my first lesson.
Making is natural to human nature. It's also an excellent way for kids to learn. Kids can build almost anything for content all while learning problem solving, engineering, and creativity skills that are unmatched when come to preparing our kids for the future. Making should be a part of every class, but unfortunately, we just aren't there yet. Many teachers only see it as having too many pain points but aren't pain point part of everything teachers do? Let's do what's best for kids, instead of what's best for us
One of the pain points that has come painfully obvious in the last few years is the lack of budgets. There are so many great robots, boards, and other electronics out there, but they all cost money. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of those tools, but not everyone has the funding to truly make them work. What most don't think about is that you can still be a great making out of just the everyday things that are laying around. Below you will find my five favorite tech projects that just need some creativity and some everyday items to make things awesome.
1. The Caine's Arcade Challenge
If you have not seen the Caine's Arcade video, you really should. It can be found HERE. This a video we had been using for several years as maker inspiration when I was at KSU iTeach, and it all the sudden hit me that this should be something we actually do. It helped that I was prepping for a 75 kid maker camp, and I needed activities.
The basic premise of the challenge is to create an arcade game out of cardboard. I have seen some incredibly creative ones over the years including golf (that used an old coat rack as a club), air hockey, and all kinds of rollerball games. It teaches all sorts of problem-solving, design, and math skills. It also takes a ton of creativity to do. If you really wanted to drill down to content all you would have to do is make the games about content concepts.
2. The Homeless Shoe Challenge
One of the things making is great for is making for service. I genuinely believe that one of the unintended consequences of our testing culture is that we have lost a focus on empathy, character, and service. If education held those principles the highest, this world would have a lot fewer problems.
One of the ways you could teach your kids this is by having them design a shoe for the homeless. It does not have to be something that is instantly ready for production, and it can be done out of just straight craft materials. The goal is to study an inherent problem in our society and come up with a solution. It's a tremendous problem-solving challenge, and there are all kinds of skills that go into the actual design.
3. The Tin Foil Boat Challenge
Sometimes old ones are still good ones. I love the tin foil challenge because of how easy and accessible it is, but it does create a bit of a mess because it also involves water. The value is there though.
The concept is super simple. You get a big bucket of water, and you have the kids design boats that hold coins out of aluminum foil. The vessel that contains the most coins wins. It teaches some tremendous problem-solving, engineering, and math skills
4. Anything with Pipe Cleaners
Sometimes the most basic craft tool gives you infinite possibilities, and really pipe cleaners can be the basis or part of multiple other projects. There is almost nothing better to craft characters simply. With that storytelling, possibilities open up.
One of my favorite projects to do with them is just to have kids create animals. They can twist and combine them to come up with something creative, and you can extend that project by adding eyes and lights. You could then take those animals (or other characters) and make them into a pretty compelling story. That storytelling can be included in almost any content.
5. Marble Run Challenge
This is another one that is super simple, but it just brings creativity out in droves. Do you remember those old tiny metal ball games where you had to move the plastic to different angles to get the ball in the hole? This is just that. You are just doing them with arts and craft supplies and paper plates.
The whole idea is to use things like construction paper, pipe cleaners, and toilet paper rolls to make a maze and obstacles that a marble has to get through to reach a goal. These can be as simple as a kid would want, but they can also be pretty complicated. One of my favorites was two levels. The student cut a hole in the paper plate and added stuff underneath it to make it work.