Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Evaluating Potential Technology for a Makerspace: Cubelets, Little Bits, MaKey MaKey, Raspberry Pi, Sphero

As part of my research for updating my Makerspace for The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, I went straight to a source that I knew had done a large amount of the work for me already: The Robot Test Kitchen. At RTK, a group of librarians have evaluated a wide variety of technology tools that are typically incorporated into library Makerspaces as part of an iLead project. I highly recommend looking through the side and reading each individual post. However, for my purposes I wanted to create a quick comparison chart to help guide conversation and my own decision making. I used in the information from RTK and put it into a quick reference spreadsheet.

See the entire comparison chart with click through links here

I then got a hold of Heather Booth and asked her to rank the technology choices based on the following criteria: small budget, unlimited budget, small groups, big groups, teen ease of use and fun, and librarian skill. For example, I asked her what technology she would recommend for me, a librarian who didn’t have a high comfort level with coding, programming, etc. She then sent the question out to her colleagues at RTK and here are their thoughts.

Heather Booth:

1. Small budget
MaKey MaKey – it’s fun, expandable, reusable, and encourages creativity

2. Unlimited budget
Giant set of LittleBits – unlimited combinations, great support, encourages creativity

3. Small groups
Sphero – because you need a handheld device for each, smaller is better. Pair up & work together.

4. Big groups
This is hard… the nature of it all is that small groups just seem to work better. Maybe if I had to pick, it would be MaKey MaKey because I can imagine a whole room full of kids each paired up and working on creating cool stuff.

5. Teen interest/fun
I think the Sphero wins hands down here, with a big set of Cubelets a close second, but as I’ve said before the allure of Sphero would last longer than Cubelets with teens.

6. Librarians with low tech skills
MaKey Makey or Sphero.
7. Librarians with decent tech skills or willing to experiment more
Arduino/Raspberry Pi. Then I’d ask them to write about what they did for a guest post on RTK so I could learn from them 😉

 

Michelle Kitty:

I agree on the Little Bits being okay for bigger groups. The same with Makey Makey you can get working in groups on bigger projects.
I’d also put little bits for low tech skills. The way things fit together makes them pretty easy.

 

Sharon Hrycewicz:

I would think little bits, if you have enough of them, would be good for big groups.  The projects are endless.

Have you or are you using any of these technologies? Share your thoughts in the comments. Using a different type of tech not discussed here? Let us know what it is and what you think of it in the comments. I’m interesting in hearing what other people think.

 

Here’s some additional information about Raspberry Pis

Here’s some additional information about Little Bits in SLJ

Comments

  1. This is a great breakdown and resource! I wish my school staff had access to stuff like this when i was younger. I hope everyone involved in teaching is reading so much of the stuff I’ve seen on this site. Now to hopefully add your RSS feed to my Feedly ;]

  2. Thenrylms says:

    We have found the Finch robots incredibly easy to use. The work well on my mac and the students K-6 have had no trouble using them with the chromebooks. It would be nice if they were wireless but I’m told they are working on it. Our students are on chromebooks and used the finch extension. There was nothing to download or sign up for. The extension lauches Snap and Scratch. Snap has 4 different levels making it the easiest to use. With the educator discount, they are $89 or you can get them through the annual loan program for free. This is our second year with free class sets. I have also purchased several for schools that didn’t want to rely on getting the loan.

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