Category Archives: Parenting in the Digital Age

New From Nerdvana

from Twitter

February 18, 2016 at 01:59PM



The 5th grade students are having themselves quite the time in Nerdvana lately.  Thankfully, I am allowed 35-40 minutes each rotation of our 8 day cycle to have some fun with these awesome students.

A few weeks back we started working with MakeyMakey and I can definitely say that all the students were absolutely confused and excited when I handed them the little green box.  The box contained wires, a USB cable, some stickers and the MakeyMakey.  The students had no idea the power they held in their hands.

I presented them with some quick instructions.  A set of 10 Macs were set up and already displaying the MakeyMakey piano website.  I went over the proper connection with the MakeyMakey to the Mac and then conducted a brief tutorial.  The MakeyMakey is basically a keyboard emulator but also so much more!

The lesson: To demonstrate a complete electrical circuit with the students being a part of the circuit.

makey makey

The picture above is what the MakeyMakey looks like.  So with the piano website open on each Mac the students were asked to play the piano using the buttons on the MakeyMakey.  Confusion, pure confusion fell over the entire room..another demonstration was in order.  I proceeded to talk about a circuit and how in this case one hand need to be touching the Earth or Ground Bar on the MakeyMakey and the other hand hitting one of the buttons on the MakeyMakey.  Once that instruction sunk in the room was filled with not so pleasant sounds of piano…however the kids were having a blast.

The next challenge was to play a piano note by giving your partner a high five.  One student’s hand was on the up arrow, the other student’s hand was on the Earth and their other hands giving the high five. The circuit was complete and again the room was filled with not so pleasant sounds of piano…however, the kids were having fun.

I then handed out Play D’oh.  I asked if they thought they could complete a circuit using Play D’oh.  A few thought they could and a few thought that there was no way it could be done.  We had a brief discussion on the word CONDUCTIVE.  Much to their surprise they found out that Play D’oh was CONDUCTIVE.  They also learned that graphite from their pencil, as well as a banana, was CONDUCTIVE.

We had way too much fun at school on this day.  To say that they were blown away by playing a piano with Play D’oh is an understatement.

Click here to see the 5th graders in action.

Preview – Next lesson will be a Scratch introduction, then a combination of MakeyMakey and Scratch and who knows where we will travel next.  Stay tuned.

Photo Credit:


It’s almost June, and when it’s almost June I can’t help but think about summer. When I think about summerI think about how to keep my 6 and 8 year olds engaged and excited and busy.

My wife booked camps, planned exciting day trips and made vacations plans.  Despite that I know that the”I am bored” moments are inevitable.  So how do we  combine the “I am bored” moments with educational opportunities?  I received an email from Tech and Learning recently that addresses this very question!

Here is a list of on-line camps to help with the summer slump:

10 Online Summer Learning Opportunities

  1. Brain Chase – A online five week program for grades 2-8.  This adventure has students working in the subjects of math, reading, writing, and more, while watching animated episodes and solving educational problems.
  2. CK-12 Brain Flex – A free and self-paced online summer program that has students working on the subjects of math and science.
  3. Connections Learning – A nice collection of technology related online courses for math and reading grades K-8.
  4. DimensionU Summer Chill – A fun online competition that has students of all ages working in the subjects math and literacy in DimensionU’s innovative 3D virtual worlds, with the chance to win prizes.
  5. Electric Company – The Electric Company from PBS is offering a six-week multimedia summer learning program that will focus on vocabulary and core math concepts.
  6. GoNoodle (Camp GoNoodle) – A fun and free online program that has students learning through play and other various educational activities.
  7. K5 Learning – A online reading and math program for grades K-5 with real time results and detailed reports.
  8. SpellingCity – A summer program for grades 1-12 for spelling, writing, and vocabulary.  The program is self paced and has over for educational activities.
  9. TenMarks – A free online adaptive program that has students strengthen their math skills while receiving detailed results.
  10. Time4Learning – A fun online program for grades preK-8 in the subjects of math, science, social studies, and language arts.

By David Kapuler

Alex and Joe’s Review of Dash and Dot

Here is a guest post by two 5th Grade students who took home for the weekend Dash and Dot. Enjoy reading!

Alex and Joe’s robot review,
Joe and I loved testing the new robot. The brand new robots worked really well and can do some impressive things. But before we could play with the robots ( Dot and Dash ) we needed to get four apps. Those apps would enable us to use some of the cool accessories that came with. The names of the apps are, Xylo, Go, Blockly, and Path. The app Xylo could make the larger robot named Dash play a mini xylophone that came with the other accessories. The app Go was the basic app where you could drive and make Dash and dot play songs. Dot the smaller robot isn’t able to move but can still make sounds. The app Blockly is a lot like the app Hopscotch. You can program the robots to do lots of things. The last app Path enables you to draw a path with your finger on your device and then make Dash follow the path. Both the robots will bring a lot of
laughter and good times. What will you make them do?

Presentation Tools for iPad

Recently, I have been working with an older web application called EDShelf to curate some items for our iPad users here at University School of Milwaukee. Immediately, the first thing that comes to mind is how to think differently when using iPad to present ideas. So what I have done is gone ahead and put together an EdShelf with interesting apps for presenting. Some of these apps may not appear to be presentation apps but I encourage you to also think differently and see how you or your students (or children) can adapt these apps into a presentation!

Here is the link to my first EdShelf.
Tom Mussoline’s Very First EdShelf – I Know I Am Late To The Game!

As always, please add to the list if you have other “different” ideas and feel free to add a comment below.

Have You Been Nerdy Or Nice?

Have you been Nerdy or Nice?… I hope you have been a bit of both, but if you have been lacking in the nerdy department, I have some suggestions for you!

Below is a list (that I have checked twice) that will help you find your inner Nerd!  Please keep in mind that this is not a definitive list and if you find other items, please leave a comment with your suggestion.


1.  GoldieBlox










2.  LittleBits – Snap Your Ideas To Life





3.  MakeyMakey – An Invention Kit for Everyone






4.  Arduino








5.  Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi









6.  Lego Mindstorms









7.  Ollie – The app-controlled robot driven by adrenaline.








8.  Sphero – The app-controlled ball that does it all.








9.  Cricut 












10.  Kano









11.  Sewing Machines








12.  Play-i Robot – Bo and Yana will help your child learn to program.


Magazines and Books

1.  Make Magazine


2.  The Art of Tinkering

the art of tinkering












3.  Maker Dad

maker dad











4.  Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation

 Making Makers



Hopscotch – A great iPad app that is free and teaches the basics of coding with a very user friendly interface.

Game Press

Game Press – Free – Create and design your own video game. 


CargoBot – Another free app that is extremely fun to play.  My daughter and I lost some serious time figuring out some of the challenges posed by this app.  I saw her wheels turing (and smoke coming out of her ears at times) when faced with a challenge.


Codea – CargoBot was completely created using this app.  Who said creation and creativity dies on an iPad?


Kodable Pro

Kodable – This app is intended for children of 5 years old and up.  It is a great introduction to programming.  A first step before hopping on over to Hopscotch.  It teaches programing, sequencing, loops and functions.


Daisy The Dinosaur – Like Kodable but with a Dinosaur and it is free.


AppCraft – Another app maker similar to Codea but this is free.

Amazing Alex

Amazing Alex – Rube Goldberg for your iPad.  This is a free app until you complete all of the challenges then you would need to shell out a buck to keep on playing.

Thanks for reading and as always, please post a comment, question or suggestion!

Or better yet, stop in Nerdvana to see what is going on in the Middle School.

Thank you!

Tom Mussoline



Holly Explains Makey Makey – Tech Writers – Part 2

As part of our Media Production course here at USM, I asked my students to critique a website, a application on their Mac, an app that they used on their smartphone or a piece of hardware.

Below is our second submission. Holly did a great job explaining and showcasing Makey Makey. I am very proud of the writing part of this submission.

I would love to give my students some authentic feedback from an authentic audience. Please be so kind to add a comment and remember, if you have nothing nice to say…

Here is a video tutorial of Makey Makey made by Holly.


Makey Makey

Makey Makey is a really neat technological tool because just by connecting a couple of wires to it, and to a computer, it becomes a whole controller at the tip of your fingers (literally).

The materials that come in Makey Makey are: the main control panel, a USB cord that connects from the control panel to any computer and seven different colored wires with alligator clips at both ends that connect to the Makey Makey control panel and any other object.

The Makey Makey control panel includes an up arrow, a down arrow, a right side arrow, a left side arrow, click, and space. With these controls you can do many things.

The small side of the USB cord will go into the Makey Makey on the top. The other bigger side of the USB will be put in either side of your computer. The Makey Makey will flash green and then a pop-up will appear on your computer telling you that a new network has been detected; however, this window is not needed, and you can just press cancel.

Then you are going to want to take the 7 colored wires and hook one up (it doesn’t matter what color) to the Makey Makey, where it says “earth”. Once you have that finished, you are going to want to add as many wires (with clamps) onto the other open spaces on the control panel, so for example the up arrow or the down arrow.

What I did was just connect them all to the other open spaces, leaving the original wire clamped to “earth”. After that is completed, you are going to pick up the wire that has one end connected to “earth” and hold the other end in the tips of your fingers.

Then grab another wire with a clamp (doesn’t matter which one) and touch the top. If you have a word document open, for example, you will see that touching the clamps connected to the control panel will make these actions happen in your document. If you touch the space button, it will create a space.

You can also connect the wires with a clamp to a piece of tin-foil, and you can draw arrows on the tin-foil. Then you can connect the arrow wires to the same arrows on the tin-foil and play a game like that. The arrows on the tin foil will activate a character to make the moves in the game. You can also connect Makey Makey to a music system and create music. Or you could connect the wires to bananas wrapped in tin foil! And make music with bananas! How cool!

Makey Makey is a great way to make learning fun! A quote from the creators says, “We believe that everyone is creative, inventive, and imaginative. We believe that everyone can create the future and change the world. So we have dedicated our lives to making easy-to-use invention kits.” I like this quote about Makey Makey because it explains it so well! Makey Makey is a great way also to become creative, inventive, and imaginative! Makey Makey is explained with those words because you have the opportunity to create something amazing with wires and your fingers! You can make a step piano, banana band, and so much more!

I was really lucky to work with Makey Makey and figure out how to assemble it, create music, and I got to show other people. I would highly suggest getting Makey Makey because it makes learning and creating fun even thought it already is!

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