Having Fun Hacking Notebooks

WMWP Paper Circuitry

We had a blast yesterday as our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute took part in Hack Your Notebook Day. I was the facilitator of our WMWP session but the educators in our institute were the Makers, and Make they did. Using paper circuitry, they illuminated poems, short prose, scientific ideas and even more with LED sticker lights, conductive copper tape and a round watch battery to give their writing power.

At the end of the two hour session, I asked them to move into a reflective stage. How,  I wondered, might this kind of notebook hacking — with paper circuitry — be valuable in the classroom setting? While I had explained the concept of “taking back our notebooks” — where notebooks again become a place of invention and risk and creativity — there remains the question of, How could this translate into a learning experience connected to curriculum? (beyond the teaching of circuits)

Some of their thoughts (Note: the Summer Institute teachers represent a wide range of grades and content areas):

  • Use with English as Second Language students to engage them in the playful act of writing, as a means of self-discovery;
  • In history class, during a unit on the Industrial Revolution, add paper circuitry to traditional poster reports, perhaps even representing the shift from gas lights to electrical lights;
  • In science, use the lights to show the flow of (well, choose your topic here but we talked about) nerve pulses, and connect with poetry that explain the process;
  • Use for content-area vocabulary, where students are presented with specific words, and those words get “lit up” in the illustrated sentence that they write;
  • For advanced student writers, reflect afterwards on the ascetics of the writing when using paper circuitry, such as how does the use of circuits impact the writing itself (brevity, placement, use of specific words, etc.)
  • Many saw the possibilities of creating a timeline project, where the lights represent important elements of the timeline itself (there were questions about how to connect multiple timelines together);
  • Creating a cultural heritage map, where students’ family origins are “pinned” with light to the world map itself, giving a visual representation of cultures.

I like all those ideas, and it showed a thoughtful approach to the work we did yesterday, if you can call it work. It was more like play, and we had that moment where the very last piece lit up (after some minor repairs and reconfiguring) and knew we had achieved success on Hack Your Notebook Day.

Peace (in the hack),

  1. Tres cool. Looks like you all had a great time. No one nearby doing this around me. Makes me realize how students without access feel. Need to figure out ways for all to get a chance to hack their notebooks into electronic circuits.

    • Yeah and cost is prohibitive for the classroom right now. I suspect this might be more for “clubs” for now (unless grant money is available) and that always bothers me — that access issue. But, things start somewhere … plenty of the teachers I worked with were interested in doing more with their students after our session.

  2. What am I missing? Can’t everything that teachers listed here be done more efficiently, in more connected ways, leading to deeper learning computers?

    • Perhaps that is true, but I think doing hands-on work off the computers can have value, too. Or do you not agree, Paul? It seems to me that there needs to be more of a mix of how we get at what we are learning. I do think that we are just at the start of this paper circuitry curve, so some of the reflective ideas is shoe-horning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *