This Week in the Classroom: The FunKey Super #MakerED #STEM Review

This fall I have introduced a new tech platform into my practice.  The FunKey  unlocks tons of potential in a classroom.

Do you want a board that reads keystrokes and plays like a MakeyMakey but with at a size and price point for a real classroom?

FunKey does that.

Do you now need a board which takes different sensory inputs and outputs as light, sound or motion?

FunKey does that.

Do you need a board which can help you teach programming?

FunKey does that.

Want a kit that comes with a variety of sensors, so quick and easy to hook up, students can create medical devices in a class period?

FunKey does that.DSC_7606

What doesn’t it do?

Teach.  But that’s what teachers are for.

Let’s set up a few projects with a basic kit and see how we can put it to work in the Maker  classroom!

 

In full disclosure, I received a pair of FunKey Super boards in return for a blog review, but all opinions are my own.  Innovations, on the other hand, those belong to my students.

The Keystroke Mode:

In the Keystroke Mode, the FunKey reads small variations in voltage as keystrokes.  A keystroke reader can connect to the Scratch programming environment (or really, any programming language, including JavaScript and Python) to create musical instruments, game controllers, etc.   Add sensors and things get really interesting.

The Keystroke Mode has some great advantages over the competition.  Large alligator clip leads make it easy to use for makers with fine-motor challenges, such as young makers, inexperienced makers and makers with physical challenges, to utilize the board effectively.  3-pin connectors make this process just a click away.  Inclusive, diverse classrooms and makerspaces need to have a few technology platforms accessible to all.

Here, I’ve loaded the Fun Key Fun Key with a heartbeat sensor to visually represent my heartbeat.

The Programming Mode:

The FunKey Super can also hook up in programming mode.  This automatically opens Blockly, a visual JavaScript language developed by Google on a Chromebook or Mac.  On a windows machine, the programming environment is just a click away.

What really changes the MakerEd game is the FunKey’s ability to read sensors much like a more formal microcontroller (because its brain is an Arduino) with an easily accessible visual language.  This lowers the access point for young maker/programmers.

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The Input/Output Mode

Input/Output Mode doesn’t seem like it would change the game, but it does.  This mode allows the Fun Key Fun Key to operate via battery and be untethered to the computer, like any true microcontroller.  Students have much of the functionality of a plug-and-play device while not being tethered to a computer – which means projects like moving science displays, kinetic sculptures, etc. are within your reach.  Here, I have installed a (very) annoying door buzzer in my classroom.  Now when a student tries to leave or enter, I hear a audio reminder.  It also guards against principals and other administrators.  Ba-boom! (I don’t mean that, administrators who may or a may not read my blog).

In the classroom, my makers check out the FunKey every Genius Hour.  We haven’t unlocked all of it’s potential (but I have a few ideas!) but I think we’ve made a good start.  The FunKey has great potential and a natural growth curve from Keystroke to Input/Output to Programming Mode.  This piece of technology easily bridges the gap between computer-based programming and physical computing.

The best part is the price point.  At $49, the FunKey Super has double the fun at the same price point as its main competitor, the MakeyMakey.  Better yet, if you want the functionality of a MakeyMakey but a better price point, the FunKey Simple punches in at $19.  There’s nothing here not to love.

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