Part of any life-cycle of a typical classroom computer includes several bangs, forced restarts, pencil marks, dents, and eventually death. Usually I’ll spend a week each year talking about pollution and how much waste is created by tossing out old computers, keyboards, and mice that no longer function. This year I’m excited as I found a heap of old keyboard keys in the back of one of my cupboards (leftover from the previous tenant of the room). As I peered down into the sack full of yellowing keys and letters I thought of how best to re-use them, rather than just toss them out. And then it hit me! Scrabble!
I’m quite positive that this idea isn’t a new one, but it just struck me for the first time today as being a pretty effective way of dealing with aging technology (imagine how many students or classrooms would want a set for themselves), and address some state technology benchmarks. Namely, discussing ethical uses of technology with students should include not only using communication tools appropriately, but also how we treat our computers and dispose of them, seeing as they can pose quite the environmental hazard is simply thrown out. Heavy metals, precious metals, and other poisonous substances can be found in computer parts, and being ethical with them means finding ways to reuse and recycle the parts (reduction really isn’t an option if you want to encourage more use of technology).
And now that the educational worthiness speech is done…
Wouldn’t it just be fun to help your students tear apart old keyboards, popping off keys, mixing and matching them to create words? Just arranging the keys in the picture above got the interest of a few students in the lab at the time. They wanted to know if they were going to get a chance to play. Not only would they have a few technology related standards covered, but by using any spreadsheet program (Open Office Calc, Excel, etc.), you could create your own game boards, and have a blast working on spelling and/or language arts goals. It’s times like these when I wish I had my own class, and not the rotating schedule I have now. Perhaps I can convince a few teachers to tear apart some keyboards in the name of Scrabble.
Here’s a quick prototype I made of a scrabble board using Excel. A hint for those wanting to make your own; most keyboard keys will fit in 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch cells.