Analog Creation Art in ELA Conferences Creativity David Theriault EdCamp engagement MakerSpace No WiFi Pedagogy Teaching Tools

Why every teacher, TOSA, presenter, and parent needs an analog maker kit

I love eating out, but eating out with a kid has its drawbacks. They grab forks and knives. They grab water glasses. They drop food. They kick the table. They get bored. They cry. I understand why. They aren’t in their natural environment. They don’t have a backyard to run around in. They don’t have a roomful of toys.

Expecting a kid to sit in their chair quietly while adults eat and talk for an hour is like expecting people to be happy in their seats while they watch a tech guru struggle to present without WiFi or the Internet.


But as every teacher knows, as every parent knows, you have to be ready for the unexpected. That’s why my son never had a problem at a restaurant. Everyone would compliment our son on how well behaved he was, but it wasn’t just his temperament, it was my wife’s preparation.

Every time we left the house she brought: multiple books, paper, markers, (water-based of course), snacks, water, quiet toys, and usually something my son had never seen before. Her backpack was like a portable, analog maker-space for kids. Whenever I would see kids going crazy at another table I congratulated myself for hitching my future with such a smart and ever-prepared woman. And this doesn’t just happen at home. You should see her transitional kindergarten room. It looks like a MakerSpace workshop, only there’s very little technology, but plenty of hands-on learning: a reading nook, a writing workshop, an art area, a house area, a table bin filled with salt crystals that looks like snow- I wish I could visit every day. Best of all she never has to worry if the internet is down, or the WiFi is spotty, because her room is built on a foundation of ever-ready analog making.

You too can be always ready if you just carry an analog maker kit in your backpack or cart. You can hold a conference session when the WiFi won’t work, you can take your learning outside, you can make sure that even learners without smart phones can share the same learning experience: educational equity is always important.

So what does an analog maker kit look like? Well it can look a little like this:

Analog Maker Box Complete Theriault

So what’s inside? Well here are just a few things you can put inside:

Maker Kit Tweet

Luckily my friend Sean Ziebarth made this list look SO much better with a little Paper53 magic.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.31.47 PM

I would also add: Expo whiteboard markers, colored card stock, blank copy paper, chalk, sidewalk chalk, wooden blocks, PlayDoh, a stapler, a long-throw stapler etc… you can add more, it just depends on where you are going and what you think you might want to do. Here is what the case looks like when you open it.

Maker Box Contents Theriault

and as you can see it fits perfectly in your backpack, or crate.

Fits In Backpack Theriault

So what can you do with an analog maker kit? Probably hundreds of things, but here are just a few ideas.

app smashing 2

Steam Wall

A S.T.E.A.M wall of ideas

One Pager

A one page response to literature, a reading, a concept.

Noticing Activity

A noticing wall created with an Expo marker after taking a noticing walk.

Building Community In The Classroom Whiteboard and Expo Markers

Or use that Expo marker to share new ways to create community in the classroom.

Lawler Why I Write

Index cards or post-its could create a #whyIwrite/teach etc.. wall. Or create another type of prompt or challenge. This one was created by one of my fellow FVHS teachers- Ms. Lawler. She put it in the hallway at school so everyone could share in the activity. She’s awesome.

Below are some pictures from an activity that we did at the Tomorrow’s Teachers Conference. These are high school students who are considering a career in teaching. I ran the entire session from a single analog maker box.

New Teacher 1st

New Teacher 2

New Teacher

We were talking about what scares the things we are scared of

Blackout Poem

You could bring in a reading and then have your audience/students create a blackout poem. I think this would inspire more than a word cloud.

Cut Your Postits into shapes Theriault

What if you analog maker box contained Post-its that were in a certain shape, like a heart? Or you had a box full of fish and created a school of fish on a wall?

What if instead of people taking notes in class or at your session you had them create a fanzine? You might want to show up with some images already cut out of magazines for people to mix and match.

Fanzine 2

Heck, you could even have some images already photocopies on some blank paper so people could riff and create something new.

Fanzine CUE 15 Theriault

What if you did some Cintascotching?

Fall Cue

What if you brought some mini tubs of PlayDoh in your maker box so people could create a response to something?

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 10.54.58 PM

Did I mention some unusual candy? Something that makes people feel young again?

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 11.00.48 PM

It seems to resonate.

Pop Rocks Thinking

Brain and Fun Fuel

FINAL NOTE: While writing my Master’s Thesis oh so many years ago I remember a study on what bothered students the most about tech in the classroom. Their number one complaint was “watching their teacher struggle to fix or make tech work, when it wasn’t working.” Students and conference goers deserve better than that. If you start your lesson or session with an analog creation and conversation, the electronic sharing or re/mixing can always take place later. Time is precious, don’t cancel a class or session just because tech isn’t working. I love what technology can support and allow, but part of the innovation and technology mindset is finding solutions. I like carrying my solution in my backpack… like a good Boy Scout, or parent.

So what are you going to include in your analog maker box? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. This is brilliant AND so very useful! Not only do you provide great ideas, examples and lots of encouragement, you remind us all of how much more we are capable of, given the space and opportunity to let loose and create. Thanks! Preparing my kit now for a great family weekend!

  2. I really liked so many of the ideas in this post, and I certainly have used an analog kit over the years with my own kids/Sunday school kids/classroom. I think I’m moving partly to some kind of balance, because of my concerns with our environmentally unsustainable over-use of paper. This is creating a big hmmmm moment for me. There’s a place for both, and finding the balance is my search right now. A friend and I joke about the “bilingual” classroom (I teach french) being one with a multitude of ways to express your ideas – both analog and digital.

    1. bilingual, bimodal, bimedium… just as they say someone who is bilingual has two souls, perhaps those of us who use analog/digital have two minds. Thanks for leaving your thoughts.

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