What is tinkering?
According to The Tinkering Studio, “[Tinkering] is more of a perspective than a vocation. It’s fooling around directly with phenomena, tools, and materials. It’s thinking with your hands and learning through doing. It’s slowing down and getting curious about the mechanics and mysteries of the everyday stuff around you. It’s whimsical, enjoyable, fraught with dead ends, frustrating, and ultimately about inquiry.”
Examples of tinkering projects from The Tinkering Studio:
Bevan, Petrich, and Wilkinson (2014) observed that learning in tinkering presents as engagement, initiative and intentional, social scaffolding, and developing understanding. I have had a few memorable experiences with tinkering in the past; both my Concept Development in Science and Concept Development in Math courses last semester presented many opportunities for tinkering and hands-on learning.
Most recently, in my Children & Technology course, my group was given the challenge to create a marble run! Scaffolding, innovation and intention, engagement and interaction, and developing our understanding were all elements that were present when my group and I were creating our marble run. Our challenge was to create a marble run that would run all the way through the structure we created and come to a contained stop at the end so that the marble wouldn’t fall off the table. We went through several different designs and tried different configurations of materials before we found one that worked; at one point, we even used my cell phone to create the successful run.
We went through several different designs and tried different configurations of materials before we found one that worked; at one point, we even used my cell phone to create the successful run. We were asked to reflect on our process of learning through tinkering and this is what we came up with:
We had to work together and collaborate, share our ideas, come up with creative uses for the materials we had, and make sure that we were giving one and another an equal amount of opportunity and support to test out our individual theories. There was a lot of trial and error and moments of excitement and frustration, but we had fun the whole time!
(Image credits: The Tinkering Studio; me)