Tinkering Towards Educon

I’ll be heading to Philadelphia later this month for the Educon conference. This is a terrific small conference held at the Science Leadership Academy about education and change. Educon is famous for having “conversations” not “presentations.” This means that the wisdom of the crowd gets shared as we explore one topic in depth.

This year I’m leading a conversation on Tinkering Towards Technology Fluency

Conversation Description: Tinkering is a time-honored educational practice, focusing on a learner exploring a subject or problem without clear goals or time constraints, using objects or tools at hand, driven by passion and curiosity. Seymour Papert used the word, “bricolage” to describe a way to solve problems by trying things out, testing, playing, and trying again. This stands in direct contract to the way we teach students to use analytical methods (such as the scientific method) to solve problems. Current digital tools would seem to support this method of learning, with the rapid ability to build first drafts and easy to use editing tools. When mistakes and prototypes were expensive and time consuming, it certainly made sense to carefully plan your attack on a problem. However, this is no longer the case. In industry, the methodology of production planning has been revolutionized by rapid design tools. Accepted practices of design and planning have completely changed over the past 25 years, with linear “waterfall” planning completely replaced by new “spiral” design methodologies, especially in the design of digital products.

Beginning questions for the conversation are:  How can tinkering influence our understanding of technology literacy as a set of skills to be mastered? How might this influence classroom practice when teaching analytical problem solving in any subject? How can tinkering fit in today’s structured classroom environment? How does a teacher maintain a schedule and series of learning objectives that result in learning, not just fooling around? Is anything a student does tinkering? What role does judgement and content knowledge play in tinkering?

If you are considering attending Educon, I hope you join the conversation!

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Sylvia

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