Tinkering: A Marble Run Experience

According to Tishman (2013), tinkering is a cognitively distinct mode of learning. It encompasses many symptoms or traits such as experimentation, fiddling around, love of process, purposefulness, inventiveness, playfulness. Tinkerers will also exhibit curiosity, engagement, focus, perseverance, thinking-through-doing, pleasure in process, interest-driven skill development, a hacking mindset, functional flexibility, disciplinary boundary-crossing, rapid prototyping, and learning from failure (Tishman, 2013). However, the main two components of tinkering are having pleasure in personalization and a collaborative mindset (Tishman, 2013). According to Exploratorium (2015), tinkering looks like playing, envisioning, making, and exploring materials through trying something over and over again. Through tinkering, playing, and exploring “learners [are able to] experience and interact … with the world” (Siemens, 2014).

In class, my group and I did our own version of “tinkering” by creating a marble run with various loose parts. Our marble run took many different forms until we found the final form and made sure it worked. We tried out many different techniques, adding in unconventional materials such as a phone for the marble to bounce off of and a coffee cup for it roll into at the end. There was a lot of experimentation and inventiveness to see what would work and what didn’t work. We were also very engaged in the process of creating our marble run because not only was it interest-driven, but it was also playful.  As a group, we worked together in collaboration to personally design the way the marble will flow. As we tried out the marble run, we realized it’s setbacks. This is a common occurrence in tinkering. The manipulation of the materials and what you learn about their properties is the purpose of “tinkering”.

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This experience made me feel like I was a child again. I guess in order to have children become content creators, we as educators need to provide them with a variety of material and an open ended activity. The creativity and the learning resulting from tinkering are endless because learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions (Siemens, 2014). I believe tinkering should be widely adopted in classrooms because even though it is interest based and fun, it is a drive for learning, curiosity, and engagement. (Word Count: 365)



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