Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tinkering and Traditional Learning

At this moment, I am working on a new book about make in the middle school classroom while my personal middle schooler sits beside me working on science.

One of the things I'm writing about is the idea of tinkering in the formal learning space of school and hacking the idea of traditional school.

The boy's assignment is about as traditional as you can get.  He is to read the section in his Science text book and answer the questions at the end.  Sigh.

However,  he and I have been talking as he reads about what he's reading.  The section is about diffraction, refraction and reflection of waves.  Waving our hands around and drawing pictures, we've been playing with the ideas and trying them out.  Tinkering.  Trying, failing, making a mess with our drawings, and trying again.  Someone walking into our workspace would see traditional school, but if that person were to observe for a moment, they would see authentic learning through trying out and trying on.

The key, I'm thinking, is the reflection on what we were doing.  How learning was happening (and make no mistake, I was learning too as I am no expert on waves).  How tinkering is learning and how that is a natural process that learners use.  

Reading and answering questions is not authentic learning for sure, but tinkering with the information to figure it out and figure out the answers to the questions - the process that happens underneath that very traditional assignment is.  So my question and what I want to keep thinking about - how do we value that tinkering?  How do we pull it out into the light and make it THE thing that we are pointing to accessing rather than the answers to the questions?