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Tinkering with Technology and Play

Technology and Play

The Tinkering Studio is part of a collaborative project with educators from around the world focusing on the intersections of technology and play. One of our partners is Right to Play in Rwanda, an international non-profit organization that empowers children through the power of play. It’s wonderful to meet new collaborators, especially ones with a robust tinkering practice themselves. Early on in the project, team members shared what tinkering looks like with kids they work with and shared the following documentation:

A child made a face mask using a basket weaving technique.

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This child made an excavator after being inspired by one at a construction site.

Finding inspiration from the world around them and making objects of personal significance are key indicators of a tinkering practice. With a shared love and appreciation for tinkering, we started our collaboration by hosting a tinkering experience for the Right to Play team that we developed during the pandemic. We love to start any new relationship with a hands-on experience to embody what tinkering looks like in a shared experience that we can all reference and reflect on.


 

Sharing a Tinkering Experience

We sat down with the Right to Play team (virtually) to get to know one another through a tinkering experience. We spent 90 minutes together making Shadow Remix drawings and reflecting on the educational and creative possibilities of the experience.

Engage as Learners

After introducing the activity, we created shadows and shared our creations on Padlet. Our conversations flowed between sharing over video, text, and images. One wonderful moment was when Franklin shared this shadow he created (center) and how he made it (left) and made the following remark.

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Franklin used a pen and a wall plug to make his shadow.

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He noted that his shadow looked like a building.

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A remix of Franklin’s shadow into a magical castle.

“At first, I thought it was complicated. But when others presented what they had done and that it was simple, I saw I just had to grab something around me to explore.” – Franklin Gakuba Murangira

Franklin noted that the activity felt simpler once he started working with the physical materials, which aligns with how we think about designing for tinkering experiences. Our work centers around this belief and we design our tinkering experiences to be evocative and invite learner’s questions.

 

Engage as Educators

It is part of our tinkering practice to reflect together on our experience as learners, to discuss what we noticed, and how the experience connects to our education practice. During our reflection, David shared that his exploration allowed for an opportunity for his daughter to share her own interpretation of a shadow. She walked by while he was making his shadow and shared her interpretation with him.

“I think it’s a good way to start conversation about something they know. You can develop conversation that is not necessarily pre-planned but something that can help people to talk about. When they visualize something in the shadow, that means they have a prior knowledge about it. So it can start conversation about what they know, what they think, and what they’d like to share.” – David Rugaaju

One of the big ideas behind designing for “tinkerablility” is to create opportunities for storytelling and for learners to bring their own experience into the exploration. David said that when learners are inspired by materials or an activity, they tend to connect that experience to their interests and prior knowledge. Educators can then build on that prior knowledge by asking questions and letting the learner follow their interests.


 

Next Steps

After our initial workshop, we’re left with lingering questions. How does tinkering support personally meaningful explorations and align with what individuals bring to the table? Can learners develop their own motivations by re-engaging with a theme or topic (ex: light and shadow)? We look forward to digging into this question further with the Right to Play team, both with longer interactions with kids over weeks as well as in limited or one-time experiences. 

 


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