Saturday, January 26, 2013

Letting Go

November 2012

One of the things I am enjoying most about my lunchtime Makerspace is the freedom that comes from exploration and playing with materials. One of the phrases I say a lot in both my classes or in my after school program, is "I don't know, let's try it and see what happens." An unfortunate consequence of the typical schooling that the majority of kids have received through the years is a fear of attempting something where the results are an unknown. In the Makerspace environment, freed from the confines and weight of the classroom agenda, I have been watching students take naturally to exploration. Which really shouldn't be a surprise.

I have been purchasing parts and supplies in small batches and some of the parts I had on hand at first were battery packs and small 1.5v motors. After working on soldering the switches and wires and battery packs for the glow bottles, a couple of students started exploring connecting switches, motors, and battery packs just to see what happens (but mostly because 6th and 7th grade boys like to make things move!)

So now there were new toys for the students to explore with, a spinning motor became a "drill" that was able to create patterns in a lump of conductive dough that had been left on the table. Then there were unintended results, soldering the wires from the battery pack directly to the motor makes for some very hot batteries and no way to turn it off.

So the result of "letting go" and allowing the students to tinker and play with these parts is where the learning takes place. Switches are something you might want to consider when designing a circuit, why do the batteries over heat when they are attached and then continually running the 1.5v motor, how can you measure the current that is flowing from one part to another and why is that important to be able to do sometimes, what are resisters and how might they be used.

We are planning to put the motors to use in some Beetle Bots this week, the rest of the parts arrive this week. I am looking forward to that.

To Tinker or To Not Tinker?

At this summer's Scratch Conference a recurring theme came up in many conversations and presentations, what does it mean to tinker? There was some debate as to whether tinkering always leads to anything tangible or if tinkering itself is what is important.

Here are some notes and thoughts from some of the conversations.

Mitch Resnick defines tinkering as "bottom-up, iterative, experimental, concrete, and object-oriented."

Adults defining tinkering, how do students define it?

Do we pay too much attention to outcomes with our students?
Does it have to always be about the finished product?

If a project is never completed is it a bad project?

Creating a space with freedom and away from the constrictions of the curriculum and the classroom.

These are also the thoughts that I have had when I decided that I needed to create a MakerSpace for my students this fall.