Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Tinker Table

Some of you may have read this post by Clarence Fisher about 'tinkering'. I read it a few weeks back and found it quite inspiring, and so decided to set up a Tinker Table in my classroom, the grand unveiling of which was just last week. What a success!!!

The prospect of being able to take to an old piece of electronic equipment with some screwdrivers, pliers, wirecutters - they were just delighted. At this stage I just have an old TV and stereo and students can use it three at a time, for 10 or 15 minutes before the next rotation have a go. I have been really surprised at who has been interested in it. I had wrongly assumed that it would be something mostly enjoyed by the more physical boys in my class, but I heard a number of "yay!"s from some of the quieter girls as well, in fact, everybody.

No matter who is using it, one thing is consistent, and that is the absolute focus and fascination of the users.  This is something that I observed during their Technology time as well and blogged about a couple of weeks ago

Now, to be sure, what I have set up is what I'd have to call 'crude tinkering' or 'destructive tinkering' in that all they are doing is dismantling the object. It is more focused on curiosity than creativity at this stage. That said, isn't curiosity the mother of creativity? I think this is something that will evolve over time, especially as I hear what others are doing.  

What I'd love to do is get a robotics programme going with my class, or as an extra-curricular activity. Andrew Churches has been blogging a lot about this recently with reference to Lego Robotics here, here and here. It looks fascinating, and after seeing my students at tech and tinkering, I can't think of a single one who wouldn't love this. I'll need to find out more about this, cost, resources, software etc.

My overarching goal is to develop the 'tinkering mentality' and apply it to lots of things - the way they use language, their ideas and how they find new ways of using digital learning tools. Most of what I have learnt about using web 2.0 tools has been by tinkering, and as educators we need to make sure we create the space for this tinkering to happen.

One added spin-off is that it has also become a classroom management tool, because they know that the 'right to tinker' needs to be earned by being on-task with other classroom activities.

Follow the links at Remote Access if you are interested in reading more about this. Highly recommended!


  1. This sounds like it was a great experience for your kids. Glad to hear that tinkering is taking off for you. Congratulations.

  2. Thanks, Clarence. I think there's more tinkering to be done with the Tinker Table, but from what I see so far it'll be a permanent feature of my classroom. Cheers!

  3. What a clever idea - a Tinker Table! When I was 9 I took my new birthday gift, a watch, apart to see what made it tick! For some reason my parents didn't like that. A Tinker Table might just be what a budding inventor needs to get started!

  4. Thanks Karin, I think that's exactly the idea. How will we ever know who these future world changers are unless we give them that initial spark. Teaching is so much about seeing what our learners could be and showing pathways to achieving that.