Thursday, August 06, 2015

My Tinkering Journal: Week Two

For week two of the Tinkering Fundamentals online course we explored circuits! But even more so, I learned about the importance of exploration and fun. Read on to learn what I accomplished while I played with circuits!

We were first instructed to watch a few videos on the subjects of circuit boards and inspiration. In one of the videos they talked about the Social Element of Space. How can we design a space for tinkering that will engage learners and encourage them to work collaboratively. One concept that caught my attention was the shape of the tables that they used in the videos. They looked something like this:

A table like this serves two purposes. It allows for easier collaboration by drawing learners towards each other, both in the concave spaces on the sides and along the rounded edges. It also prevents the teacher from becoming the center of attention, and instead, forces them to be facilitators around the outside of the space. I found this design most interesting!

Another important concept I picked up on from the videos was the thought behind failure and frustration. As teachers, we need to allow our students to fail and to become frustrated with the task. The reason and thought behind this is that those moments of failure and frustration can sometimes lead to breakthroughs in learning. And as I shared in my last post, FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.

Activity Sharing: Playing w/ Circuits

For this week's activity, we were given a circuits kit that include battery packs, alligator clip wires, a motor, a buzzer, and two types of switches. The goal was to explore the materials and learn the basic concepts of circuitry. Here is my reflection for this activity.

I was really looking forward to playing around these wires, bulbs, switches, and battery packs! And I appreciated having to take off my "teacher cap" and replacing it with my "student cap".

I started out by simply trying to turn on a light bulb.

Then I wanted to add in an on/off switch.

I then became even more adventurous! I wanted to see if I could use the bigger switch and have it turn on the bulb on one side and turn on the buzzer on the other side. It's true when they say that breakthroughs come when you are at your most frustrated. I almost gave up on this challenge, but reorganized my materials and backtracked through my wires to figure it out.


Lastly, I wanted to test out the strength of different types and amounts of batteries. I wanted to put to use the 2x AA battery pack, the 4x AA pack, and the 9V. I tested each to see how bright two bulbs would get and the results were what I expected, in terms of voltage.

Week Two Reflection: How has the Circuits Activity Impacted Your Thinking?

Whenever I help a teacher introduce a new tool, app, or technology to students I always emphasize the importance of PLAY.  I’ve come across too many teachers that have issues with their students being too distracted and unfocused when they introduce them to new tools and materials at the beginning of a lesson. And this is simply because the students weren’t given the opportunity to explore and play with those tools and materials first. Play is a very important phase of the process in learning. When we, as humans, are introduced to something new, our first instinct is to pick it up and examine it. Explore it and figure out how it works. Try and make it do different things. We learn this skill at a very young age and it needs to continue to be fostered. So I always suggest to teachers that they give their students at least 15 minutes to PLAY with something new. You have to allow them the time to handle it, to explore it, to figure it out for themselves, to be inquisitive, and to have fun. Once this has been accomplished, then they are going to wonder what the teacher wants them to do with it, and thus, you’ll have their undivided attention. This idea of play and exploration is really what tinkering is all about, and I definitely enjoyed that about this activity. I was given an assortment of wires, parts, and tools, and really wasn’t told what to do with them. So I had to play with them to figure it out. I started with the simple task of powering a light bulb, and then challenged myself further to include other switches, and buzzers, and motors, and different types of batteries. And through that exploration and challenge I was able to come to some realization of how circuits work. This is how we, as teachers, need to “teach”, or rather mentor and guide our students through the process of investigating and learning. Learning by exploring, and challenging ourselves, and solving problems along the way. This activity helped to solidify the purpose and importance of tinkering in the classroom (and in life!).

Tinkering Journal: My Understanding of Circuits

Another, more complicated, circuit that I created involved using the larger switch to turn on the buzzer when pulled to the left and turn on the light bulb when pulled to the right. This one was quite a challenge for me because it involved a lot of wiring which became very confusing at one point, causing me to connect some of the wires incorrectly and failing at my task. At that point, I decided to backtrack by reorganizing my wires and components, and then starting again. This helped me to refocus and gain better control over the wiring, resulting in a success as demonstrated in my video!

Share with me: Do you do a similar activity with your students? How do you address tinkering and play in the classroom?