Oct 31st 2016

Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning (Coursera)

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The Tinkering Fundamentals course will offer educators and enthusiasts an opportunity to develop a practice of tinkering and making. We see tinkering as a serious endeavor -- one that is generalizable across content and especially good at interweaving disciplines in a way that leads to complex projects and individualized learning opportunities.

Tinkering has recently been introduced into the educational field as a potential driver of creativity, excitement, and innovation in science learning. It is seen by many as an effective means to engage in exploring STEM concepts, practices and phenomena. Tinkering typically blends the high and low tech tools of science along with a strong aesthetic dimension that supports children’s (and adults) self expression.

For over a decade, the Exploratorium has been developing science-rich tinkering activities for both children and adults. We see tinkering as a fun yet serious endeavor—spanning many disciplines and content areas and fostering connections between art, science, and technology. Learners follow their own path to understanding by investigating tools and materials and exploring questions that interest them. This opens up a wide range of possible answers rather than any “right” one, particularly for teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects in the classroom. This course centers on circuit-related activities, which offer a wealth of opportunities for thinking through making.

In this course, we won’t just show you how we develop tinkering activities; we’ll also delve into why. We’ll focus on three important aspects: activity design around specific materials, facilitation strategies, and environmental organization. We’ll also share some guiding principles and learning indicators we’ve developed that can help you integrate tinkering into your elementary and middle-school science program. Whether you’re new to making or a seasoned tinkerer, we hope this course will help you take the next step!