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Thursday, 02 June 2016 12:21

The importance of tinkering in the classroom

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Our current education system like many others around the world leaves very little time for thinking and learning through experience. We instill a paradigm on our students that success is only something which is measured by summative assessments, by certificates you achieve and how well you did in your last test. Without diminishing the importance of such achievements the reality of the situation is that said achievements show specialist skills and should not be implemented in core or stem abilities.

 

Our current education system like many others around the world leaves very little time for thinking and learning through experience. We instill a paradigm on our students that success is only something which is measured by summative assessments, by certificates you achieve and how well you did in your last test. Without diminishing the importance of such achievements the reality of the situation is that said achievements show specialist skills and should not be implemented in core or stem abilities.

 

This is leading to several problems in our youth especially the lack of knowledge that every project and every situation can (and most of the times will) go awry, but that is just part of the learning experience. To debug, or see where the problem is caused, analyzing why it went wrong, coming up with a form of corrective action and giving it another go is a concept which our system hides in plain view.

 

Tinkering is a popular term for what we traditionally know as learning through trial and error, learning for the sake of learning and not being aimed at some futuristic goal which boggles young minds as to the relevance in that existing state. We old-timers had it easier to tinker when we were younger, all we needed is a screwdriver and parents which don’t fret when they see you dismantling your new mazinga doll to just see “how do they get the fist to actually shoot”. Nowadays this is close to impossible with toys and gadgets leaving the mechanical aspect in the sands of time and ever moving towards the “sealed” digital electronic state. However this does not mean that such an opportunity is lost.

 

The New Maker Education Initiative, backed by a range of organizations including Intel and Pixar, has just launched its first project called Maker Corps.  There are initiatives like the Make2Learn which aims to “leverage DIY culture, digital practices, and educational research to advocate for placing making, creating, and designing at the core of educational practice”. Makers and Teachers united. Tinkering or making is also being proven to be an efficient way of increasing interest in STEM subjects. Making is about realizing that you can be a creator instead of just a consumer. At its best, making allows kids to follow their own interests and passions and create something that is uniquely theirs, while applying the knowledge that they are gathering in all aspects of their life.

Free websites such as instructables.com have tens of thousands of projects readily available to be “made” and the maker community in general is built on the idea of sharing knowledge. Teachers are finding it very easy to adopt a maker feel to any subject as long as they have the support from their school administration. Having said this, it brings us back to square one, the local mentality of exams, certificates and measurable progression, which make it extremely hard for the teachers to have time for these crucial activities.

 

Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we realize that we are destroying our human capital and the attractiveness of education because our society has changed but we lack the foresight or adaptability to make the big decisions.

 

The best education is the one you give yourself.

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About The Author.

I have been working in the IT and Technology industry for more than 20 years. Most of my work experience is international, i have worked with clients in the US, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, South and North Africa. I have two Master's Degrees one in Computer Science and the other in Management of Information Systems (Knowledge Management), i am Prince2 Certified as well as an Adobe Certified Expert and Microsoft Certified Professional. At the moment I work with the Ministry for Education and Employment in Malta. I am currently reading for two PhD's one in Education and one in Computer Science.

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