Saturday, June 29, 2013

Session 9 Activity #2 Toys From Trash

 Option 1: Explore physical+digital tinkering with MaKey MaKey (if you have one).
 Option 2: Try out some of the examples from Arvind Gupta (such as spinning toys). 
 Option 3: Try out some of the activities from the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium.

A few days ago I wrote about option 1. You can find it here

As the short video shows, Mr. Gupta believes that simple toys can teach us a lot about the natural world. In the process of building and creating simple projects and trinkets, people interact and play with all types of phenomena. Scroll through his website, it is uncanny what he does with so little. It is a testament to the ingenuity of the human mind and our inherent proclivity for imaginative activity.

After watching the talk, I thought this would be something I could share with my students. I gave them one class period to scan through the projects with team members. On the first day they could simply explore and be excited. At the end of the day, they would have to make a decision as to what they would try to build the following day. They would communicate with their team to make sure they brought the necessary supplies. It was interesting to see teams go back and forth. It was fascinating to see the interplay between members who thought they could do anything and the ones who were afraid to fail or do things that looked complex or complicated. I also witnessed a lot of people get started right away. Even if they did not have all the supplies, they looked around the classroom for substitutes or were willing to improvise. I believe this was due to high levels of autonomy and intrinsic motivation. Also, when students saw the word "toy" in the talk they attacked the problem differently. Although some were building complex machines, they were playing and tinkering. They were relaxed.

The following day I saw much of the same. I saw high levels of success, innovation, and tinkering. Even when groups finished one project, they were unafraid to add to their toy or try something new. A few groups forgot supplies, but they were surprisingly content with finding a new toy or looking for alternative supplies. A few members got frustrated by the lack of success. I tried to stay on the sidelines and let them work through it. I wanted them to deal with the frustration as a natural part of the learning. All the groups were able to overcome the obstacles and either finish a toy or start something new. This was very telling to me. As long as students are motivated and see value in the activity they are very willing to right the ship. I believe so much was learned in this activity, much of it went beyond content.  I played more the observer than anything else. The students were self-regulated and owned it themselves. This is the most effective and highest level of learning. In the pictures below, you can see some of our creations. The sprinkers and flexagons proved to be most popular.

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