EDET 677: Week 2 Reflection

This week made me think about my past teaching practices and how they have changed through time. My first teaching job, in a rural Alaska high school, so no tinkering or hard play in the regular classroom setting. I was very rigid in my beliefs of what a classroom should look like and rarely deviated from them. As I have added years of experience, I have also added more play, but I know that I will always have a ways to go before my students are getting the best education they could from me. There is always room for improvement, which leads me to believe I operate with a growth mindset.

I thought that Jeff’s blog post was really well written, tying his personal struggles to those of his students. I wrote the following comment on his blog:


This post was so nicely composed. I had a really great visual of the whole process of you practicing your trailer-backing skills with your colleague beside you, trying to assist, but not being able to offer much aside from positive support. The way you tied your own struggle at learning a new task to the struggle our students face every day was brilliant. We can’t get in their heads and just “give” them that knowledge. They have to want to learn what we are presenting. So, as presenters, we need to first foster that drive to acquire more knowledge, present it in a way that it is accessible, and then be the supporting cheerleader on the sidelines, encouraging our students to keep trying, to work through the struggles to reach the end goal. They are the ones doing the hard work.

Ending your post with the story of the broken starter rope was perfect. Just because you had managed to get your boat in the water, didn’t mean that was the end of the struggle. Learning never ends, and when our students understand that, they push themselves harder. Or sometimes they go to a nice sunny beach!

Hope you get your boat in the water soon!

On Genevieve’s blog I wrote, “Tinkering is the way that real science happens in all its messy glory,” is a great quote. As a science teacher, I have seen no greater learning than when kids discover things on their own. Usually this comes with a bit of guidance, but when students are given too much direction, they stop relying on their own intuition curiosity, and instead simply wait for the teacher to do the work for them, where no true learning happens. Our society needs thinkers and creative geniuses, and tinkering helps develop these skills!”

I can’t wait to see what insight this next week brings!

EDET 677: Week 2 – What is the Link Between “Tinkering,” “Hard Play,” and “The Growth Mindset”?

Tinkering: a mindset – a playful way to approach and solve problems through direct experience, experimentations, and discovery (Mindset Works, 2012).

Hard Play: play through which interest is sparked and perseverance is gained; Dr. Spock points out that “A child loves his play, not because it is easy, but because it is hard” (Martinez & Stager 2013).

Growth Mindset: a mindset which thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities (Martinez & Stager, 2013).

When students tinker, they try new things. They stretch their capacity to understand something through successes and failures. The informal atmosphere in which tinker takes place tends to make it a lower-stress environment for most students to learn. Often students tinker without purpose, but rarely do students tinker without coming away with new knowledge.

Hard play is tinkering, but with more of a purpose. Students work to solve problems, but do it through the process of play. As Fred Rogers said, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” One of my favorite quotes about play is:

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” -Leo F. Buscaglia

So, how does growth mindset relate to tinkering and hard play? When students tinker and play, they make mistakes, often failing to complete tasks a first, second, or third time. What makes the environment unique is its capacity to keep students engaged and actively searching for the correct answer, even after many failed attempts. Papova states, “At the heart of what makes the “growth mindset” so winsome, Dweck found, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Its hallmark is the conviction that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice. Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.”

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.” – Carol Dweck


Martinez, S. L. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Mindset Works. (2012). Why the Growth Mindset. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from https://www.mindsetworks.com/webnav/whatismindset.aspx

Popova, M. (2014). Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives. Retrieved May 26, 2016, from https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/ 

EDET 677: Reflection Week 1

This week was filled with some insightful moments for me concerning constructionism.

  • The fidgety, pencil-tapping, chair-tipping, hand-banging ‘disruptive’ kid of today would have been the tinkerer of yesterday, building and inventing to keep himself or herself occupied.
  • Making is more than I thought it was. Before this, I simply pictured electronics, but now I see a wide array of things that are made, from woodworking to cooking to sewing. This is a very exciting discovery for me, because I feel that it opens so many more doors for engaging students.
  • I engage in constructionism in my personal life in ways I didn’t know. I purposefully engage in making for enjoyment by quilting and trying complicated recipes. I also engage in making out of necessity when I build bookcases to fit a particular space in our home.

Through Josie’s blog, I was introduced to a school I was unfamiliar with, Chugach Optional in Anchorage, which uses making at the center of its curriculum model. I found the concept very interesting and would love to explore how it compares to a model like Brightworks Academy.

On Catherine’s blog, I wrote, “I like how you said, ‘I think overall it brings an old theory, Constructivism, to the forefront again with technology being its main vessel.’ I want to add to this, because I believe that when this method was being used as a model of education long ago, “modern technology” was also incorporated, but when we look back, we often don’t consider what we see then to be technology because it is such a part of our everyday lives. This topic has really gotten my brain thinking!” Sometimes I fail to think of technology as the things that have changed over time, not just the computers, but Catherine’s post made me think about this in terms of the past and the present.

EDET 677: Week 1: Constructionism

Essential Question: Do you believe Constructionism brings any new ideas to the table as a theory of education? Why or Why not? 


“Many children are held back in their learning because they have a model of learning in which you have either ‘got it’ or ‘got it wrong.’ But when you program a computer you almost never get it right the first time. Learning to be a master programmer is learning to become highly skilled at isolating and correcting bugs … The question to ask about the program is not whether it is right or wrong, but if it is fixable. If this way of looking at intellectual products were generalized to how the larger culture thinks about knowledge and its acquisition we might all be less intimidated by our fears of ‘being wrong.’”

-Seymour Papert

Constructionism advocates student-centered, discovery learning where students use information they already know to acquire more knowledge (Alesandrini and Larson, 2002). Constructionism use skills of old, such as tinkering and building, matched with technology of new, to create a learning experience which is meaningful and relevant to today’s learners. As explained by its inventor, Seymour Papert, “Constructionist learning involves students drawing their own conclusions through creative experimentation and the making of social objects. The constructionist teacher takes on a mediational role rather than adopting an instructional role. Teaching “at” students is replaced by assisting them to understand—and help one another to understand—problems in a hands-on way” (Papert and Harel, 1991).

I’ll admit that I am a bit of a tinkerer myself. More often than not, my tinkering and making come from moments of necessity. Growing up poor and subsequently living in rural Alaska have helped provided lots of those opportunities. I usually don’t jump into these situation with full abandon, but after some hesitation I have been known to tear down and rebuilt vacuums, replace toilets, rewire light fixtures, replace fuel pumps, change out a radiator, replace a breaker box, refinish a hardwood floor, modify cabinetry, and build bookcases.

I wish I could say I learned these skills while in school. Most I either learned from my dad, a master tinkerer if there ever was one, or on my own. But what I wouldn’t have given to have been allowed the freedom to explore through tinkering and making, alongside reading and writing and math. I remember vividly the day two boys in my fourth grade class tested out the principles of electricity while our teacher read his newspaper at his desk. With two wires, an electrical outlet, and a ball of clay, those boys learned that electricity can be painful and also make clay explode. They, too, could have benefited from a great Makerspace in the classroom!

While I don’t necessarily believe constructionism brings anything new to the theory of education, I do believe that it can bring back vital parts of the system which are missing. Those parts are the ones which make learning make sense for so many students. They are the parts which bring the facts, concepts, and ideas of standards and give them a place to rest, a real connection to student lives. When soldering, prototyping, programming, and inventing return to the lives of children, remarkable projects result (Martinez and Stager, 2013).

Alesandrini, K. & Larson, L. (2002). Teachers bridge to constructivism. The Clearing House, 119-121.

Martinez, Sylvia Libow & Gary Stager. (2013) Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Torrance,CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press

Papert, S. & Harel, I. (1991). Situating Constructionism. Constructionism, Ablex Publishing Corporation: 193-206. Retrieved fromhttp://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html