Computational Tinkering: A Playful Approach to Creating With Code

Location: Room Grand Hyatt Travis C/D

Explore and create Preregistration and additional fee required.

Registration code: WM328

Fee: $59 (After May 1, $63)
[Explore and create : Workshop]

Tuesday, June 27, 2:30–4:00 pm
Location: Room Grand Hyatt Travis C/D

mike petrich   Mitchel Resnick   Natalie Rusk   Karen Wilkinson  
When Seymour Papert introduced the phrase "computational thinking," he described how children learn powerful ideas through making personally meaningful projects. In this session, we'll tinker with computational thinking and highlight Papert's innovative approach to learning and teaching. Join us to explore new activities that bridge physical and digital tinkering.

Fee: $59 (After May 1, $63)
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Constructivist learning/maker movement
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: Teachers : Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity
Students : Innovative designer
Students : Computational thinker

Digital tote resources

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in making and coding. Across the country, in formal as well as informal settings, educational organizations are providing young people with more opportunities to make and code. But many of these initiatives are not living up to the full educational potential of making and coding. Too often, these initiatives lead young people through step-by-step instruction for learning particular technical skills, while not providing them with opportunities to engage in the types of project-based, interest-driven, collaborative activities that support the deepest learning experiences and appeal to the broadest range of learners.

In this playful, hands-on session, we will present a new generation of technologies, strategies, and activities that bring together making and coding in ways that engage children's interests while also engaging them with powerful ideas. The session will introduce and offer participants experience with an approach that we call “computational tinkering,” in which learners playfully and iteratively design, create, experiment, and explore with a combination of physical and digital materials. We will also highlight the four learning dimensions supported by a tinkering approach, including: (1) engagement, (2) initiative, (3) social scaffolding, and (4) development of understanding (


CONTENT AND ACTIVITIES: We'll introduce four activities that spark students' learning through tinkering that span physical and digital worlds: (1) creating art machines with LEGO WeDo and Scratch; (2) programming colorful light and shadow displays using Scratch extensions, (3) designing paper circuits using Scratch with Arduinos; (4) coding watercolor paintings using BeetleBlocks and a WaterColorBot. We will then present the educational philosophy behind this approach, and discuss with participants ways that they can apply these ideas in their own learning environments.

TIME: The session will be divided into three parts. Part I: Demos and exploration (30 minutes); Part II: Background and approach (30 minutes); Part III: Question and discussion (30 minutes).

PROCESS: We will start by inviting participants to explore and experience the four activity stations. We will then ask participants to reflect on their experience, and discuss the ideas behind "computational tinkering." We’ll wrap-up with a discussion of how participants could apply a computational tinkering approach to engage diverse learners in their schools and communities.

Supporting research

This session highlights recent research and development by the Exploratorium in collaboration with the Lifelong Kindergarten MIT Media Lab. It builds on research that investigates how children develop understanding through tinkering (e.g., Bevan, Gutwill, Petrich, & Wilkinson, 2015). It also builds on field studies that have documented how use of Scratch can support students' development of computational thinking and other skills (e.g., Armoni et al., 2015; Calao et al, 2015; Ke, 2014; Rizvi et al., 2012). The session brings together the educational approach presented in the MIT Media Lab's course "Learning Creative Learning" with those presented in the Exploratorium's course for educators called "Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning". (See and )



mike petrich, Exploratorium

Mitchel Resnick, MIT Media Lab

Natalie Rusk, MIT Media Lab

Karen Wilkinson, Exploratorium

learning starts here

San Antonio

June 25-28, 2017

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