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Teaching by Tinkering: Creative Learning in Classrooms

Explore and create
Pre-registration required

Explore and create : Workshop

Saturday, June 22, 12:30–3:30 pm
Location: Room 117

Alisha Collins  
What is a maker culture and how can you bring it into your classroom? How can you use hands-on activities to teach problem-solving while sparking student curiosity and creativity? Join us to tinker, explore and create a vision for how you and your students can learn almost anything.

Audience: Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty, Principals/head teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Maker activities and programs
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM, Science
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.
  • Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

This workshop intends to encourage participants to be playful, creative and fearless tinkering with high and low tech materials and designing meaningful projects. We believe that making is not about tools and spaces but about how you engage with them. We believe that teachers are curators of creativity in their classrooms – you don’t just teach the tools but also help children develop a vision for their work, and themselves. Creativity, in our view, is an attitude; a way in which people, no matter what age, interact with the world.

Participants will explore:
What is a maker culture, and how can educators bring it into their classroom?
How can educators use hands-on activities to teach problem-solving and tech skills while sparking student curiosity and creativity?
Are there affordable ways to do this? How can educators build a bridge between creative making and the curriculum they need to cover?

The presenter will introduce participants practices to cultivate creative learning by combining innovative forms of storytelling and new forms of making with novel technologies. By sharing examples of the artifacts and stories made by children, she will highlight pedagogical practices emerging from the intersection of the sciences, engineering, esthetics, design, and storytelling (SEEDS) for engaging children in creating impactful and personally meaningful projects. Reflecting on her own teaching explorations with students, she will share ten design principles for developing creative learning environments, experiences, and tools that broaden and deepen children's engagement with new technologies.

Learning Goals:

(1) Creating opportunities for children to express themselves in meaningful ways with new technologies.

(2) Transforming classrooms into creative maker spaces where children can identify their creative self, develop a compelling vision, pursue a passion, and create an impact that matters in their world.

(3) Designing original learning experiences with new materials and technologies to support novel means of creative inquiry and expression.

Over the past two years, Alisha Panjwani-Collins has facilitated The Teaching by Tinkering workshops a number of times, refining the facilitation content and style. Previous workshops engaged hundreds of educators, curriculum developers, and Graduate students from all backgrounds in the United States and Canada in exploring creative and meaningful learning in diverse contexts. These workshops have been well received by the participants. Our post workshops surveys reflected that the participants appreciated the hands-on approaches to creative learning by using simple and accessible materials. They explicitly stated that they valued the Educators as Designers Part the most where they ideated ways to facilitate the workshop content and approaches with their students to help them gain creative confidence with new skills/technologies.

The workshop content is based on the presenter’s Masters Thesis at the MIT Media Lab
From storytelling to story making : children creating stories with tangible computational media. (, her first book ,Start Making!: A Guide to Engaging Young People in Maker Activities by maker media (, and her current ongoing research at the SEEDS (Science, Engineering, Esthetics, Design, and Storytelling) StudioLab ( at the Acera the Massachusetts School of Science Creativity and Leadership (


30 mins | Maker Cafe
Get hands-on while you eat and greet. Make creative DIY things at different stations.
-Computational Cookies: Designing and printing edible computational cookies with Scratch
-Enchanted Electronics: Making DIY projects with circuits.
-Illuminating Inflatables: Making creatures with Balloons
-Magnetic Name Tags: Craftifying your name tag

15 mins | Welcome and Introductions |
45 mins | Educators as Learners: Hands-on Workshop |
Designing for Play: Hacked Toys
Have you ever wondered what’s inside an electronic toy? The tiny circuits inside connecting lights, switches, sensors, buzzers and motors can open new pathways for creative exploration. Give these toys and a screwdriver to students, and you will be surprised to see them engaged in open investigation and experimentation with electronics. Join us in this creative exploration where you can tinker with electronics and smart materials, and make personal projects to express yourself in novel ways. We will design and craft an interactive project by hacking an electronic toy and crafting with low-cost, low threshold, everyday materials.

10 mins | Demo and Display
Show and Share your hands-on projects setting up quick and easy display Open Gallery style

10 mins |Break | With Exhibition Tour
Join us for a silent Exhibition Tour. Share your creative projects and admire artifacts designed by your peers, providing specific feedback on post-it notes. (Star and a Wish)

15 mins | From Experience to Frameworks I: Reflection & Discussion |
-What drives creative learning?
-Rewind Activity (Guided visualization style)
-Individual Reflection
-Collective Discussion: Sharing out, reflecting, discussing together

15 mins | From Experience to Frameworks II: Theories and Stories
(Mini-Lecture style presentation highlighting the following topics)
-Creative Learning (4Ps)
-Participatory Narrative Inquiry
-Design Practices
-Creative Vision for transforming classrooms into maker-spaces

30 mins | Educators as Designers: Bridges to Curriculum |
-How to take making into your classroom.
-Individual Reflection: What did they do? What did they learn (2 column notes)
-Curriculum Theme Bubbles Exercise: What are certain curriculum themes that you are planning to pursue in your classroom (weeks, year)
-Connect curriculum bubbles to 2 column notes: How will I apply what I learned to my curriculum? (Idea Cheat sheet provided)
-Curriculum Guidelines/ Standard Review

10 mins | Idea Sharing & Closure |

Supporting research

Research and Publications by the presenter:
Alisha Panjwani Danielle Martin
Publisher: Maker Media, Inc; 1 edition (April 21, 2016)

-Constructing Meaning: Designing Powerful Story-Making Explorations for Children to Express with Tangible Computational Media
Published in Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children
Pages 358-364

-From storytelling to story making : children creating stories with tangible computational media
(Unpublished Dissertation)
Publisher: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Date Issued: 2015

-Sensors and Vulnerabilities: Using Design Thinking in Education to Create Tools for Community Empowerment
(Unpublished Dissertation)
Publisher: Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology
Date Issued: 2010

Other Relevant Research Publications:
-Bruner, J. (2003). Making stories: Law, literature, life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

-Gauntlett, D. (2011). Making is connecting: The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press.

-Weber, R.J. (2001). The created self: Reinventing body, persona, and spirit. New York City: W. W. Norton & Company

-Papert, S & Harel I. (1991) Preface, Situating Constructionism, in Harel & S. Papert (Eds), Constructionism, Research reports and essays, 1985-1990 (p. 1), Norwood NJ.

-Kurtz, C. (2014). Working with Stories in Your Community Or Organization. Kurtz Fernhout Publishing

-Bers, M. U. (1999) Narrative Construction Kits: “Who am I? Who are you? What are we?”. American Association for Artificial Intelligence

-Buechley, L., Qiu, K., and de Boer, Sonja. (2013) Sew electric: a collection of DIY projects that combine fabric, electronics, and programming., Cambridge, HLT Press

-Gauntlett, D. (2007) Creative Explorations: New approaches to identities and audiences., Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge

-Duckworth, E. (2001) Tell Me More: Listening to Learners Explain., New York, NY: Teachers College Press

-Resnick, M. (2013), All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten, Proceedings of the 2013 Interaction Design and Children (IDC) Conference. New York.

-Schon, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.

-Schon, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

-Minsky, M. (2006). The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster

More [+]


Alisha Collins, Acera School

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