Art of Tinkering MOOC – ScribbleBots #TinkeringMOOC

In week three of the Coursera-Exploratorium Art of Tinkering MOOC, I made my first ScribbleBot. A hobby motor, some kind of base, markers, and a battery combine to make visible the motion of a motored object.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

WEEKLY ACTIVITY: Make a few scribbling machines of your own, using our video and Activity Guide [link removed]. Try different materials, personalize your machine, and experiment freely! Then post your photos (and videos!) in this week’s forum [link removed] and tag them #tinkeringmooc on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so they appear on our social media wall. We can’t wait to see all the variations you come up with!

Making the ScribbleBot was very fun and easy – to get started with a first iteration. And the real fun and learning increased when I began to play with the variables of the bot to see what effects the alterations would have. As my sons joined me in my investigation and iterations, they began to make hypotheses about what would happen if they used different materials and designs for the bot.

REFLECTION QUESTION: Based on your experience in the class so far, which learning dimensions and indicators from the framework [link removed] are easy to see, and which are harder to pinpoint or recognize? Share your thoughts in the discussion forum [link removed].

So, I am removing the links from the Coursera weekly prompts because they lead to information behind the Coursera portal. However, the Learning Dimensions tool is Google-able, and there is a nice, short piece about the instrument on Lego Engineering.

During my time in the class so far, I think the following dimensions are easier to see:

  • Engagement – Spending time in Tinkering activities; Displaying motivation or investment through affect or behavior
  • Initiative and Intentionality – Persisting to achieve goals in the problem space
  • Social Scaffolding – Requesting or offering help in solving problems; Inspiring new ideas or approaches; Physically connecting to others’ works
  • Development of Understanding – Expressing a realization through affect or utterances; Offering explanation(s) for a strategy, tool or outcome; Striving to understand

For me, the more challenging dimensions to observe and notice explicitly are:

  • Initiative and Intentionality – Setting one’s own goals; Seeking and responding to feedback (environmental); Taking intellectual risks or showing intellectual courage [unless person is self-talking or sharing aloud among the community of tinkerers]
  • Development of Understanding – Applying knowledge

I actually think it’s fabulous how many of these (which are more fully understood when looking at the “descriptors” on the tool) are directly observable. When the learning dimensions are observable, I think the ability to provide growth-mindset coaching and questioning and encouragement strengthens for the facilitator.

TINKERING JOURNAL PROMPT: Record your response to this week’s reflection question, as well as two or three different responses from the discussion forum in your design journal. In what ways are the responses helpful to your educational practice?

[Posted directly to Coursera discussion.]

And I loved this video lesson from Dr. Edith Ackermann, who I was able to meet at the New York Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference for Assistant Heads, where she and I both presented/facilitated.

“Play is children’s most serious work.”

“Playfulness is a counterpoint to curiosity.”

“Playfulness is about allowing yourself to leap…as if when you knew that when you do that you come to see things anew.”

“In playful environment you feel safe enough to explore ideas that would otherwise be risky.”

Dr. Ackermann’s description of the importance of the eye also significantly resonates with me and all that I am working on relative to curiosity and observation journals…connected with the Tim Brown idea that “Innovation begins with an eye.” That it’s not merely simple trial and error, but it is something more sophisticated, rooted in advanced observation of the eye to gather feedback and apply that learning to enhanced iterations.


On Tuesday, I will open a meeting with division heads and heads of learning and innovation by facilitating creation of ScribbleBots. I plan to come back later to this post and add images/notes from that experience.



Art of Tinkering MOOC – Circuits #TinkeringMOOC (Tinkering Journal Post #1, August 22, 2015.)

Curiosity-Based Learning: Teaching Innovation Through Design #TVRSE15

On Tuesday, June 9, Meghan Cureton and I are facilitating one of the hands-on learning expeditions at the Traverse Conference in Boulder, CO. Actually, we’re offering the session twice – from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Mountain Time)

Our sessions are called “Curiosity-Based Learning: Teaching Innovation Through Design.” You can find our session flow and resource links at, and the Google doc is embedded below, too.

Also, you can find a post on the Traverse Ideas blog that shares some details about the thinking behind the session – “How do we teach ‘the explorers’?”

PROCESS POST: “Observe!” “Explore!” “Question!” as Homework

Last night, when I got home from an evening meeting, my nine-year-old, “PJ,” was incredibly excited. PJ, his younger brother, JT, and a friend of theirs next door had collected flowers during their afternoon playtime.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

PJ described to me, with great detail and enthusiasm, the shapes of the petals, the location of the flowers in the surrounding neighborhood, the apparent similarities and differences among different plants of the same species, the colors of the blooms and the insect activity around the flowers. He explained their exploration strategy, and he told me how they organized the flowers in different ways and searched for examples of flowers that would fill and complete certain categories of their organizational schema.

PJ talked for 12-15 minutes non-stop about the exploration. He had been mesmerized by his discoveries, motivated by his own sense of curiosity and momentary trying-on of amateur botanist.

What if this were “Homework?” And I don’t mean an assignment from a teacher that reads: “Go out in your yard and neighborhood and find flowers. Categorize them by features x, y, and z. Write a report about your discoveries.”

I mean this kind of assignment: “Go. Explore. Observe. Question. Be ready tomorrow to tell us what you discovered!”

Can you imagine the habits of mind that could be nurtured with such structured freedom and invitation to practice the Innovator’s DNA traits (observe, question, experiment, network, and associate) over time?

Some days, I imagine children might return to school the next day without something to report. But they would hear their friends and classmates report, and there would grow this communal “pressure” and encouragement to explore, discover, and bring in stories. Connections and associations would arise. Experiments could be proposed and designed to test hypotheses. Data could be collected. Engineering and design could emerge. Threads of history and lenses of various other disciplines would be woven together in more natural ways.

Your Homework: Go. Explore. Observe. Question.

Discovery or coverage? Where do you trend?

From “The Object of Their Attention,” Shari Tishman, Educational Leadership, February 2008 | Volume 65 | Number 5
Teaching Students to Think, pages 44-46

Many learning theorists believe that learning happens best when people construct new knowledge by actively building on their own ideas and impressions. This constructivist view contrasts with the view that learning is simply a matter of absorbing information.

Where does your leadership and teaching trend? Toward making room for observational construction of understanding, or toward delivering information to be absorbed?

Discovery or coverage?

Lesson Study, Observation 2.0, Algebra I, Jet Plane

Yesterday, I observed the Algebra I team deliver the lesson “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” They invited me to observe – as principal, as well as a pseudo-member of their team (pseudo only because I do not formally teach the course known as Algebra I). This team has engaged in lesson study before.

When I entered the room, I made an instantaneous decision NOT to observe in the manner I usually do. Typically, I take narrative notes, as I was taught to do in graduate school for educational leadership and supervision. In the moment, I decided to take video notes. Using my Flip camera, I recorded short, approximately-fifteen-second clips of classroom action. After I had three or four clips, I uploaded the videos to my MacBook Pro, and moved the videos into a Keynote slide deck. I titled slides based on the “learning progression” stage of the lesson. Then, I repeated this multi-step process several times. At the end of the class, the Algebra I team had a twenty-three-slide deck of video-embedded resources that they could review for their lesson study concerning “Leaning on a Jet Plane.” The deck was readily available because we share a Dropbox as a team.

Below is a PDF version of the deck – so you will not be able to view the videos. However, this Scribd doc will give you a simplified visual of what we now possess to review as a team – full of video. Now, to continue the fabulous professional practice of Lesson Study!