Imagery and research

Tinkering and education?

(crossposted from

Go on Youtube and watch John Seely Browns - Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Learner in the 21st Century -video.  Then write a blog post on on how YOU would apply tinkering in your learning. No set length, use as many or little words as you need. Title your post "JSB - YOUR NAME" The video can be found at

I was really impressed by the talk. Thank you for bringing it into my attention. Bringing knowing, playing and making together. This is something I underwrite in my own life. It has been my philosophy – at least as far as more hands-on-knowledge is concerned. But I still haven’t though of it as a parallel philosophy that could be brought into learning.

When I began to learn golf, I had to learn how to take apart, fix and tinker with the golf club. So I regrip my own clubs. I’ve shortened a putter that was a tad too long. I’ve grinded a little bit off a sand wedge that had too much bounce for my taste.

When I began to learn photography, I had to learn how the devices function. So I took apart a lens to see how it works. I had a compact camera with a broken shutter button. I didn’t want to discard it so I tore it into pieces, and put in a new shutter button for the eBay cost of $5. And then I took apart a flash. And I soldered a new controller board inside the flash to upgrade some of its functionality. Once you get to play, build, and learn with iPhone parts, you finally get very good at repairing them, I can attest.

In all, it is very easy for me to understand the logic behind this talk. In order to REALLY comprehend – to OWN – a topic, you need to be able to play around it.

You could say the same can happen in more conceptual issues as well. Like quantitative analysis. Structural equation modeling (SEM) is based on difficult mathematics, at least so difficult that I never understood it. But I still had to learn using it as a statistical tool. Which you can do, using the statistical programs, which do the math part for you. But it is a tinkerer analyst’s dream, so to speak. SEM lets you play with the data. It lets you turn the data into a pipeline, or a system of gates and paths, and play with it, to see what it turns into.

I haven’t had the joy to teach any of the above subjects, but I still feel strongly that enabling tinkering; play, making, and knowing, would be very beneficial in my teaching (which are mostly business studies). I suppose it is what we are piloting in one of our game based platforms right now. The LOL game allows for the students to enter a virtual exchange world, where their ideas are the currency.

A game based business platform lets students build a “company”, or a collection of assets. It lets them play with ideas, solutions, and alternative ways of solving problems. It allows for gathering knowledge, both for classic marketing topics, but also, and probably more importantly, for gathering tacit knowledge about problem solving. Like Mr. Brown talks, the tacit meta knowledge, the knowledge about how to solve problems, is more important and more permanent that the static knowledge about the solutions to a given problem.

In the end, I would like to give my students the same feeling in their business studies that I have with electronics. Even if what they first thought doesn’t work out, I want them to feel in control. I want them to think, “hey, no worries, let me play with this for a while, until I can get it to work”. Which brings back to mind (sidetracking here), that I should write a blog post about my repair of a failed Apple Time Capsule. It now works like a charm, although de-soldering the original power supply and replacing it with an external Chinese import Cisco power adaptor did take more time than I expected.

While tinkering is what I have always believed in, it isn’t something that I have knowingly put into my teaching. This is where I want to go in deeper.

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