Friday, August 27, 2010

Deep tinkering usefully applied

Blended Learning Revisited
John Seely Brown

The idea of tinkering is fascinating! At the Tinkering School, it's founder wanted to create a space for kids to simply figure things out through what our modern society considers dangerous play (but what even my generation considered normal play). I don't necessarily think that play always needs to be dangerous in order to be educative. In essence, the Tinkering School is similar to Montessori's educational model for the preschool ages. Create the opportunities for experiences which cause people to learn through tinkering (or play) that is fueled by curiosity.

For deep tinkering, this model is simply more complex and it is internalised. We learn by doing, testing our thoughts in the real world which is applied philosophy as much as it is engineering, architecture, business, mechanics or social reform. I think the true potential of this approach to education and learning is not only in the creation of knew knowledge by collaboratively deep tinkering our way forward - knowledge such as technological breakthroughs which can often simply be exploited by someone for monetary gain - but in its application to the emphatic building of better communities and societies. In other words, if deep tinkering is the best approach to solving problems, then applying it to social problems such as poverty, environmental degradation and the erosion of community means that we can "play" our way into a better world. Though this is doubtless being done, I don't think it's explicit.

In a book John Seely Brown cowrote - The Power of Pull - the authors develop the ideas of building platforms of knowledge creation. These platforms exist for things such as online gaming and technology development but as far as I know they're lacking in the fields of social development. Theoretically, our government is supposed to be a platform for knowledge creation. Theoretically, our schools are supposed to be platforms for knowledge creation. Theoretically, our workplaces should be platforms for knowledge creations. But the fact of the matter is that they're not. They are rigid and hierarchical. They function on the misconception that elected officials, teachers and bosses are better in some way as those who they're lording over. But this attitude leads us nowhere.

What if our communities collectively created the platforms for interactive knowledge creation which inspire people to deeply tinker on problems relevant to their community?

As far as I know, no mainstream institution is even attempting to do this. In my opinion, the status quo needs to become something which is in constant evolution and in which every single one of us can contribute.