Wednesday, 18 November 2015

ELP - Learning Story Conference

I recently attended a workshop facilitated by Gavin Kerr called Tales from the Tinker Shop.  Gavin explained his journey into Tinkering with children.   Greerton Early Childcare Centre have embraced the philosophical way teaching and learning through the experience of tinkering and by following this link you can read a Learning Story that Gavin wrote which I think started his thinking about children's tinkering. Gavin has supported the children to tinker with machinery such as sewing machines.  The children take these apart and maybe put things back together but never in the same way.  What I loved about the workshop was that Gavin said that through tinkering their is no true knower.  The teacher and the children are all learners together as they explore the many parts of the machinery.Gavin quotes Guy Claxton who (1) talks about children being born “predisposed to learn, with a built in range of amplifiers that kick in in the early stages of development.” He notes: “as soon as they can crawl, [children] go looking for trouble, and they develop a useful set of basic tests that encourage new objects... to reveal their properties” (Claxton, 2014).

This idea of tinkering which the Free Dictionary describes as: "To make unskilled or experimental efforts at repair; fiddle"  fits so well with the idea of children creating their own problems and solutions.  Also it reminds me of the whakatauki that says,  "Ta te tamariki tana mahi wawahi tahaa, It is the job of the children to smash the calabash." I think this might be what Guy Claxton is talking about when he said that children want objects to reveal their properties. It was a truly inspirational workshop that discussed not just tinkering but the ways in which teams work thoughtfully together to create a vibrant learning space for children and teachers.

I don't think that teachers can move into creating a tinkering environment of this kind without some wonderful conversations that will stretch their practice.   Tinkering requires time and space for children to become deeply engaged in what they are doing.  Tinkering also creates mess - what are teacher's view on mess?  Tinkering put teachers into uncomfortable places where they are no longer the knower - how does that feel?  What can we as teachers learn from these experiences when we don't have all the answers? Do these experiences help us to empathise and understand children's perspective who may feel disempowered by those around them?

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