Tinkering or trying things out can be play based, exploration when learning about something. It also provides a basis for making and exploring, often through trial and improvement. This list of resources provides a handy guide for teachers who would like to use tinkering as a basis for children's learning in computing. It also includes curriculum linked tinkering activities using Scratch and Kodu and ideas for using tinkering in D&T and engineering projects.
Links and Resources
A Barefoot Computing introductory programming activity for lower-primary children learning computing. Using the iPad app Scratch Jr, children are given the opportunity to develop skills by tinkering with existing programs as well as creating their own. Children might be offered the chance to tinker with other basic visual languages to broaden their experience. The teaching notes link to the Barefoot Computing concept cards, which cover themes of computational thinking.
This activity involves tinkering within the Scratch environment - initially using existing Scratch projects then moving on to the creation of new projects. Some directions to steer learning are included, as well as some questioning tips. The programming takes place within the online version of Scratch - no downloads are necessary.
For lower-primary children with some understanding of algorithms, this Barefoot Computing activity uses a basic robot (BeeBot) to show how algorithms are executed as stored programs on digital devices. Simple sequences of instructions are given to the BeeBot to 'write' numbers. These algorithms are represented by sequences of arrows, mirroring the instructions available on the BeeBot keypad, and can be tested using 'fakebots' (paper robots).
A wide range of Scratch commands and tools are used, for tinkering and for working towards specific outcomes in this activity where children create an animation of a Viking raid A Scratch file is provided for the children to build on, containing several sprites related to Vikings. A short example animation is also included, which is used in discussion of correct sequencing and movement. The task reinforces the use of co-ordinate systems and timing, and requires consideration of audience and production quality.
This activity introduces children to the Kodu games programming environment through tinkering. They are asked to experiment with an existing game code, and also to start from a blank screen. Guided questioning is used to ensure the tinkering is purposeful. The children are asked to share what they have found out and to evaluate their approach. Assessment opportunities are included, as are tips for differentiation. Teacher notes explain the approach taken to learning by tinkering.