"Tinkering is a uniquely human activity, combining social and creative forces that encompass play and learning." -- Sylvia Martinez, Tinkering and Technology
Tinkering is often associated with engineering, electronics, and programming. (Think Arduino, and if you haven't yet watched Sylvia's Super-Awesome Maker Show, don't wait any longer!). And while I love tearing apart broken stuff and can hold my own with the crafty-type, I am more of the daydreaming, doodling type. So I was struggling with how tinkering relates to my learning style.
But when I really started thinking about it, I couldn't stop seeing how tinkering is inherent in almost every creative endeavor! Doodling is tinkering with shapes and visual expression. Daydreaming is tinkering with new approaches to the millions of ideas running around in your brain. Now that I've thought about it, here are some of my favorite ways to incporate tinkering in your creative process.
Drawing with vector art tools
This may just be a shameless way to excuse my incessant need to play with the vector drawing tools in Frames, but drawing with vector tools really REQUIRES tinkering!
The more I draw with vector tools, the less and less I try to get it right on the first attempt. I usually just scatter a bunch of nodes in approximately the correct place and them move the node and adjust the curve to make it work. If you are new to drawing this way, watch this "Frames 5 Character Creation" video (it is Frames 5, but 6 works the same way).
In the spring of 2009, Dr. Henry Olds (with Dr. Walter Drew) contributed an article to Creative Educator magazine on Iconic Pattern Play, a process he was using with young students that combined play with recycled materials to form patterns and then extending the pattern play process on the computer with Pixie.
The process celebrates an affirms the power of play, and as Dr. Olds so eloquently describes, "Attention to possibilities leads to intention for possibilities, which equals creativity." Intention for possibilities... sounds like a great definition of tinkering to me!
I really got hooked on this process after watching Dr. Olds present on Pattern Play with Pixie at an edtech conference. You can use these basic instructions to get started on your own creative pattern play.
The Editing Process - Beyond Fixing Grammar
For those of you who write for publication (blogging or otherwise) know, getting ideas down on paper for a first attempt gets you only about 20% of the way through the process. If I am in the zone when I am editing, my changes will transform my first thoughts into something almost wholly different.
Transformations are fun and rewarding (albeit a lot of work), but editing? So many times I see students view editing as fixing grammar and mechanics mistakes, not playing with word choice, order, and voice. But if you approach the editing process as a session in tinkering, we make it a fun and playful process full of possibility, not drudgery.
Not, did I put in all the grammar, but how does word choice affect my reader? What if I considered the perspective of ____ when writing this section?
Hmmm. Tinkering might be a great approach for writing in general. We already tinker with other peoples ideas when a group of students has fun writing circle stories. A currently hit is Gregory McGuire's Wicked, which is the result of tinkering with perspective in The Wizard of Oz. Because most forms of poetry minimize language, poetry is tinkering with words.
The more I write, the easier it is to see how tinkering promotes and supports creativity and creative endeavors. How do you use tinkering to build creativity? Please share your comments!
PS - Here is a great list tinkering resources from Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez.