Episode 22 – Rethinking Tinkering with Gary Stager

This is a recording of keynote address Dr. Gary Stager delivered at the EduFab Foundation's Educators Summit in January 2024. Thank you to the foundation for your generous consent to cross-post the recording. Learn more at https://www.edufab.org/educators-summit

Rethinking Tinkering
In our book, Invent To Learnwe sought to reclaim tinkering and correct the popular perception that it was synonymous with careless futzing about. Tinkering, we argued was inspired by the possibility of materials, allowing learners to develop important skills and develop powerful ideas while intimately engaged in sophisticated projects. The maker movement promised to herald an exciting renaissance of such bricolage, often in the name of STEM, since new tools, materials, and technology would allow learners of all ages to make things with both bits and atoms.

Fifteen years later, schools really seem to have embraced cutting up cardboard, but have sadly left the bits behind again. This session is a plea to refocus our attention on the secret sauce of making and fabrication, computation. Programming computers – making things with code or making things powered by code – transforms classroom arts and crafts (not that there’s anything wrong with that) into a powerful intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression. This session will explore models of computationally-rich projects, developmentally appropriate activities, and effective prompt setting.

Presenter Bio
In addition to being a popular keynote speaker at some of the world’s most prestigious education conferences, Dr. Stager is co-author of Invent To Learn – Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, called the “bible of the maker movement in schools,” by Larry Magid of CBS and The San Jose Mercury News. Invent To Learn has been translated into nine languages. Dr. Stager’s most recent book is Twenty Things to Do with a Computer Forward 50: Future Visions of Education Inspired by Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon’s Seminal Work.

An elementary teacher by training, he has taught students from preschool through doctoral studies. In 1990, Dr. Stager led professional development in the world’s first laptop schools and played a major role in the early days of online education. Gary is the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute for educators.


  • An appreciation of what students may do and learn through computing. The realization that I can program and so can my students.
  • Ideas for supercharging maker projects with computing.
  • Effective prompt setting for projects made with bits and atoms.

Learn more about learning through making, tinkering, and engineering at Constructing Modern Knowledge.

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