A Journey Through Technology

Week 2: What is the link between “tinkering”, “hard play”, and the “growth mindset”?

on May 25, 2017

This week is again focused on constructionism, the theory of learning that is focused on “constructing a meaningful product.” (Papert, 1986, quoted in Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 815) We are now looking more in depth at “tinkering”, “hard play”, and the “growth mindset”, and how these concepts are linked together. “Tinkering is a mindset – a playful way to approach and solve problems through direct experience, experimentation, and discovery.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 839) Tinkering encourages students to approach problems in ways other than the traditional models. (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 954) To me this is a less rigid approach that gives students the freedom to solve problems in a way that makes sense to them, even if it isn’t the “right” way to their teacher. But what does tinkering have to do with play?

“When students play, it unleashes their creative side in a way no other activity can.” (Play and Education2017)  If a student is going to take a different approach to solving a problem, creativity will most likely be a large part of that approach. “Play is not a frivolous waste of time. When children are deeply involved in play, they are learning.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 980) Play can be one way that students begin to tinker, as the results of their play may lead them down a new path to problem solving.

The last point of discussion for this week is the “growth mindset.” Growth mindset refers to “the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed.” (The Growth Mindset, 2015) This means that the more effort you put in, the better you can become. So often students get caught up in their failures, convinced that they have no hope of succeeding. Growth mindset helps them see that they can succeed if they only keep at it. This week I’m attending some professional development offered at my district, and my presenter explained growth mindset as, “I can’t do it…yet.” He had heard this from another teacher at a different training, and I think it does a good job of summing up growth mindset.

After looking at each of the concepts this week, I think the link between them is that you can’t have one without the others. Having a growth mindset seems like it would be a necessity in being able to both play and tinker. When kids play, they are practicing their tinkering skills. The nature of tinkering is to keep on trying to find something that works, which is the basis of the growth mindset.


Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, And Engineering In The Classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.

Play and Education|Lansing Christian School. (2017). Lansing Christian School. Retrieved 25 May 2017, from http://www.lansingchristianschool.org/work-hard-play-hard-5-reasons-play-essential-childs-education/

The Growth Mindset – What is Growth Mindset – Mindset Works. (2015). Mindsetworks.com. Retrieved 25 May 2017, from https://www.mindsetworks.com/Science/Default

4 responses to “Week 2: What is the link between “tinkering”, “hard play”, and the “growth mindset”?

  1. “I can’t do it…yet.”…I’ve never heard the growth mindset explained that way before. I have always tried to stated things in a positive way when I work with students. Words like can’t, won’t, don’t are negative words and are part of the fixed mindset. Therefore… in the growth mindset we should say ” I can do it if I…” or “I will be able to if I…”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah K says:

      I like the idea of saying “I can do it if I…” instead of “I can’t do it…yet” It’s easy to gravitate towards the negative terms and I can see how that is part of the fixed mindset because I hear students say “I can’t” way too often!


  2. I love the the “I can’t do it yet” ethos. We have been working on developing a growth mindset at HHS all this year. It is interesting to learn how many people have a fix mindset. This kids can’t do it or this are bad kids. It is very hard for these teacher to change their old ways and of course some of these teachers are younger. Have you done anything with Growth Mindset?


  3. matical4263 says:

    Good blog and discussion. One of my favorite quotes is one that Silvanus P. Thompson attributes to an Ancient Simian proverb, “What one fool can do, another can.” It seems to pack a similar sentiment to what is being discussed.


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