The current debate about the role of technology in the classroom is a challenging one to follow. Initially, computers were thought of as a panacea that would improve scores. Then, a backlash came when kids were found to be “screwing around”* with those very devices rather than “learning”. Now, I’m seeing a third wave where some people are realizing that not all “screwing around” is actually “screwing around”. There are many skunksworks that clearly illustrate that some forms of organized disobedience can sometimes be very productive and profitable. But one does not need a major corporation to innovate. Creativity can be found in “the street” as well. William Gibson’s famous dictum “the street finds its own uses for things” (“Burning Chrome“, 1981) points to the power of human ingenuity in adverse disempowered contexts like poverty or “American adolescence”. Lévi-Strauss’ use of the term “bricolage” is a more classical version of this observation.
What is “bricolage” you might as? Wikipedia’s correct when they say bricolage is “borrowed from the French verb ‘bricoler’ – equivalent to the English “do-it-yourself”, the core meaning in French being, however, “fiddle, tinker” and, by extension, “make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)”.
My research puts me contact with adolescents (middle school students) who “screw around” with robotics and “pre-engineers” (college students) who “fiddle, tinker and create” technology.
What would happen if our analysis started considering those adolescent kids ‘technological innovators’? The kids’ transformation from “trouble makers” to “intellectual bricolers” would improve our knowledge base by realizing that some very creative things come from the minds of the disempowered. This would also improve the educational preparation of students to the degree that they would potentially realize that their “play” is actually “work” in another context.
*[Use of the term "screw around" originates from Garfinkel, "Consider that once you get into line persons will not therein question that you have rightfully gotten into line unless you start screwing around. Then you get instructed" (2002: 257). Follow this link to better understand how Garfinkel's "screwing around" links to this discussion via a discussion of Varenne's "productive ignorance".]