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Fostering Equitable Facilitation through Computational Tinkering: Reflections from the Scratch Conference

Fostering Equitable Facilitation through Computational Tinkering: Reflections from the Scratch Conference

This summer, we had a wonderful opportunity to try out an experimental workshop at the Scratch conference, together with our trusted collaborators. The session was titled "Bring a Book to Life: Equitable Facilitation Strategies through Tinkering." Co-facilitating this session were Sebastian and myself from the Tinkering Studio, Rupal from the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab, Kathleen Fugle, a CS/STEAM specialist from Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, and Nathan Rabinovitch from the Brazil Creative Learning Network/Transformative Learning Technologies Lab at Columbia University. The session was experimental for us in the sense that it paired computational tinkering activity with equitable facilitation discussions.

Why “Bring a Book to Life”?

Books are frequent companions in childhood, often within easy reach and serving as familiar friends. The characters, the scenes, the words, the imagination - everything about a book can spark children’s interests and become a wonderful starting point for a Scratch project. And it goes beyond just the narrative elements. By incorporating craft materials, or even the physical book itself, with Scratch video sensing, we can create a tinkering experience that seamlessly blends the physical and digital worlds, which we call “computational tinkering.” 


A mini-workshop: Bring a Book to Life 

The structure of the session was divided into two main sections. We began with a mini workshop, where we introduced the open-ended prompt “Bring a Book to Life.” Then, Nathan and Kathleen each shared examples to show from the basics to the potential of this activity. They also provided valuable insights and tips from their experiences as classroom teachers. 

“Everytime I start a project, I always start small - just some simple movements, and I see what happens. It’s all about small cycles, small changes, in order to build more complex projects. This project, for example, wasn’t a one-day project. It took days, with work here and there, stepping away, living life, and then coming back to make small changes. None of those projects are finished projects, they are always evolving, always on the move” 
- Nathan


A zoom call between creative educators
A zoom call between creative educators


Nathan showcases projects using Scratch’s video sensing: (left) comic illustrations emerge as the book opens, and (right) employing color sensing triggers graphics of The Beatles when album covers are positioned in the designated spot.

“Why physical material? Well, it is true it does take time, it requires more materials, it can be messy, but what I have noticed in school, and especially in the last school year is how much students enjoyed working with physical materials, while I think that’s generally true, I think it is especially true post pandemic, and I noticed the behavior improved, I noticed that there’s more collaboration and resilience, I do believe creating with physical materials can help promote playful learning, creative learning, social emotional learning and it can help you to reach all learners” - Kathleen


An educator plays with an interactive video sensing Scratch project
An educator plays with an interactive video sensing Scratch project

Kathleen interacts with a physical doll she crafted from cardboard, inspired by the Doll E picture book, along with its digital sprite dolls. 


Equitable facilitation 

Following this, we shifted our focus to a discussion on equitable facilitation. During this part, Rupal shared insights into what equitable facilitation means to her. 

“When I think about equitable facilitation, I think about creating spaces of shared belonging. Spaces where people can explore, bringing ideas that are meaningful to them, connecting meaningfully with others, and imagining new possibilities for themselves and communities.”  - Rupal 

She emphasized the importance of using a variety of materials and technologies, to recognize and respect the diverse cultural backgrounds of participants. This reflected our workshop’s objective of bringing a book to life, using tangible and everyday materials with technology to create an inclusive experience.

Stages of facilitation


Then she shared three components: welcoming, creating, and connecting, which continue to recur like a spiral throughout different parts of a workshop. These components are critical as we prepare for a workshop, as people come into the workshop, as they make things in the workshop, and as they share their creations. Rupal also shared concrete examples of each component from the workshop:

  • Welcoming: The simple act of inviting participants to share their favorite childhood books served as a subtle gesture of welcoming. It’s a low-floor way for us to start connecting and learning from each other. 
  • Connecting: Take, for example, Nathan’s project, which incorporated musical albums from The Beatles and Michael Jackson. Participants not only learned about his musical preferences but also might have found areas of shared connection and interest.
  • Creating: Kathleen’s 'dolly project' emphasized the importance of utilizing available materials, showcasing how the materials used can reflect the communities we come from, reinforcing a sense of belonging and shared identity.

“These three spaces of welcoming, connecting, and creating are some of the ways that we've started to really think about, revisiting again and again throughout a workshop experience,” she concluded.


The discussion 

We invited participants to share their thoughts on a Padlet page. To avoid the Padlet board becoming chaotic and to keep things organized, we divided the Padlet according to a workshop's flow 

  • Getting Ready
  • Welcoming
  • Creating
  • Sharing
  • Reflecting

This way, participants could post their feedback relevant to each specific stage.

Posts from a Padlet about facilitation strategies


We received a lot of posts from the audience in a short amount of time. What follows is just a brief glance at the diverse ideas for equitable facilitation that were shared, as well as a glimpse of how we responded to those comments. 

Let participants share in whatever way is comfortable, verbally, written, pictorially, etc. and allow them to opt out of sharing in front of the group

“Making time for sharing is so important and often as an educator you might end up not allocating enough time and maybe thinking there’s nothing to share, but I think it’s the opposite. Allowing for many different ways of sharing is key to that. It reminds of the “Hundred Languages of Children” by Loris Malaguzzi, pointing out that there are a hundred languages, hundred ways of expressing themselves for children, and we should make space for that.“


Use language that signals to participants that they do not need to be finished with a project in order to share.

“This resonates with me. In the Tinkering Studio,  we value sharing iteration, so toward the end of the workshop, we usually say “share wherever you are” indicating that you don’t have to “finish” the project. Tinkering is process-driven and there is always more that you can do. It is important to emphasize that it is about a process and not necessarily about “finishing.” 


Explain how the materials are organized

“This connects to what Kathleen said about choices. When you know how the materials are organized, you are given the ability to choose. Learners choose what they want to explore based on what is available, interesting, and meaningful to them. Understanding how the materials are organized really helps them to make their own choices. It also means giving learners agency.” 


A clear message of belonging

“As facilitators, sometimes we just need to take a moment to affirm, "You are welcome here," "You belong here," and "Thank you for sharing yourself and your story in this space." It's a way of recognizing that each one of us has something valuable to contribute, and we all have much to learn from each other.”

This discussion section helped our community of educators and facilitators to learn and explore the space of equitable facilitation together, sharing questions, practices, and experiences. The session enabled the participants to connect on a deeper level, sparking meaningful conversations and reflections on equitable facilitation and computational tinkering.

We invite you to share your equitable facilitation practices on our open Padlet board. Please share how you bring equitable facilitation practice across different phases of workshops or activities. 

Made with Padlet



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This project is generously supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2005764.