Thinkering Space, an Experiment in Exploratory Learning

By Heloisa Moura, Dale Fahnstrom, Greg Prygrocki and T.J. McLeish.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Multimodal technologies are creating new experiential opportunities for exploring, tinkering, learning and interacting in the virtual world. Once combined with sensorial objects and open-ended activities in the physical world, they introduce a new genre of interactive environments called ThinkeringSpace.
ThinkeringSpace is a hybrid system - made of networked and remotely accessible physical environments - that seeks to bring school-age children together to collaborate face-to-face and tinker with things, both physical and virtual, reflect upon what they do and discover, and elaborate their ideas in ways they can share with others.
This article gives an overview of the ThinkeringSpace system and introduces some of the major concepts and interaction frameworks that have grounded its ongoing development.

Keywords: Interactive Environments, Physical-Virtual Interaction, Collaboration, Tinkering, Learning

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp.147-154. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 625.850KB).

Heloisa Moura

Research Coordinator, Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Heloisa Moura has an interdisciplinary academic background. Besides a Ph.D. degree in Human-Centered Communication Design from IIT Institute of Design, she holds a Master’s of Science degree in Education and four expertise diplomas, graduate level: Computer Graphics; Internet, Interface & Multimedia; Distance Education; and Psycho-pedagogy. Currently, she is the research coordinator for the ThinkeringSpaces project (, an experiment in exploratory learning funded by MacArthur Foundation, which seeks to create opportunities for school-age children to collaborate and tinker with the physical and virtual worlds.

Dale Fahnstrom

Professor, Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Dale Fahnstrom is former director of the Institute of Design, where he has been on faculty since 1966. As a member of the interdisciplinary faculty team that leads the graduate demonstration class, he works individually with students on human-centered product development theses. Professor Fahnstrom assists the Director on facilities planning and coordination. Professor Fahnstrom has designed products for such diverse corporate clients as Knoll International, Philips Electronics, Steel case, and NEC. His work in packaging design is featured in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum; his ‘Bulldog’ chair, designed with Michael McCoy and introduced in 1990 by Knoll, was the largest-selling seating product in the manufacturer’s line. He is a partner in the consulting firm of Fahnstrom/White and holds a B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Greg Prygrocki

Associate Professor, Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Greg Prygrocki has served as the Institutes’s Associate Director and has taught courses ranging from the Foundation series (required of all in-coming students with no design background), to the Research and Demonstration Project class, the “thesis project” of the Master of Design degree. His professional experience has included work in the areas of identity, signage, publication and book design. His own work and examples of his students’ projects have appeared in various national and international publications. He holds a B.I.D. from the University of Manitoba, Canada, and an M.V.A., University of Alberta, Canada.

T.J. McLeish

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, USA

T.J. McLeish holds a Master’s of Science degree in Media Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.Arch., BS in Environmental Design from the Ball State University, Department of Architecture. His background is rich in design, visualization, and prototyping with multidisciplinary teams on high pressure, deadline driven, ‘demo or die’ projects for world class institutions. His design experience covers architecture, interactive sculpture, interactive design tools, software engineering, tangible interfaces, and simple digital hardware development. His visualization experience ranges from leading the integration of 3D visualization into Murphy/Jahn Architects design process to designing and implementing a DirectX based 3D graphics engine for real time distributed applications. His prototyping and fabrication experience includes designing and overseeing the production of all hardware necessary to support the instrumentation of an innovative residential research facility, as well as use of tools to design and fabricate structure, printed circuit boards, and assembly language software for a working model of a self configuring distributed network.


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