Mourning Bob Tinker, The Thomas Edison of S.T.E.M.
Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.

Thank you Gary for writing this! It is at once a moving, inspiring, informative, timely and much needed memorial and call to action, imho.

As one of those folks who engaged in and helped to advance or catalyze similar constructionist projects (with not nearly the genius of Bob, and not only in realms of science and math, but also of humanities, social science and social change) and who was (and remains) committed with a cadre of folks and collaborators to helping to transform learning opportunities for traditionally underserved learners, I often think of how much we got right in the nineties, that make even the most robust of some of today’s enterprise educational software pale in comparison. For one example in the science vein (and with even some social science applications, I believe), did you know of KanCRN, an initially university-based platform designed and promoted by colleagues for linking scientists and kids in structured, relatively complex pathways of scientific inquiry? One young scientist discovered a new species of tardigrade and so co-published with an established scientist. Or think of the Maya Project. We were awash with stories like that then.

Purveyors and defenders of the status quo, aided and abetted by a system dominantly designed in their favor, worked hard, not always with intention nor even wittingly, but with excessive resources, bureaucratic blinders and policy levers to keep some of these most promising endeavors from reaching the tipping points that could have made all the difference for the dominant direction of learning, creating and collaboratory technologies (though it’s good to see some Maker-Space projects, and other similarly inspired designs working to keep the flame burning and proving once again that dominance is never absolute; resistance and real innovation can still grow in and widen cracks, and even become full eco-systems).

For me and a circle of folks the marriage of learning technologies with multicultural, anti-racist and critical pedagogical content, methods and strategies was paramount as well. So I can appreciate the frustration, but also the resistance and activism of Papert and his acetates. Thanks for including that, even if it may not have been precisely Bob’s style.

We, of course, also have many relatively unsung colleagues of color who were on the avante-guard with particular concern for and motivated to give back not only to members of their own communities but also to other underserved, usually low-income communities, often of color, and/or immigrant or migrant or special needs, and to give back to all students, really, who ultimately benefit from being part of a more inclusive and fair community of learners.

Setting out to problem pose and problem solve around both the barriers affecting and the strengths of underserved or neglected communities often led to even more robust ideas and implementations for all learners. Some of the folks and projects who come quickly to my mind, some better known than others include Bob Moses (algebra project); Bonnie Bracey (edtech, NASA-science Maven); Karen Buller (National Indian Telecommunications Institute – NITI); the Migrant Star Schools Project – Project Estrella; Joseph and Paula Loeb and Break-Away Technologies, in the aftermath of the 1992 South-Central LA uprising; Plazas Comunitarias; Tomás Atencio; and so many more. Folks I was inspired by and often got to work with in close collaboration on projects both local and systems changing.

Your homage to Bob, again, is inspirational, and for me a spur to continue to honor our current and next generation visionaries-who-do (even when they’re not conventionally popular), as well as those on whose shoulders we stand.

Thanks Gary.