Claude Levi-Strauss (a French anthropologist who died in 2009 less than a month before he turned 101) introduced the term bricoleur to western thinkers to describe a “jackof- all-trades” approach to technology (and other practices). He suggested the term after observing individuals in other cultures who would explore the potential uses of various new tools and adopt the tools to their work or adapt their work to make use of new tools. When one is a bricoleur, he or she plays with a new device or a new practice in an attempt to become sufficiently skilled to use the device.
Educators who participate in bricolage when using ICT are heard to say, “hey, this will be useful for …,” and “I wonder how we can use this when we study…”, or “my students can use this for…,” or “I wonder how I can get this to….” These educators are questioning their practice in terms of new ICT and they are questioning the new ICT in terms of their practice. Of course, bricolage need not be specific for classroom uses of ICT; the true ICT bricoleur will be open to new tools and practices and always seek creative or unanticipated uses of ICT.
The play that is called a bricolage is opposed to formal instruction. Jean Piaget found evidence that children engaged in bricolage as they pass through the concrete to the abstract stages of conceptual development. Similar approaches to learning about ICT will be useful for educators whose learning about ICT in many ways resembles children’s cognitive growth. For adults who are learning to use technology, the work of learning to use it must reflect this bricolage nature. Rather than seeking formal instructions and direction in using technology (practices that are well-known to fail!), play.