Our school has a “Computer Clubhouse.” It’s an extra computer lab where you can take an entire class without interfering with our computer teacher’s schedule. I try to use it every so often, but I always sign up for a time when we have one of our paperless days. Last week we had a paperless day and so I decided to use the afternoon to introduce my students to Glogster EDU. My initial intention was to have my students start a project on immigration, but I had a few glitches with setting up my class. However, I persevered and we went upstairs anyway and I told my students to, “play around and explore what Glogster can do.”
“What? Really?” was the reaction I got. In fact, about every 5 minutes another student asked me, “What are we doing?”
“Playing around on Glogster,” I’d say.
“But what should we be doing?”
“Try things out. Add text, an image, mess with the design, the layout. Play around!”
It was at that moment that the student’s eyes would get a little bit of craziness in them, an excited expression, as they were let loose on the digital playground. After about the sixth time explaining this (I don’t like to repeat myself all that much) I stopped the class and stated, “In order to use this program well, you will need to know how to use it and the best way to do this is to play around and try things out. Enjoy your time. We won’t even talk about the assignment until next week.”
And as the students went on with their focused playtime (for no student went off to another website), I was reaffirmed of the importance of play. We all need it. It’s an important part of our learning process and well worth our time – even in the computer clubhouse. We can’t expect students to be experts in new technology or applications. They first need time to play (and so do we!)
Sylvia Martinez referred to extended play as Sustained Tinkering Time in this Jan 2009 blog post http://blog.genyes.com/index.php/2009/01/09/technology-literacy-and-sustained-tinkering-time/
I try to insure it’s a regular part of any workshop I do with staff. I believe the only way we will get staff motivated to use ICT tools with their students is that they have an opportunity to play with it before they are expected to use it with students.
Thanks for the gr8 post!
Sounds like they were developing the skills required…the joys of play
If only it did not have such a negative connotation!! Think how much kids learn before school through…play!! 🙂
Explore and Play … what a great way to learn something new! Learning/Playing with the tool before will help so much when adding the content piece or assignment later. Students will be able to pay more attention to what they are doing and not how they are doing it. Great post and learning project! 🙂
I just had this conversation with my Visual Design students yesterday. Explaining that it was OK to play during down time between rolls of film, or when they’re done with a project faster than others in the class. I had a student who did a great project, that everyone was in love with, that was based off of something she discovered how to do accidentally while “playing” in Photoshop.
The problem is getting the students to understand how to handle the freedom of an environment that allows them to play. But, I think that just fixes itself as playtime becomes more integral to their overall education.
Thank you for your great comments so far!
John – I agree! I also allow for time to play when giving workshops in new technologies or strategies. It is so important for adults as well as students.
Audrey – Yes! Play is, plain and simple, how our children learn. As they get older, the word seems to be looked down upon. (How sad!)
Melissa – Again – you are on the money! So much in education points to the importance of focused exploration with materials before use: from crayons to computers!
Roderick – That is a great example of the benefits of play. What you say is true about kids “handling” such free time. It seems that because they are rarely given any, they just don’t know what to do. But if we trust the process of it… good things can happen. Students becoming self-directed learners, perhaps??? WOW!
Let’s keep this great conversation going…
Great way to introduce technology, inspire creativity and play to our children.. They were all so confused because they are so used to “not playing” in the classroom and having the adults in their world view that as “learning.” Children learn via “play” since the time they are very small.. This type of learning should be encouraged more often so children can exercise that creative muscle.. It’s good to see that some teachers are embracing technology in the classroom.. We must now convince parents and the admin staff to help introduce wonderful programs like eBoard http://bit.ly/98N4MA , in the classrooms, it connects educators, parents and students online!