Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In Praise of Play

Where Do the Children Play?

Old-Fashioned Play Building Serious Skills, Alix Spiegel, NPR, 2/21/08

Taking Play Seriously, New York Times, 2/17/2008

Alliance for Childhood

Tech Tonic: Towards a New Literacy of Technology

Fool's Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood

The Playground and the Conflict Resolution

Children - Play and Learning

"It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them."

~ Leo F. Buscaglia

1 comment:

Ed Latham said...

by Ed Latham

I am not sure if I suffer from some "Peter Pan" syndrome or something, but I probably play way too much for "normal" adults in America. I specify America, because there is a very strong culture of play in European countries, Germany in particular. Games have such a profound effect on student learning, especially in math and logic, that Marc Prensky and others that promote non-video games have been lecturing and selling the ideas to educators for years. Still, many teachers are not able to incorporate games into the classroom.

Many teachers, especially in high school, are concerned with time and test scores. The ultimate commodity in education, Time, always seems to be the first thing that comes up with any classroom "new" ideas. Some teachers manage to jump into some other dimension, grab a huge chunk of time to play with some of these ideas, and then return to their classroom to find that more time is suddenly available. In the case of games and playing games with students, I have found the challenges seem to be compounded by the concept that people believe students are in school to work, not play. The reality is that many students sit passively listening to lectures the majority of their high school experience. Passive listening and memorizing for a test only hits the lower end of the thinking spectrum allowing for day dreams, apathy, and a large waste of thinking time.

There are a body of teachers out there that have been using games as part of their curriculum for quite a few years. They have all shared positive experiences and difficulties they have encountered on forums in many places. One site I highly suggest for anyone wishing to explore games and what exists out there that might be good to bring into the classroom would be BoardGameGeek.Com . On this site I would suggest you click the Forum menu option on the top of the page. Then scroll down a bit and you will see a discussion thread called Games in the Classroom. Read a bit in there and you should see how others might be using games or thinking of using games in the classroom. The rest of this site has awesome information about all of the games and game mechanics that exist. You can even look for games by mechanics so you can best filter out games that might help you teach statistics or maybe you are looking for a game to help students learn diplomacy...

Again, I play games more than many think I should. We do not watch TV at home, but we have more games than most people knew existed. My family have invited others to public game days on Saturdays frequently. The students that showed up consistently to learn new games all had an increase in their performance in math (I was teaching math at the time so I heard mostly math feedback). I will not claim the increase was a full letter grade as I don't have hard data to support such a claim, but I can tell you that students all report that math was easier when they were having the Saturday game days. If you have any questions about games and play and how it may fit in your class, please contact me so we can talk. Even if you are a skeptic, I would love to have conversations as I really believe that students and teachers are missing out on a great resource that we all had when we were young, but now we don't seem to have the time for. Worse the concept of play is considered inappropriate in many of today's education systems.