Let the children play!


What struck me most about David Whitebread & Marisol Basilio’s article was the evidence they gave to highlight the importance of play in human development.  That our propensity for play is in part because human animals have such a long time of development into maturity, and that play in childhood supports positive outcomes in adulthood.  The authors state, that because “of our extensive play in all its rich variety, way beyond that observed in any other species, and that this is the basis for the ‘flexibility of thought’ ...which underpins the astonishing problem-solving abilities and creativity of humans” (77).  Basically they are saying that we owe a great deal of our achievements as a species to the fact that we play when we are children.

Whatever the evolutionary implications of childhood play, it is also important to note the ways in which adults’ actions directly impact the ways in which children play.  Whether we directly interfere or leave them to their own devices, the adult world impacts the child’s world of play.  Even if we design creative play spaces for them, with their developmental needs in mind, it is still shaped by the adult.  When Dicks, Soyinka, and Coffey in Multimodal Ethnography describe all the components that communicate meaning to participants in a science centre space, it is clear that even the best intentions, every choice made by the designers, from the color and texture of materials to the things the viewer can move and change, communicates something to the children.  Where, if any, is there space for the child to participate in play that has little or no influence from the adult sphere?

When I asked my daughters and their friend about the fact that everything encountered in the museum was designed by adults for kids to think about science, they had mixed responses.  Even though they enjoyed the exhibits, one of the 11 year olds in our group stated that it felt a bit like they were tricking them into learning through fun, and that feels a bit insulting because she doesn't need all that showiness in order to learn.  The other 11 year old in our group stated that it was designed to appeal to all children, so every kid could have fun while learning.  The newly minted 10 year old said it's good that adults work hard to make kids think about science, but they should also ask for kids' input.  Of course, it's important to note here that I asked them this question, and recorded in my notebook some of what they said, and some of what this made me think.  So, my method for recording their interpretations of the exhibits is in turn shaping the information I'm reporting back to you.  Here is an example of what Dicks et al descibe in Multimodal Ethnography as the method for recording -- pen and paper, which I have now used to write this flowery description of what the children said.  According the authors it is important to note the difference between the notes, images, and recording from field work and the data they are trying to capture.  Did I choose the best method for capturing their responses?  Or did I just exert an adult framework onto the kids' words?


Passion, Drive, and Inspiration.

After recently reading the publication from NYSCI, I wanted to highlight 4 needs facing education as well as their definitions and results to meeting those needs, which was originally published by NYSCI.

  1. Competence:  the ability to explain natural phenomena, to ask pertinent questions, and to articulate and defend arguments on a wide variety of subjects.
  2. Knowledge:  awareness of body of information shared by well educated others, that is, a body of information that is traditional as well as expanding and emergent.
  3. Intelligence: the ability to discern the essence of an issue and apply appropriate constructs to solve a problem or draw a conclusion; and social, the ability to work well with others.
  4. Self-instruction:  the ability to construct knowledge, to develop social skills, to engage in carious intellectual domains, and to self-monitor one’s advancement in learning.

The results of having an educational setting that meets these 4 needs would be: passion, drive, and inspiration.

My conclusion: I would like to see educational spaces from K-12, and beyond to focus less on grades and conquering topics, and instead, have students take control of their processes. This would look like students journaling what topics interested them and which ones did not. Students would explore those topics more in depth and complete projects on the topic, creating a tangible take-away from the experience. And more over, students feel so much pride in the work that they’ve produced.

Although I believe that this is an achievable goal, I think that having this transfer into a career is a challenge. So many times, workplaces need individuals simply to get a job done, not always do whatever an individual wants and not always having time to reflect. What’s needed is a balance between self-led learning and instruction as well as learning how to work with others. Every lesson cannot be individually based.

Informal learning and play - reading responses

I found the Whitebread & Basilio article on Play, Culture and Creativity to be very interesting. I particularly liked the distinction between "culturally curtailed play", "culturally accepted play" and "culturally cultivated play". I think that placing culturally embedded attitudes toward play in a spectrum like this is a useful framework for understanding to what degree play is encouraged/enabled by people who have power over children (the adults). I thought that the revelation that parental concerns (whether about children's safety, or about being perceived as "good parents" by peers) are generally more damaging than the dangers they ostensibly prevent to be a bit haunting, but very true and not at all surprising. On the other hand, it was heartening to read that research has showed that "specific practices by parents and teachers consistently over-ride broader cultural influences" and "consistently predicted achievement irrespective of social class factors."

In terms of the Multimodal Ethnography article, I found this one a little bit hard to parse, and couldn't decide if it was brilliant or obvious (probably somewhere in the middle...). I did appreciate the distinction between "media" and "modes" and the acknowledgement that field-notes (whether the form is video, sound recording, or some hyperlinked hybrid) can never do complete and total justice to the rich world on which they are reporting.

Age, transitions, and home-school factors

What I found most inspiring in this week's readings was the reminder that individuals can un-learn and re-learn creativity at any age. For example, the Karwowski & Soszynsk study which showed that role play training with undergraduate education students resulted in gains in creativity and originality. There is such a focus in education policy on the early years, and often this can obscure the enormous unexploited creative and economic potential that lies within adults of all ages. It's interesting that the conversation is shifting away from early intervention as the primary option, and towards transitions - whether it's transitions from work-retirement, or from school-work - as possible sites of learning/creativity (Pam Sammons, Kathy Sylva).
One tension I found within the writings was the difficulty of creating a bridge between in-class and out-of-class factors.  I found it difficult to simultaneously hold ideas of 'good parenting' and 'strong attachment' alongside micro-interventions like go cart games and slide games.  Perhaps one link between the two is the idea that bcoming a 'maker' gives students a sense of belonging and social support; helping less confident students to build social skills. In this sense it could be seen to emulate feelings of attachment and belonging not found in the home.

Play and Learning

In the reading “Play, Culture and Creativity,” Whitebread and Basilio discuss how children are born without the ability to protect themselves or do basic tasks, but through creative learning and play, children grow, develop and create an identity. I love the approach of addressing the need to develop new forms of learning and innovative solutions for unexpected problems. The future is unforeseeable, hence, we should prepare children to have the creativity to take on these new tasks. Children are taught to be creative thinkers and this type of learning should me maintained throughout their lifetime. What I find most admirable in children is that they are driven by curiosity and are eager to try new things, unafraid of failure. These types of risks children take, if maintained throughout their life will lead them to a successful career. This creative form of learning and play contributes primarily to the development of problem solving, creativity, perspective taking and the development of language. Play has a been a crucial part of what makes us human, thrive, and what has helped us build a the world we live in.   

Unfortunately this is very culturally driven. Although all cultures should be this way, there are particular cultures that force children to lean in a more structural way which limits their creativity and need to satisfy curiosity. For example, my brother is 10 and he has always been considered a “bad student” because he is a very curious child and wants to learn through more engaging and playful methods. But, the teacher punishes him for his curiosity and forces him to participate in a very square and structured way of learning with little to no play.

Informal Learning & Play

I love the fact that every child in human culture plays. Creativity, problem solving, coping are all skills that are developed through play. And, it seems to me, so many aspects of human existence are role-played in play: joy, love, fear, romance, anger, and so on. But of course, cultural norms and expectations are also a force in determining the boundaries of play. Children are often gendered, classed, racialized, etc. in play scenarios. This is an interesting dynamic. In a sense children can imagine a (any) future or create their own worlds yet these imaginings may conflict with hegemonic structures leading to admonishment, shame, or punishment. Play is clearly a primary agent in the construction of a society, community or family, in potentially positive and negative ways.

I relate so much to the discussed shift in our culture with children being over-supervised and over-scheduled. When I was a child, I was told to go out and play. I might disappear for the whole day. There were no cell phones and my whereabouts was often not known by my parents. I’m sure at times they worried but this was the way it was for all my friends. Now, my friends who have children are so different. Most are over-supervising and over-scheduling their kids (in my opinion). And I see how fear-based it is. I can’t help but feel that the media plays a major role in prompting and perpetuating this fear. I’m not convinced that children are any more in danger now than they were when I was young.

I’m not saying that my friend’s children don’t play or that there aren’t opportunities for playing with both adults and peers. But it’s very different. What’s lost seems to be about taking risks, working out problems with peers, decision making, self-care, self-responsibility. I wonder how this will be revealed in their adulthood.

I love the concept of a multimodal classroom/education. I believe it fosters amazingly creative ways of making meaning. So I was very interested in the Research essay and how it looked at multimodal research. It was key to understand multimodal not merely as a method for conducting research but as a feature of the places studied. The ideas of action/reaction, material semiotics, and interactivity, for this essay examined in an exhibit, are very similar to how multimodality functions in the classroom. I am interested in learning more about hypermodality, hypertext + multimodality, ‘the new interactions of word-, image- and sound-based meanings . . . linked in complex networks or webs’.  

Growth and life styles

After the Play, Culture and Creativity reading, I found so interesting the importance of all the spaces open to push a child’s mind, creativity and motivation to explore new things. And if done right in early age will in fact have a great impact when that child grows into an adult. For instance, the “five types of play in which human children engage (physical play, play with objects, symbolic play, pretence/sociodramatic play and games with rules) are found in different manifestations, depending on available technology, in all cultures” is so remarkable to consider because of all the different access points a child can be engaged and open to new ways of thinking, being and living. Besides, every child will eventually be an adult, and the base one forms when young, in my opinion defines so much of what you will be when you mature.

I wish to highlight a detail about that quote, regarding your culture, where you come from or your environmental conditions. Adults caring for their children do not always have the possibility of taking into account the vision of what happens if children are not allowed exploring these ways and how this can affect their future. This is critical and as a society we should be aware and help to make the conditions available.

But also, it made me think about social culture, the work place and adults. And how the work culture sometimes may be so narrow and uninviting to explore; how this doesn’t help either regarding ways to be more open and creative as people. Of course everywhere is different, and at least in my country, in Chile, in general every organization aims for quick results in the work place – we tend to rush the creativity process (assuming there is one at all). The tendency to find an automation state of work is often too frequent than space that allows more freedom to flow within creativity. And the reason most of the time is money, deadlines, clients and bigger entities that need results yesterday. This is critical in regards to life style, life happiness and life purposes; you may risk entering the realm of automation boredom that kills the spark that makes your mind jump high.

It is so important to look out after children and offer them all the possibilities to be curious and wonder in their minds, so then they can have the tools to challenge creativity spaces when they grow up and live life with creativity all around them.