668 week 6 blog

Tracie Weisz
Week 6: What does play have to do with embracing change and
how does this impact you as a professional?
According to A New Culture of Learning , "In a world of near-constant flux, play becomes a
strategy for embracing change, rather than a way for growing out of it." (Thomas, Seely Brown,
2011). We usually attribute the actions of "play" to young children, and also tend to assume that
the need for constant play declines as we grow older. My hunch is, it doesn't actually decline, but
the demands on our time for other more pressing things simply crowd out the time we used to
spend in play.
The key element of play - especially the unstructured play of children - is that they make up the
parameters and rules as they go along. They begin their play with some basic ideas in place, and
as their imagination takes them along they adjust, adapt, and expand their play to accommodate
their new ideas. Interestingly enough, this is exactly the process that adults who we consider to
be innovators use.
I think it's timely, and appropriate that organizations like the Lego Foundation are actively trying to
help revamp education systems by incorporating play. Randa Grob-Zakhary, CEO of
the Lego Foundation says, “A lot of work [in education] is focused on how can we
better teach and more quickly teach reading and math--literacy and numeracy,” she
says, speaking with Co.Exist at the United Nations' Global Compact summit in New
York City last month. “There’s still a very big gap in defining how can we better equip
our children with creative and critical thinking skills to equip them to face tomorrow’s
And now, a little mentoring story...
Today was my day to spend 30 minutes with my mentee in her 3rd grade classroom. I was
modeling a lesson in using a new gaming software with her kids. I explained to her first about the
software. It's called Phantomation, and it's a new project from the labs at MIT. The object of the
game is for the player to create animations using the built in animation software PlaySketch,
which will scare the living beings through the mansion so that they are not captured by the lurking
phantoms. PlaySketch is an actual professional animation software, which uses key framing and
real time animation to possess objects. MIT labs has worked it into the game. The game is being
used as research by MIT to determine if these new animation techniques make animation
programming easier to learn.
There are only some very basic instructions included in the game - one or two sentences on an
intro page. I sat the students at the computers and reviewed the term animation - most knew what
it meant or was related to, and could give examples. I then very briefly explained the object of the
game, and that they would be making objects animate to help them. I told them to play with it to
figure it out, and that they could help each other, but gave no specific directions. For the first five
minutes there was a lot of protesting and whining. It was not immediately obvious what to do, so
they wanted help right away. I just encouraged them to keep playing around with it. The heavy
protests continued (my mentee was getting nervous!), but then around the 8 minute mark, one of
the kids shouted, "I figured out how to make it move!". Over the next few minutes there followed
a series of similar discoveries. By 15 minutes in there were small groups huddling up, moving to
another screen, re-arranging into different groups, and a general flurry of activity. Other than
offering the occasional, "ask each other questions," or, "Why don't you ask *student* about that," I
said nothing about the game, and gave no instructions. I stayed out of their flow of group
conferencing. At the end of the 30 minutes, all students had a basic command of the game, and
more than half had moved up several levels.
The reason I chose this particular activity for my mentee to see, was because I wanted to show
her the opportunities for constructivist, collaborative learning that technology offers. I wanted her
to see how students become so quickly engaged in the problem solving, and how they
collaborate without a thought when it comes to solving problems, and how in these situations, the
group so naturally values the critical thinkers. The parameters of the game changed frequently,
and in learning new ways to beat the game, they also quickly adapted to the changes in the
game. Additionaly, I wanted her to see that her role in these things was best if it was
minimal. Kids learn too early to use their teacher as a crutch, and we happily oblige. If she
remains a bystander, the learning is about them, and not about her. I also wanted her to see that
some of the best options for this often look like play, and feel like play to kids. I think the message
came through!
Funny story in contrasts - at the end of the 30 minute session the students had recess. The
same students, who only 5 minutes prior had been eagerly discussing solving problems with key
frames and timers, quickly dissolved into an intense argument about who was the caboose in the
It was funny, but led me to question, which of the two situations I witnessed in that 5 minute time
frame more accurately reflects what we think of when we hear the saying "kids will be
kids"? Which one should? In both scenarios, they were simply reacting as kids do within the
expectations of the environment they were placed in. What kind of expectations and
environments do we put them in for most of the day?
This gets to the heart of how change impacts me as a professional. I want my students to be
able to think in ways that help them adapt to and thrive with change. If I want that, I have to be
willing to be that way myself, and I have to be willing to let them experience those kinds of
learning situations in the classroom.
Thomas, D., & SeelyBrown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: cultivating the imagination for a
world of constant change. Lexington, Ky.: CreateSpace?.
Leber, J. (2013, October 2). Can Playing With Lego Make You More Creative? | Co.Exist | ideas +
impact. Co.Exist | ideas + impact. Retrieved October 11, 2013, from
GAMBIT: Load Game: Phantomation. (summer 2012). Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. Retrieved
October 10, 2013, from http://gambit.mit.edu/loadgame/phantomation