Article Review 5

Henriksen, D., Keenan, S., Richardson, C., & Mishra, P. (2015). Rethinking technology & creativity in the 21st century: modeling as a trans-disciplinary formative skill and practice. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 59(3), 5-10.


This article came up when I did a journal article search with the keyword  play’.  It  was written by a group of authors from the “ Deep-Play Research Group’  at Michigan State University.  The article looked promising and was published in 2015, a bonus anytime you are looking at how things might interact with technology. Though the topic was obvious from the introduction section, it actually took a bit of wading before I  was able to tease out the authors’ purpose for the paper.  On the fourth page, after much initial discussion, they suddenly decided to just spell it out.  They state, we are making a case for the value of play in learning, in creativity, and as a core thinking skill that promotes new ideas and motivates growth and improvement.’   Whew.  Though I think it would have improved the entire article if they had opened with this line, it still helped to put the   article into perspective.  


Play was  first  introduced in several of its possible forms with a close look taken at what they term  “deep play’, which is credited as being an “essential component of thinking and learning’.  So what makes play, ‘play’?  According to the authors it is voluntary, intrinsically motivating  or  “ just for fun’, can engage both physical and mental  components, and involves the imagination. Parts of this definition may actually hint at the problems of  incorporating game elements in online education and producing the same motivational benefits they do in traditional gaming. If this definition of play is true, and  associated with positive engagement, than you can see where the challenge in course design to keep game  elements   both voluntary and  “just for fun’ is contrary to the nature of a course which is often somewhat  compulsory  and may have high stakes grading.  


They go on to give a very nice description of the current  research on play including a description of rough and tumble play on child development  (this  research was a little off topic for my interest in the paper but still  intrigued me as I thought about the increasing number of single child households and the current social ban on rough and tumble play.  Did you know children are not allowed to throw snowballs anymore?  But I digress…).


The authors also include a  discussion about  worldplay  (the invention of imaginary worlds by children)  and how many of the notable creative adults in society engaged in this activity as youth.  Here, I had some causal-relational  questions that were left unanswered. Which came first, the child with innate  creativity that creates imaginary worlds before going on to  produce creative works as an adult? Or does the creation of these imaginary worlds actually develop creativity as a skill that wouldn’t otherwise have emerged?  A little of both?


From world play we  change course to  take an interesting look at the creative intersection where the lines between work and play become blurred, “In the action of play, the personal self can blend into professional practice, enhancing engagement with ideas, making work and learning more fun, and leading to better insights through a willingness to explore ideas.’   And finally on to a  surprisingly  brief discussion on play in education with a few real-world examples offered.   The article concludes with a great final statement, “without creativity, we stagnate, and without play we cannot create.”


So, though this article did not go where I initially thought it would, it was interesting and had me wondering  several things.  First was how changes in  societal  values   are impacting the way our children play  and how that in turn will  impact  the way they learn. Second, what would happen if we teach our children to  worldplay and engage in that with them. Would that foster   creative potential?  Could   a school exist where the kids spend years creating such a world,   serving as a  playful  interdisciplinary vehicle for teaching  grammar, culture, values, business, history, language, economics, government etc.?  Did I just  write the charter for a new private school?  But which kids would benefit most.  Kids who are already creative or kids who haven’t tapped into  their creative selves as much. What a place to teach team processes, creativity, appreciation of diverse skill sets etc. Now, to figure out how to do all of this online.  hmmm….  I think I just created my own imaginary world!  

4 thoughts on “Article Review 5

  1. When they state, “we are making a case for the value of play in learning, in creativity, and as a core thinking skill that promotes new ideas and motivates growth and improvement,” I could only laugh to myself and say, “nope, not buying it.”

    Just kidding. This seems a bit obvious and a well trodden path. That said, I like where you went with it. I think world play, as you suggest, is a great and important aspect of play. All play should be encouraged. Even rough and tumble play (including snowballs). This is just my opinion – but one learns so many extremely complicated nuances of social interaction through intense, exhausting, collaborative play. Snowball fights are just one aspect of fort building, alliance making, rules negotiation (no ice-balls) and so on. An easy area to digress into. But – at least we can all agree that a wide range of play is healthy. And, adults who continue to have elements of play in their lives is also significant for mental health and ongoing learning.

    I like your idea of the world building charter school. The Imaginarium or some such (name already taken, I’m sure). When I hear ideas like this, I always wonder what education will look like in 100 years? Yes to play. Full on. Yes, also, to other types of learning. Memorization of times tables and the periodic table (maybe with games?) And, as Craig mentioned, what will teacher borne overhead look like? At this rate and if the trend continues, each teacher will need a full time assistant to handle district required admin duties.

    Nice review and congratulations on getting your 5th one done!

    Last thing – World of Warcraft. Explore.


    1. Yes! Do let us know what you think. I’ve known people who have participated in WoW for more than 10 years now. The first two or three years were all learning curve. Pretty amazing depth – but I’m not sure how much that is apparent to the new user.

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