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!