Part 2: Playful Learning
The Best Learning Feels Like Play
In Part 1, I introduce Playful Learning. Read about it here:
On this post, I delve into what makes playful learning an attractive teaching option.
Board games are popular because of the quirky way they engage the mind in problem solving. When playing Monopoly with friends, your understanding of basic economics and finance is intuitive and practical.
Study goals can be achieved while sustaining student interest in a topic. By integrating playful learning, instructors can discover endless opportunities for creative execution of syllabus requirements. Teachers, though, who attempt such cooperative partnership with students risk not achieving curriculum objectives because play opens us up to diversion: the options to be pursued are as varied as individual perspective.
If not well-managed, variety can dissipate into chaos. But it’s the seeming disorder that a child’s mind seeks to exploit. Electronic games are attractive because they provide a rational balance of novelty and practice: the challenges are to be mastered rather than achieved.
While too much challenge is overwhelming easy exercises cause stagnation. Finding a blend that is within reach yet above current ability is critical to classroom progress. Deep learning thrives in the space between confidence and challenge.
Like board games, rendering real-world scenarios stimulates growth that sticks.
Working on class projects is one way to prod learners towards inquiry as the basis for gaining knowledge. Instructors who inspire curiosity, enable students to grow beyond fact-based learning to inquiry-based study.
This way we can steep students in culture. Rather than having them wait years to practice what they learn, they can begin to develop an understanding of world systems with an aim to contribute to its advancement. As Will Durant says in Our Oriental Heritage (The Story of Civilization Volume 1) p. 75, the purpose of Education, for the modern child, is to transmit cultural heritage. But great Education reaches beyond transmission. It provides opportunities and tools needed for “greater variety and flexibility of adaptive reactions to an artificial and unstable environment.”
Great learning initiates critical thinking: it makes students participatory citizens. Aside from learning culture, they contribute to it and shape it thereby evolving society . When learners feel seen and heard they initiate discussions around matters that touch on their lives.
In Playing with Money two teachers guide the class in creating an economic model. Complete with a bank, a currency, wages, taxes and jobs, the model helps students link inter-disciplinary ideas. By beginning with a created currency, children are able to guide their study towards the aspects of money that drive human habit: from salaries, to taxes, even unfair trade practices.
Partnership over Rulership
My primary learning experiences were teacher-centric.
The glory of the classroom belonged to an all-knowing-cane-wielding-god whose word was law. In an information saturated world, an overt emphasis on this approach can be counterproductive. Learners don’t need more information. They want to contribute to the knowledge-base.
Just as self-absorbed models of doing business are being substituted with communal contribution and engagement, education is moving towards co-creation, co-teaching and co-learning. Co-creation engenders trust because it recognizes student perspective. It is upon the instructors to create an environment where contribution is encouraged and rewarded.
Students have an interest in their education. When questions of subject relevance come up, rather than dismiss these concerns, educators can appreciate the opportunity to engage learners’ doubts and probe their own teaching approaches. Educators can evolve to appreciate dissent. Alternative voices offer the chance to rethink process, reimagine involvement and stimulate active discussion towards learning progress.
With a transparent system, learners can contribute to learning roadmaps and learning paths. It is possible to create environments that students are excited to identify with because school exists not only for accumulation of facts but to also enable students apply knowledge towards transformation.