Category Archives: play

Why I play

Art by Lena Torikov

Before I bought my iPad, people would ask me what I planned to do with it. Why was I spending so much money? Was I certain it was worth it? How was the iPad going to be different from a notebook? Should I buy an iPhone instead?

I couldn’t answer any of these questions with any certainty. That’s why I was buying an iPad – to play, to gain an understanding of what an iPad enabled me to do, to figure out if iPads played a role in the changing face of learning in schools.

There’s nothing wrong with putting forward a suggestion before you have all the answers. I didn’t and don’t have all the answers for iPads in education, but I don’t want to wait until the time when it’s safe, when the majority of educators have understood the value of iPads and accepted their place in schools. If I wait that long, I’ll be on the tail end of a movement that doesn’t stay still. I won’t be a forward thinking educator but a safe follower who calls out for others to wait up.

If I waited until I was sure, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Where am I now? I’m on the road to finding out. The iPad apps session I recently did with staff at school was a way in – despite the best advice to hold off because I only had one iPad to pass around, to hold off because iPad education wasn’t a realistic option at my school, because people weren’t ready, because because…

Play is an essential part of being a teacher – it’s the learning part of teaching. Play is experimenting, discovery, it’s creative, it’s action, it moves into a new space. Wouldn’t it be great if play was compulsory at school? Instead of instruction from teachers to students, play would put everyone on the same playing field. Risk would be a prerequisite.

If we wait until it’s safe to do something, we’ve been left behind.

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iPad apps for problem solving

Higher order thinking is not what the students were consciously involved in while playing with iPad app games, but it’s what they were in fact doing. I gave my iPad to some of the boys at school one day and suddenly there was a small crowd standing around the player, intently involved and offering suggestions. I asked to film a small group of these boys demonstrating a few of the games. They were self conscious and so the natural banter and collaboration is lost but the demonstrations still stand. You can almost see the thinking process in action.

Rafter

Unblock Me

Glowpuzzle

Labyrinth – This one was cut short because of the glare

I think there would be a fair amount of justification for these from an educational perspective, don’t you? Physics teachers might want to look into them, for example.

Thanks, guys!

 

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Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production

Listen to John Seely Brown’s talk where he addresses the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Stanford, CA, 2008.

I am what I create is how John Seely Brown defines our new identity.

I’d like to paraphrase what John says in his talk ‘Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production’, and also to offer some of my own thoughts.

Here’s the gist: Since many of the skills that we learn today have become obsolete several years ago, we must find a way to get today’s kids to embrace change, to want to constantly learn new kinds of things, to find a way to play with creating knowledge on the fly by experimenting with things. Notice how different this is to the traditional learning of finite knowledge imparted by the omniscient teacher . How do we initiate this tinkering, this creating of knowledge? John Seely Brown says we need to look for ways to foster the imagination; if there’s no imagination, there’s no creativity. And he places the tinkering learners within a new culture of sharing, in peer-based learning communities, where kids learn from each other. The challenge, he says, is to find new learning environments. We need to go back in time, so to speak, to the comprehensive classroom that had students of all ages in it, where the teacher was the organiser, the facilitator, and where students’ learning was as much from other students as from the teacher. We need to construct an environment where we are constantly learning from and teaching each other. And now for the tinkering.

What is tinkering? John Seely Brown sees it as the creation of something concrete as opposed to abstract or theoretical learning out of context.

Let me take my imagination and build something from it. Build something concrete instead of decontextualised knowledge. Once we’ ve created this concrete thing, we can see if it hasn’t worked, why doesn’t it work, and ask questions: how to build it better. We expect this thing to do something.

Why do we need this new learning environment? We live in a different type of world, one of rapid change. We need to find ways to tinker with ideas, ask good questions, and be able to take criticism. We need to learn in this architectual studio, where all work in progress is made public .

This makes so much sense to me. Currently, as part of our project for the Powerful Learning Practice program in which our school is involved, we have decided to create a NING, a whole-school online learning network, in order to bring the members of our school together, learning from each other, sharing, and making all our processes and projects transparent. In the new learning environment Brown speaks of, we are all able to witness each other’s struggle, understanding the process each of us is going through. What a powerful way of learning with and from each other. As Brown says, when the design is finished, and you overhear the master critiquing another’s design, this has tremendous meaning to us as well because we’ve been part of the process of the each other’s constructing of design. In this distributed learning environment, you learn to accept criticism. You want to be critiqued, you appreciate criticism, you learn from it. Brown sees this as one of the key platforms for lifelong learning and in embracing change.

Today’s networked technology allows us to build distributed communities of practice. Instead of us physically working shoulder to shoulder with others, our avatar is working shoulder to shoulder with others. We have infinitely more powerful tools to craft things, to mash this up. Creativity takes on new possibilties through tinkering – our tools not only allow us to create but also remix. In a short space of time, we can take what we see from others, rework it and recreate it, then give it back to the community for further reworking. How much better is this than isolated learning and creating?

The second message in John Seely Brown’s talk is something I’m very excited about. It’s a positive statement about young people today, and I urge everyone to think about it seriously, because it counters the many negative statements that are thrown out about young people in the age of technology. We are on the cusp of the creation of a new identity. In prior decades a lot of kids grew up thinking ‘I am what I wear’, or what my parents own, or how much money we have. Identity came from material possessions. I’d like to add to that by saying that identity also came from what we did for a living. Our occupation was who we were. It was the name of the occupation that was important, not the internal workings and processes of these occupations.

Here is the most exciting part of Brown’s talk for me : JUST MAYBE, he says, just maybe we are entering into a world now where our own identity gets defined by what we’ve created and what others have added to it.

This is a sense of identity constructed for myself. I passed something onto others, and they have been able to do wondrous things with this as well.

I can relate to this so well. When my children were younger and I was unable to teach full-time for several reasons, I was a ‘housewife’. I was not a teacher, I was not a thinker, I was not someone with creative talents, I was defined by my title. Now that I’m a teacher once again, I’m pushing beyond this title too. In my writing (which is really a remashing of my reading of others’ thinking with my own thinking) in my blogs and personal learning networks, I’m stretching my identity to include much more of my potential, and I’m doing this shoulder to shoulder with many others around the world. Technology is allowing me to recreate myself along with others – unlimited by my geographic location, unlimited by time zones. I’m creating my own identity within a new learning community. I’m a teacher, but what’s most satisfying and comfortable for me, I’m a learner.

As John Seely Brown says THIS IS A DIFFERENT WORLD.

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Analyse your blog to match author

So we’ve used Typeanalyser to analyse our personality through our writing.

Now use O’Faust to find out which author your blog writing is closest to in style. Mine is apparently slightly similar to that of Nietzsche.

nietzsche1

Lyrical prose, heavy use of metaphor? Germanic thought processes? No idea.

Have a go – which author does your writing style resemble?

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PicLits

piclit-1

I thought I’d try out PicLits: inspired picture writing.

PicLits.com is a creative writing site that matches beautiful images with carefully selected keywords in order to inspire you. The object is to put the right words in the right place and the right order to capture the essence, story, and meaning of the picture.

I wasn’t that pleased with my first effort, so I tried another one.

piclit2

Well, unless I’ve missed something, the list of words is limited. Then again, I haven’t read the instructions, just had a go.  I think there’s something to be said for adding text to a picture from a limited supply. The challenge is to work with what you’ve got, thinking about the position of the words, whether you want a sparse message or story, or whether you want a more crowded and descriptive text. 

Definitely much to play with either in English, foreign language or English as a Second Language classes.

I almost forgot to thank Tom Barrett for this application, and if you go to this post you’ll find 9 other digital writing opportunities.

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Christmas carols wordle quiz

I thought a wordle quiz with a Christmas carol theme might be fun. Try to guess these 10 traditional carols.

1.

awayinamanger

 

2.

doyouhearwhatihear

3.

iheardthebellsonchristmasday

4.

joytotheworld

5.

godrestyemerrygentlemen1

6.

harktheherald

7.

itcameuponamidnightclear

8.

comeallyefaithful

9.

oholynight

10.

olittletownofbethlehem

 

I think this may be a fun end of year activity for students of all ages.

Can you guess these Christmas carols?

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A limerick for all occasions, but in a dictionary?

spaceodyssey

In the spirit of holidays, I thought I’d tone down the intensity of my posts – seriousness interfering with the holiday spirit…

Reading through Articulate, I found The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form (OEDILF).

The goal of The OEDILF, our online limerictionary, is to write at least one limerick for each and every meaning of each and every word in the English language. Our best limericks will clearly define their words in a humorous or interesting way, although some may provide more entertainment than definition, or vice versa.

Look up a word, browse by author or topic/genre, or join the project to submit original limericks.

There’s an impressive list of topics/genres.

Here’s an example of what you’ll find:

If you look up the word anticlimactic, you find this limerick:

In picking up women, my tactic?

I promise adventures galactic

We watch Lost in space

When we’re back at my place

Which they find to be anticlimactic

 

Here is one result for genres: science fiction:  

asphyxiate by mephistopheles (Limerick #8004)

Though you’re weightless and moving with grace,

You’ll asphyxiate here, out in space.

Is your very best pal

a computer named Hal?

You could die here and leave not a trace.

 

And some background is included:  In Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1968 film, 2001, a Space Odyssey, an astronaut, Dave, was famously locked out of the spaceship by a malfunctioning computer named Hal. If Dave had not succeeded in getting back onto the ship, he would have died when he ran out of air.

Lots of possibilties with this dictionary, both educational and recreational. For the sake of holidays I’ll abstain from the usual heavy-handed instructions.

One more under ‘ballet’

Her willowy arms flutter slightly,
Her feathered white head drops down lightly.
Alas for Odette,
Men who love soon forget.
Thus, she’s dying in Swan Lake once nightly.
…Except on Mondays, and twice on matinees.

There.

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