Sunday, September 30, 2012

The importance of play

Please watch this video of John Seely Brown's keynote "Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Learner in the 21st Century," which he presented at the 2012 Digital Media and Learning Conference.  Brown says so many things, but one thing he articulates that I have been trying to find words for is the importance of giving students the time to tinker with or play with technology.

This importance of tinkering is something that our computer teacher and I were just talking about this week in the context of content creation.  Our students need to be willing to try clicking a few buttons on their own in computer lab to see what happens.  This is the way they will remember what happens and learn how to fix mistakes on their own.  If they are working in the Paint program, there is very little harm they can do; they need to be experimenting and playing with how things work.   If they are creating a new file to put their documents in, they can click around to see if they can figure out how to do it before asking for help.  If our students can learn to safely experiment, they will be in a much better position to learn new technologies, than say, our parents, who are in some cases stymied by their new cell phones and are afraid to try to use them.

Similarly, one of the goals of the iPad pilot program is to give students time to play -- to create content in different ways with the iPads -- Popplets, digital stories, videos, podcasts.  They will be creating academic content, but they will also be tinkering with technology.  They will make mistakes, they will have some "redos," some projects will be better than others, and that is all part of the plan.  Our students need to be prepared to live and work in an increasingly technological world. That means we must help work through the process of making technology work for them in a safe atmosphere.

In our pilot program, we will be using iPad2s, which for some purposes are already outdated.  Our iPads aren't 3G and don't have the fabulous retina display.   Our school will not be able to keep up with technology as it changes.  Money is really tight.  This doesn't affect our purpose, however, because at the rate technology is changing, there will always be something better out there. 

The rate of technological change emphasizes that our students need to learn how to adapt the skills they learn on one platform to another platform they will use later.  They should expect to tinker and they should expect to make "mistakes."   If we are lucky, they will also expect to figure out how the new platform and the next one after that work.

Thank you John Seely Brown so explaining this so very eloquently.