In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and various projects being undertaken within the sector.

Play is an essential part of childhood development. Play encourages social, physical, cultural, emotional and mental development and is enshrined in the United Nations Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989). It is defined as activity associated with recreational enjoyment or pleasure and can be voluntary or intrinsically motivated. It is appealing to play as it has less construct and there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it.

Play isn’t confined to childhood as Chrissi Nerantzi, Principal Lecturer in Academic CPD at MMU notes “Play helps us go back to who we really are as human beings, full of life, curiosity and wonder. Creatures who are not afraid to be different, even silly at times and ready to try different things.”

Within the University, space needs to be created to facilitate play. This could be through accredited routes such as a PGCHE or through educational development workshops. At Falmouth, we’ve seen constructs from PGCHE cohorts of paper aeroplanes and boats, giant bubbles, campus maps made of waste materials, pop up galleries and bridges built out of straws that have resulted from collaborative challenges and playful activities.

Technology can facilitate and encourage play through game based apps or by using devices to document processes, communicate and collaborate with each other. Our ‘Hunger Games’ scavenger hunt creates a space in which to play with communications technology and the team provide iPads and logins for common social networks, so staff can have a go without signing up for services. Using Open Source Technologies might also facilitate this. For example, you might set up Pinry to explore Pinterest like curation or Diaspora as a short messaging alternative to Twitter. Sandstorm also lets you play with a range of web tools, without having to install or configure them.

Play lends itself to a constructivist approach, where the learner is the information constructor and learning can happen through multiple attempts and failures. Lego Serious Play has been used in the business and education sectors for a number of years now and facilitates the creation of lego artifacts to promote shared understanding of a concept or goal. The first playful learning conference took place this year and there is also a G+ Community for playful learners.

Institutions and individuals need to make space to play, as it can help us reflect upon and transform our educational practices in new and creative ways. For more information on any of the approaches and tools listed, contact the team.

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