The Power of Playing

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the difference in technology literacy and comfort level among students and teachers. I am trying to find a way to teach or maybe better said allow students to learn t be comfortable with their skills, understand that they have the power within themselves to figure things out.

A big hurdle seems to be the obstacle of their own fear. A fear that they could “mess” something up.

In the last few weeks, I have made it a point to address this fear in TechConnect. I have the feeling that I am on the right path, by stressing over and over again the power of playing. Here are just a few phrases I have repeated to my classes:

  • Try the program out…
  • no instructions…
  • experiment….
  • no questions…
  • look around and observe what others are doing…
  • click on every button you can find on the screen…
  • watch the screen and see what happens…
  • what changes, when you do this/ do that….
  • Learn about you best friend: The “undo” (CTRL- Z) if you don’t like the changes that happened….

I have had a particular positive experience with my fourth graders last week. I started out by showing them the video “Stuck on an Escalator”

We had a short talk about it, that I see them as being stuck on an escalator sometimes, when they come to TechConnect and then get “stuck” in front of the computer. I see them starting to scream for HELP (just as the two in the video) and I don’t understand why they don’t just try to WALK off.

This analogy seemed to make sense to them.

I them tell them to go to an online site, called Linerider. The instructions are NO questions allowed. They are allowed to get up and watch another student, but can’t ask him questions either. At the end of the class we will all watch each other’s “product”. No further explanations were given.They all raced to their stations and started clicking away. I saw some kids get started right away drawing their lines, while others started to read the instructions on the site or peaked over to other screens to see what was going on. Everyone was enthusiastic and engaged.

Everyone was proud to show off their Line Rider track they had created. We also watched a clip of someone else’s track that I had found on YouTube the following class, after everyone had gone home and played with the game on their own. This news of the “cool” things we are doing in TechConnect traveled through the campus fast.

I believe that it is essential that we allow the kids the time to “play” with the programs and sites we expect them to use as a tool. There should be time to explore without any or minimal� instructions given.

After all that is how I learn too….