Tag Archives: inquiry

Let’s Share More and Duplicate Less at #ISTE12

Recently, I blogged about my first ISTE conference experience. After having some time to reflect, I want to share a few more thoughts and questions that have continued to bounce around in my head.

The theme of all of these ideas is the search for consistency from one’s educational philosophy to practice. I think many educators feel that their teaching philosophy is one that focuses on the student. It is a philosophy that values engagement, creativity, open-ended inquiry and exploration, as well as empowerment and respect. A philosophy that entails fostering collaboration and sharing among students and the creation of projects and meaningful products. Yet, when we step back and examine our practice, often times parts of this philosophy are missing, especially when it comes to practicing these tenets amongst ourselves. When we gather as educators, shouldn’t we practice our philosophy with one another?

Today, we talk about flipping the classroom but when will we flip the conference? While many of the ISTE conference materials were made available online during or after the event, they were rarely distributed prior to sessions in a way that would allow attendees to show up ready to discuss and engage in the material. ISTE was an amazing and rich experience but I believe it could have been even richer if there were less lecture and unidirectional dialogue in sessions and more collaboration, sharing, and discussion. In watching the post-conference Twitter feeds and blog posts, I’m continuing to learn so much content and I almost wish the content could be distributed before/after the conference so that sessions would be freed up for debate, sharing, questioning, and collaborative thinking.

The conference is such a unique opportunity for collaboration, creation, and communication across disciplines and roles, as people travel thousands of miles to gather face to face in one place. It seems like the perfect opportunity for people to sit down and deepen relationships, move beyond tools to think about their purpose and plan for technology use. It could be a chance for groups to make concrete plans and next steps about what we can each do for our own professional growth in using educational technologies and how we can share what we’ve learned to make a difference in our districts, our schools, and our classrooms.

We ask our students not to be consumers of media and technology tools but to be producers and creators of innovative works and collaborative products. What are the products that we each created at #ISTE12 that we can use to contribute to our local communities and the larger global education community?

One product could easily involve the many tools, resources, and ideas that were being shared across sessions, disciplines, and devices. I would love to see more unified collaboration and sharing, especially when we have so many tools at our disposal (e.g., Twitter, Google Docs, Evernote notebooks, Symbaloo mixes) to help each of us to share notes and links in real-time during the conference and asynchronously after it ends, so we can take advantage of being part of such a thoughtful community. I’m also guilty of curating my own tools, resources, and ideas from the conference and I understand that we each might be gathering specific resources for specific goals but I wonder if it’s still possible to share more and duplicate our work less. I was so excited to see this new compilation of posts with ISTE 2012 reflections and this Google Doc full of collaborative notes. I know many Google Docs and other backchannels were shared out during the conference and I hope we can gather them all in one place.

In addition to curating these resources for ourselves, I think it is just as important to document our learnings from the ISTE conference for others who could not attend or had not heard of the conference. While at ISTE, in a session where I ended up knowing most of the content, someone asked me why I was tweeting. I replied that I wasn’t tweeting for myself, I was tweeting for my PLN.

As an educator inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, I believe deeply in the power of documentation to prompt reflection, demonstrate learning, and capture inquiry. I also believe that we need to model and practice what we are looking for in our classrooms and from our students. So I work to create products to document my own learning (e.g., blog posts, tweets, pinboards) so I can share it with others and engage them in a discussion about how, when, why, and if various tools and approaches I have learned about would fit in various educational settings. I worked hard to tweet throughout the conference but I was disappointed at the seemingly small number of people I saw tweeting through sessions and sharing out their ideas, tools, and questions.

I know (but at times struggle to remember) that social media, while an amazing tool for professional development and networking, is still new to many. I want to help use tools like Twitter to demonstrate to others how one person, attending one conference, can affect so many when knowledge is captured and shared globally online.

Curious George, my curiosity mentor!

I know one blogger (@engaginged) was recently discussing the challenge of breaking into the key networking areas at ISTE and as a newbie myself, I found this to be true. I appreciated his challenge to try and find a way to connect everyone at the conference into the same conversation and maybe, if more of us begin to tweet, blog, and share openly during the conference, there will be more space for inclusion and collaboration. And maybe to give things a little push, ISTE could even consider partnering new attendees with mentors who have experience in using tools to share during the conference, visiting the various networking lounges, and migrating new relationships to online spaces so they can continue after the conference. What do you think, would you want an ISTE mentor?

Inquiring into Play – Part II

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to use a recent Washington Post article by Alfie Kohn discussing his thoughts on How children’s ‘play’ is being sneakily redefined to inquire within and “aloud” about some of my thoughts on play. Below are my reflections on his last two propositions (listed in bold).

4. The point of play is that it has no point.

This fourth idea is one I feel like simultaneously celebrating and questioning. It seems hard to dispute the value of defining play as a “process, not product” and allowing it to have no other goal than play itself yet play can produce amazing “products” (e.g., cognitive learning, social development), right? But maybe I’m conflicted about this for reasons similar to Kohn and the desire to promote increased play by hailing its positive benefits. Maybe I too am sneakily trying to redefine play as something like “self-initiated cognitive activity” in order to help it survive in our schools and educational contexts. Maybe redefining play to try and promote it is the wrong approach and for all of my good intentions in promoting play, I too am pushing for its relabeling instead of fighting for the intrinsic value of play, regardless of its related benefits in learning and development for people of all ages.

5. Play isn’t the only alternative to “work.” 

I was intrigued by the assertion that in addition to work and play, there is learning (“whose primary purpose is neither play-like enjoyment nor work-like competition of products”). It reminded me of another play article I read recently by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) about “Debunking the Play vs. Learning Dichotomy.” In the article, Dr. Snow argues that “maintaining the dichotomy between play and instruction is a distraction” and that we need to examine play and learning together and explore (play?) with finding a balance between them in the classroom. I don’t believe Kohn is arguing for an either/or mentality but he does seem to be suggesting that there can be a clear distinction between play and learning. I wonder how separate the concepts can and should be? If we use the perspective discussed in the NAEYC article above and define play as an activity leading to and producing benefits like increased creativity and problem solving skills, does it still fit Kohn’s requirement for “pure play”?

All of these thoughts also reminded me of a recent article in Psychology Today about “the roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning” and the question of “evolutionary mismatch.” Has all of the controversy over play arisen because of how much our schools have changed and the mismatch between our inherent desire to be self-directed, curious, and playful running up against standardized curricula and pressure to direct students’ learning?

As is often the case, my inquiry has lead to further questions and areas for now deeper inquiry but I hope others will add their thoughts and we can explore these ideas together. “Play is hard to maintain as you get older. You get less playful. You shouldn’t, of course” (R. Feynman – Physicist). Play might be hard to maintain but I think fighting to maintain it in our lives and in our children’s lives is important and if we use children as our inspiration I think we can all find ways to bring more play into our daily lives. :-)

Inquiring into Play – Part I

 Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.
~Fred Rogers

Play is a topic I always enjoy returning too and it’s something that has been popping up on my digital radar a lot in the past month or so. I also recently discovered a blog that encourages educators to “inquire within“. I really appreciate this sentiment because as an educator I think it can be easy to get lost in your work teaching or researching and slowly let the inquiry begin to fade away. So I’ve decided to use a recent Washington Post article by Alfie Kohn discussing his thoughts on How children’s ‘play’ is being sneakily redefined to inquire within and “aloud” about some of my thoughts on play.

Kohn made five propositions on the subject of play (the first three are listed below in bold), all of which I found very thought provoking, so I decided to split my thoughts and questions about them into two post (post #2 coming soon!) to allow more room for inquiry and discussion.

1. “Play” is being sneakily redefined.

I have seen classrooms where “play” has slowly transitioned into planned, curriculum-inspired and teacher-directed activities. Instead of allowing children the freedom to express their ideas and creative energy, we’re asking them to funnel that energy into specific activities that we, or our curriculum books or state standards, have labeled appropriate and productive for children’s learning and development. Our focus has shifted (although maybe this isn’t such a recent shift?) to achievement and results, to finding ways to demonstrate how our children are scoring and some would argue, to label children so that we can categorize them and even, at times, create hierarchies of knowledge.

In a course for my master’s program we have been discussing the merits of critical educational psychology (Bird, 1999) and the need to integrate different cultural values and practices into our views of education and childhood (as well as the assessments that we use) (Burman, 2010). I want to problematize the idea that we can so easily use standardized objectives and measurements to determine a child’s level of development and learning and their related opportunities for play. Do these achievement-oriented activities that are now labeled “play” and related assessments truly support the diversity of contexts (e.g., cultural, linguistic) that children are bringing to the classroom? If not, how can we better incorporate that diversity in the classroom while also allowing Kohn’s “pure play” to regain its place at the center of classroom activity?

2. Younger and older children ought to have the chance to play together.

After traveling through Italy and seeing multi-age early childhood classrooms influenced by the views of Montessori and Reggio Emilia, this idea of having younger and older children playing (and learning) together definitely resonates with me. Although I know there can be difficult challenges with trying to manage a classroom and the learning goals of children in a mixed-age class, with the right support, I think it can be really beneficial for both the younger and older children involved. Which makes me wonder, what would it be like in school if there were more interaction between grades? What if collaboration between a first and fifth grade class or a preschool and an upper grade class, was the norm?

3. Play isn’t just for children.

Thank goodness! I would be quite disappointed if play were just reserved for kids. I think the idea that “play, or something quite close to it, should be part of a teenager’s or adult’s life” is not as problematic as how we make play a daily part of our lives, whatever our age. When we’ve spent so much time separating “play” from “work” and even “learning”, it’s challenging to try and remind employers and ourselves about the benefits of play and to find ways to integrate play in our day-to-day activities. And how do we encourage the children we teach to value play in this way?

What do you think of Kohn’s first three propositions? What are your thoughts on play? I’ll try to post thoughts on the last two propositions soon!

Citations

Bird, L. (1999). Towards a more critical educational psychology. Annual Review of Critical Psychology, 1, pp. 21-33.

Burman, E. (2010). Discourses of the child.  Deconstructing developmental psychology (pp. 67-84). London: Routledge.