Tag Archives: play

Giving GIFs a Try

One of the suggested #etmooc tasks for this week’s topic of digital storytelling is to make an animated GIF. I’ve never tried created a GIF but I’ve been very interested in testing it out, especially after watching the the “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the GIF” session with Jim Groom.

During the session there was an active backchannel via the #etmooc hashtag and someone asked about tools and apps to create GIFs. One of the suggestions was Cinemagram, which I promptly downloaded so I could test it out.

After checking out the app, I considered different things I could film to create my first GIF. I had hoped one of my cats might be a willing participant … but no such luck. Then, on my way into work today, I realized I had the perfect setting right outside my door – the playground.

I love playgrounds and think they can be wonderful places for play, exploration, and discovery. Given how many people have experienced a playground of some sort, I think they are also rich ground for calling on memories and prompting people to reflect on their own childhoods.

I created two GIFs to try and capture the movement of playgrounds. I appreciated the ability to slow the clip via Cinemagram because while action is often very fast on the playground when you’re a child, when you recall your experiences, things seem to slow down. Time is less of a factor and you’re able to gently savor a moment and think back to the people and places that share your playground memories with you. I’d be curious to hear what memories these GIFs might call up for others.

This first GIF shows swaying monkey bars, slowly yet perpetually migrating from side to side. To me, they tell the story of children who have swung on them over and over, of the desire young kids have to return to the same games time and time again. And while they sway, they are also not all in sync, reminding me of the discord that often develops among children during play when activities don’t always go as planned.

swing GIF

I debated about what story this next GIF was trying to tell (since I’m giving it a life of it’s own) and hopefully it will speak in different ways to different people. At first, I thought the GIF was a bit somber, showing empty swings with no one to enjoy them. But as I watched it some more, I felt it was actually a nice way to capture the peace and joy I often experience when swinging. I like how through the GIF I can capture the rhythmic repetition of gliding back and forth in one “still” scene and watching it, I actually begin to feel like I’m in motion too.

With all of that said, I’m not at all sure if I’m taking full advantage of all of the capabilities of Cinemagram and creating GIFs to capture a moment. Next, I hope to explore creating GIFs from photographs and using a tool like GIMP.



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. 🙂