The Role Of Play In Learning

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If you’ve ever taught–or even just watched someone learn something new–the role of play in learning is fascinating.

While receiving instruction in a formal learning environment, the tone of learning is a mix of nerves, confusion, directives, and  compliance. And worse, instead of a direct line from learner to content, there is a triangle of interaction between the user, the content, and the teacher.

When learners “play,” everything shifts, and with that perceptible shift comes a bounty of potential for learning.

Here learners are able to directly interact with content without the intrusion of monitoring, assessment, or having to decipher “teacher messages.” When this happens, there is more willingness to experiment, to understand, to follow curiosity, and to hold one’s self accountable to one’s own standards for achievement. One immediate effect of this is personalization of learning, for the learner, by the learner.

In the following video from Digital Media Research Hub, Katie Salen, Depaul University professor and Executive Director of the Institute of Play discusses the role of play in learning, describing it as a “state of being” that empowers learners to access and explore content, and consider the roles of others in a shared learning space.

Image attribution flickr user josekevo

  • http://www.playmeo.com/ Mark Collard

    Thank you Terry, and Katie. You quite simply explain the powerful impact of inviting ‘students’ (be they young or old) into the realm of play to engage them directly in their learning. At the start of my interactive workshops, I “invite people to play”, and explain that my intention is to broaden this concept in my student’s minds beyond the “playing of games.” Within minutes, the playful approach I embrace disarms my group and before they know (very important) they are playing, sharing, discovering and learning more than they thought was possible.

    If I may be so bold, I founded an ever-expanding online database of playful group games which are not only fun, but are ideal for integrating in traditional curriculum settings to engage students and importantly, develop critical self-esteem and interpersonal skills.

    Have fun out there!
    Mark Collard – http://www.playmeo.com