The Importance of Play

I don’t have all (or most or many) of the answers, but I do recognize many of the problems, and I believe we find solutions by examining, discussing, and generally tackling problems head on. One of those problems frequently on my mind of late is teacher training for technology. I think probably more schools get it wrong than right, and as a result teachers often feel impossibly behind, impossibly underprepared, and impossibly under-confident.

This isn’t entirely a teacher problem. Largely, it’s an adult problem. Those of us who grew up in less tech saturated times just don’t have the innate confidence of the young in experimenting with new tech tools. Last night I let my 4-year-old nephew play with my iPhone. He played games, downloaded video, and experimented to find out if he could trick the phone by touching multiple places on the screen at once. He tried to get the adults around him to play as well, but they all said, “I don’t want to mess up the phone.” They trusted the 4-year-old to get it right more than they trusted themselves.

You, as a teacher, a parent, a person of adult years, aren’t going to do anything to a gadget, application, or process that can’t be fixed. You just don’t trust that intuitively the way a child does. You aren’t native to this digital world. But you do have to live in it. You do have to use the language and the tools of it to get by. And if you want to thrive in the digital world, you have to learn to play with technology in the same way a child does in order to understand it.

A comment left on my previous post mentioned play, and it reminded me that play is part of what’s missing in teacher training. We do anything but. We’re put under pressure. We put ourselves under more pressure through our own lack of confidence. We start to resent being asked to make so many changes, and we shut down for a time, putting us even further behind…a truly vicious cycle. Much of it does go back to the lack of playfulness in our introduction to technology. We’re told steps. 1, 2, 3, do this. Next. 1, 2, 3, do this.

We don’t take enough time to play around. We don’t take enough time (if any) to discuss lesson ideas, formulate best practices, or research pedagogical theories. Often we’re shown how something works by someone in IT coming at it from an IT perspective rather than from a fellow teacher coming at it from a classroom perspective. We’re told its functionality, and we may not have a clue what that really implies for us and our students. So we don’t follow through because nothing particularly inspired us about the functionality of the thing, and we’re busier than we can handle taking care of stuff we do understand.

But consider this video on “Fun Theory.”

People will do what’s good for them if it’s presented as the more entertaining path. Even students. Even teachers.

Instead of more training sessions with more 1, 2, 3 steps for technology, maybe what the teachers need are some play dates.