Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Towards a Players' Education

In Fablusi, we refer to play in three ways: play as in "playing with fun", "play acting" and "play with possibilities".

We believe that we learn better when we are having fun learning.

From the post linked to this title (by Patrick Mark Kane), it touches on most of the aspects of the way we see play, not necessarily group the concept in the same way as we do. For example:

The role of play for the grand theorists of educational psychology – Piaget and Vygotsky – was to act as a 'practice venue'. Playtime was the zone where children could ready themselves for more organised kinds of representing and symbolising (reading, writing and arithmetic).

To us, this is the notion of "play acting" where the role play simulation acts as a backstage where a player (taking on the persona of a role in the simulation) practices the behaviour in preparation for real world tasks.

As long as the "game", or simulation in Fablusi's case, is engaging, the challenge and problems faced by the gamers/player are part of the challenge which the gamers pay to enjoy. This point brings out clear and sharp by Patrick.

game designers depend on millions of people being prepared to undertake the serious amount of learning needed to master a complex game. If their public failed to learn, they'd go out of business. Kids who talk about 'hard fun' don't mean it's fun in spite of being hard. It's fun because it's hard. Learning happens best when one is deeply engaged in hard and challenging activities.

[my emphasis]

Game designers risk a lot of money in designing games that are engaging. Educators may learn a lot from the game designers.

Yet, the key message from Patrick is that traditional educator should not fight against the game culture.

Australian educational thinkers Allan and Carmen Luke have proposed that the strong emphasis on print literacy in early years education, right across the northern and western world, is actually a kind of generational backlash. And it is directed against new forms of techno-literacy, mastered by children yet mostly baffling to their adult teachers.

and later Patrick continues:

Yet the wider societal context to this is important. This new techno-literacy – which kids are assembling by themselves in their own largely unregulated time and space – is an honest response to a fundamental shift in the structures of post-modern life: the life of flows and networks, the power of culture and ideas, summed up by the 'information age'. Almost entirely autonomously, children are using play to make themselves imaginatively capable for this new world.

Let me just summarise, using Patrick's words again:

The post-modern labour market isn't just constantly producing new and unexpected kinds of job; it also allows children to think about creating their own kind of productive life, one that blurs or morphs all existing categories. The potential life journeys of these young players, full of surprises and performances, should be inspiring for teachers – and especially for those new teachers who might also happily regard themselves as 'digital natives'. How can they develop children's capacities, energies and resilience to thrive in this much more open, risky world?

One further tradition of play, properly recognised and identified, could begin to dissolve those fetters. In the process, we could begin to comprehend the kinds of destructive (and self-destructive) alienation from education that growing numbers of young people exhibit. For the one value of play not yet mentioned is that of play as selfhood and freedom – the protean spark, as it were, that animates our embrace of and participation in all forms of play. Just as those who must play, cannot play, can we adapt this for education: those who must learn, cannot learn?

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