One Hundred Words – The Game – Sunday April 28, 2013

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IMG_6440“It’s your turn.” I say handing him the small white dice. They make a pleasant sound as he shakes them and land with a plunk on the table. “Six!” He says with glee, obviously not understanding  that a low number is not that desirable. A few more pieces of colored paper move into his meager pile. His turn is played and the dice come to me. I hold them in hand testing their weight and roll them between my fingers thinking of tens and twelves. The roll is disappointing; only an eight. I buy some colored papers and move on.

Learning through Play

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Generally I don’t like riding a trend. Somehow here we are, right in the middle of the learning through play movement. As in any emerging field, there are tons of newly minted experts popping up at conventions and in city centers with fabulous visions, great ideas and buckets of energy. It’s easy to get swept up in the whirl of excitement. I started to question where I stand on education and its future. The dazzle of new opportunity blinded me.

I cleared my head. Or rather my son did. I had asked him to watch a video of kids designing games in a fun summer camp setting. He made it 1/2 way before he declared it “boring” and went back to the project he was working on in Minecraft. I started to get incensed, thinking he wasn’t really considering the opportunity. He wasn’t seeing what wondrous possibilities might await him, what working with a team of enthusiastic kids could merit. Then I took a step back, slightly bewildered, and realized that in his wisdom of few years, he’d cut to the chase. I wasn’t looking through his eyes, I was looking through mine, the eyes and mind that had been conditioned to play in an pre-organized way, to learn in a classroom, in a group.

These new classes/workshops/experiences are different. They are constructed to be child driven learning, with the focus on play, exploration, discovery and problem solving. But that’s it, right there in front of us. The design and the construction, is what makes it organized and less interesting to him. The “we have a challenge and need to address it” that’s given by the adult to the child to start the experience. The next step is the planning and process, which again is often set up by the adults involved. Of course they support the child’s dreams, desires, wishes but in the end it’s a program, a step by step process, that no matter how creatively based, it’s still not (in most cases), child driven. Even in the exceptional situations, programs like these are usually a group experience – and that means sacrifice.

I really thought about it, and thought about my personal experiences with education. I realized that I agreed with him, although I hadn’t seen it initially. That veil gone, I saw that organized programs almost never are better than an individual, or spontaneous experience. That taking a class on how to do something implicitly involves teaching or directed learning, and do I dare say it, often as not, harnesses and directs (or limits) creativity.

So does that infer there is less value to the experience? Perhaps not. Where there is freedom, a different self-directed experience can result. It’s a more creative experience because it’s not directed by outside sources. I am not suggesting to never take a class or a workshop. Exposure to new techniques, ideas, values, make for evolution of thought, and I find sometimes jump start me to a new level of creativity. But in contrast, spontaneous sparks are what take innovation to the next level. Time spent in “class”, “workshop” or with “directed learning” should be the limited experience, not the preferred method.

Learning through Play? Why yes! But learning through play in school? Certainly a better choice, especially compared to the traditional experience that most schools offer. Not a train for us jump onto, but fascinating to watch as it gathers speed…

Analog vs. Digital Learning – is it a choice or a partnership?

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I’ve just realized that our journey through homeschooling is like a marriage of the analog & digital worlds. While I have a long standing love of all things paper, my son is living in a digital age and for him the paper world is not often his first choice.

and yet…

I’ve noticed that while he’ll happily turn to the ipad or itouch to play games, he’s also entranced by a deck of cards. Instead of seeking out the ipad to play Mastermind he reaches to the analog version. Playing Minecraft seems to revitalize Lego creativity. Sometimes the watching of a movie inspires reading of a book. He likes to be read to from a real book rather than from a digital one. A surprising thing in this age.

The digital keyboard hooked up to Garageband seems to only render the piano in the other room more respect. The curiosity which is piqued spills over into anything related. Why didn’t I see it? It makes sense that it is really not important how the sparks are created as long as they fly and ignite other quests and explorations. The trip we take is a mental resource book, filed on the shelf. The TV show I detest spawns a new understanding of how to deliver a one-liner.

In this digital web-driven world we are living in, I wonder how to keep the analog fresh, inspiring and alive? But perhaps I shouldn’t be that concerned. My love of analog things seems to have been adopted by osmosis, rather than abandoned as I feared.

Likewise I am important. My quest for testing something new, or revisiting something old does not go unnoticed. The art class I take, the book I pick up, the recipe I try, are all appreciated by a quiet observer. He’s even looking over my shoulder as I type this, wondering why I’m typing and re-typing. “What’s editing, he asks?”

He might not be interested in the subject matter right now, but all that happens, which goes by, in his world, is noticed. If I share a new passion, it might not currently be of interest, but it’s as if it’s filed for future reference. The potential energy, the empowerment is created too. The old adage that knowledge is power, doesn’t mean you have to be an active participant through the acquisition process. To plant a seed and pluck a pea or tomato, to smell the roasting coffee in the oven, or see the rising loaf on the counter. Taken for granted, but not ignored. The analog is noticed even if it’s just around. The power of knowing.

Every once in a while, I panic. I evaluate what we do, or don’t do, or could be doing, and I find holes. What is important in the reality of it all, is the learning, experience, wisdom and knowledge itself. The achievement through analog or digital or some of each is party of the journey in which we are always learning. The key to the partnership of Analog & Digital, is making sure they are both around and accessible.