Chapter 7: Knowing, Making, and Playing
"Culture, [Johan Huizinga] says, does not create play; play creates culture. In almost every example of what he describes as "the sacred," play is the defining feature of our most valued cultural rites and rituals. As such, for Huizinga, play is not something we do; it is who we are."
Instead of focusing on why school isn't fun or why play and inquiry isn't a common part of the current lexicon of learning, I want to ask myself: how do I bring inquiry and play into my learning space?
I think inquiry is a tough thing to do for some teachers because of two reasons: (1) lack of clarity and objective examples of what inquiry looks like and (2) teacher anxiety about sharing the direction of the curriculum with the students. I think the authors gave a great example of how to ask an inquiry-based question to a student who enjoys basketball: what is the best way to shoot a basket? Rather than dress up a physics question in a basketball theme, this question opens up investigation and the student may end-up in a completely different place beyond the topic of physics. This unbounding of the curriculum can be frightening because that means that it's not just the class and year that is going to be different, but the next week, the next day will be something completely different and we (educators) have to work, adapt, and flex to the direction taken by the students. I find this scenario exhilarating to think about because I would have loved to had this type of learning define my education. Conversely, I find the prospect as a teacher to be absolutely boggling because I do not have a referential framework of which to utilize to help me foster such a learning space. I grew up in a world of traditional learning in the classroom, and I'm going to have to deconstruct what I know and how I have come to understand teaching if I'm going to embrace and foster a new culture of learning.
Chapter 8: Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out
"In order to provide a glimpse of how students are learning in new ways, we include here an overview of Mizuko Ito's ethnographic studies of social media participation by youths and young adults. In this three-year, large-scale, collaborative project funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ito and her team constructed a typology of practices to describe the way young people participate with new media: hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. We believe these three practices could frame a progression of learning that is endemic to digital networks."
According to the authors, hanging out is all about "developing a social identity." More than just learning how to use technology apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, it's establishing an identity by feeling out and learning the social norms of that digital space.
Six months ago, my cohort members were challenged to "hang out" by our professor Jeffery Heil. We were assigned to create this Weebly website, blog, Twitter accounts, and a host of other tasks and assignments designed to help us think and craft an online teacher identity. Now at the start of a new semester, I have come to really appreciate the structure, design, and intention behind Prof. Heil's curriculum. Admittedly, if you were to ask me "What did you learn in this class?" I would have a hard time answering this question, but I will give it a try:
It was more than just learning how to use Twitter or making blog posts; it was making us into modern digital citizens who assimilate, create, and play with the new tools of technology so that we can hopefully do the same with our classrooms. Many us share the sentiment that traditional passive learning schemes are antiquated and inadequate. Old ways of education are not designed to foster creative learning skills that are now in demand and will be in demand in an unfixed and unpredictable future. The new learning schemes are still being explored, created, and evaluated, and we are the ones at this frontier of learning.
Chapter 9: A New Culture of Learning for a World of Constant Change
"That moment of fusion between unlimited resources and a bounded environment creates a space that does not simply allow for imagination, it requires it. Only when we care about experimentation, play, and questions more than efficiency, outcomes, and answers do we have a space that is truly open to imagination.
And where imaginations play, learning happens."
In this final chapter, the authors 'geek out' a bit about the video game World of Warcraft (WoW) and how it is an almost perfect example of "an environment where learning happens on a continuous basis because the participants are internally motivated to find, share, and filter new information on a near-constant basis." WoW and other massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) have existed for over a decade and are hugely popular gaming platforms. I am familiar with the genre, but I have never actually played the game myself. I find the huge world-building nature of the gameplay to be daunting, and I never really got into it too much. Now, I don't deny the learning and collaboration occurring within MMOs, but I am left wondering how to translate the learning spaces inside of these digital worlds into the classroom? There are some apps out there that follow the MMO theme and layer it onto a classroom setting. The questing, grouping, and leveling up are part of the experience in these platforms. But in the end, I feel that these solutions are similar to the dressing up a physics problem in a basketball theme. I need to give the students choice within a bounded framework - a curriculum that allows exploration of their personal passions and ideas, but still tethered and restricted so that they are challenged to find creative solutions. More and more, I realize that I don't need to look very hard for those boundaries as they are already pre-established: standards, resource limitations, personal experience, etc. Limitations will always exist, and I need to learn how to play within the confines of the classroom to explore how creative I can be as a teacher.
Thomas, Douglas, and John Seely Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace?, 2011. Print.