The July 18, 2007, Christian Science Monitor article “Why children need to learn to play” resonated deeply with me. The author includes several quotations from David Elkind, author of “Power of Play” and “The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon.” According to the article:
“Over the past two decades, children have lost 12 hours of free time a week,” Elkind writes in “The Power of Play.” This includes “eight hours of unstructured play and outdoor activities.” This time has been supplanted by organized and more sedentary activities. “The time children spend in organized sports has doubled, and the number of minutes children devote to a passive spectator activity â€¦ not including television â€¦ has gone from 30 minutes to more than three hours a week,” Elkind continues. Even schools contribute to this scarcity of playtime: Some have eliminated recess in favor of more time in the classroom.
I wrote last week about the value of unstructured play (and yes, perhaps DID contradict myself a bit in a later post about SecondLife.) My thinking about creativity, our need to intentionally cultivate the use of our imaginations in formal as well as informal learning contexts, and educational reform keeps coming back to this need for more autonomy on the part of all learners: experts as well as novices. (Teachers as well as students.) What is being discussed here is not just “fluff” that can be discarded as unnecessary “extras” in the learning environment, we’re talking about essential elements of creative and high achieving learning cultures. Do you have administrators, school board members, and community members in your local area “concerned” about raising levels of student achievement in math and science? Elkind offers the following related insights in this article:
Fantasy, curiosity, and imagination are the mental tools required for success in higher-level math and science… The failure to develop these tools [through play] is, in part at least, one of the reasons America is falling behind other countries in attracting young people into these fields.
So, what are digital innovators and early adopters to do? I’m planning to start a twice-monthly club at our school next year, which I want to call something like “Invent the Future” or “We Invent the Future,” borrowing from Alan Kay’s wonderful quotation including those words. What sorts of activities might we do in our “club?” Certainly play with Scratch. Probably make fun podcasts. And likely create digital music together. That sounds like a great set of activities to start with… and that may be all we need.
I understand Elkind is critical of the passive use of technologies when they take away time from more unstructured and interactive things kids of all ages can do. I think we need to make sure we (and our own children as well as students) are living “balanced” lives when it comes to digital media, but I think interactive media can play a positive role in developing the sort of skill set for which he advocates in his books. I ran across this image on Flickr today, searching for “playground” in the Creative Commons search area:
What would constitute a “digital playground of dreams” for your students or your own children? In addition to tools like Scratch and Audacity or Garageband for podcasting, I’m thinking TuxPaint should also be included in the palette of free applications in a “digital playground of dreams.” To be included on this list, I’m thinking programs should be FREE, so students who have a computer can install the program at home without any financial barriers (licensing costs) impeding their creativity. I wish M-Audio’s Session software was free on Windows PCs, since it is very “Garageband-like.” What other software (that is FREE and encourages student creative expression) would you include on this list? As free software, you and I both could create CDs which we could GIVE to students at school so they could install and use these programs at home on their family’s computer.
I realize EduBuntu is free and includes a lot of great educational applications, but I’m thinking it is not very realistic for most of the families at our school who have computers to install a new OS in lieu of their current Windows version or Macintosh version OS. (That would require a bigger decision to be made on the part of the parent(s) than just adding one or two new “free” applications.) If our school was using EduBuntu, that would be a powerful encourager for such a dramatic move, but ours is not currently…. at least not yet! 😉
Thanks to the free EduTopia newsletter writers for alerting me to this article, which I incidentally read first on my iPhone! 😉
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On this day..
- Creatively Saying with Video: Grandchild #10 is Coming! - 2011
- How important are these digital skills for you as an educator? (poll) - 2010
- Transformative power of flash-based video cameras - 2008
- links for 2008-07-26 - 2008
- WordPress 2.6 up and running - 2008
- Let's work together, shall we?! - 2007
- Podguides and virtual field trips - 2006
- Track MTI 2006! - 2006
- Prescriptions for 21st Century Intentional Living - 2005
- Living in an Attention Economy - 2005