I’m not only a fan of playing with media, I also love to “play with ideas” and encourage others to do the same. In finalizing corrections for my dissertation today, I ran across this quotation from John Dewey in his 1910 book, “How We Think.” On pages 218-219 of the original text (pages 232-233 of the PDF on archive.org) Dewey notes:
To be playful and serious at the same time is possible, and it defines the ideal mental condition. Absence of dogmatism and prejudice, presence of intellectual curiosity and flexibility, are manifest in the free play of the mind upon a topic. To give the mind this free play is not to encourage toying with a subject, but is to be interested in the unfolding of the subject on its own account, apart from its subservience to a preconceived belief or habitual aim. Mental play is open-mindedness, faith in the power of thought to preserve its own integrity without external supports and arbitrary restrictions. Hence free mental play involves seriousness, the earnest following of the development of subject-matter. It is incompatible with carelessness or flippancy, for it exacts accurate noting of every result reached in order that every conclusion may be put to further use. What is termed the interest in truth for its own sake is certainly a serious matter, yet this pure interest in truth coincides with love of the free play of thought.
As I read these words, I’m thinking of the opportunities to “play with ideas” which students have more frequently in after-school clubs, summer camp experiences, and in elective courses at school not “required for the test.” I’m thinking of student Storychaser clubs. I’m thinking of speech and debate classes, debate club meetings after school and speech/debate tournaments on the weekends. I want my own children to love playing with ideas, not because of a specific, pre-defined outcome I’ve ordained or a teacher has defined in advance but because of the intrinsic value and love of learning which can be manifested when we “play with ideas.” Perhaps some of this thinking accounts for the website “eBooks Sandbox: a space to share free eBook experiments!” which I setup recently. I want to encourage others to “play with ideas” and experience permission to creatively apply their imaginations to a storytelling challenge, as well as “play with media.” As learners of any age, we need to both give ourselves permission as well as time and space to play freely with ideas in the way Dewey highlights in this passage.
How are you playing with ideas this week? How are you encouraging your students and children to play with ideas? As we play with ideas, we can amplify our thinking by playing with media. That’s one of the things I hope student storychasers can and will do in the months ahead.
If you’re looking for inspiration along these lines, consider The Daily Create: Daily assignments to fuel your creativity. Brought to us (in part) by the same creative genius who invented Five Card Flickr: Alan Levine. Follow @DS106TDC on Twitter. New assignments are posted each day at 10 am EST.
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