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Posts Tagged ‘play’

In which I follow up on the exhortation to “just connect” by noting an additional approach to connective learning.

“Play, which is more prevalent during the periods of most rapid brain development after birth (childhood), seems to continue the process of neural evolution, taking it even one step farther. Play also promotes the creation of new connections that didn’t exist before, new connections between neurons and between disparate brain centers. It is activated from and organizes what I call “divinely superfluous neurons.” These are neural connections that don’t seem to have an immediate function but when fired up by play are, in fact, essential to continued brain organization…

"...don't seem to have an immediate function..."

In playing we foster the creation of those new circuits and test them by running signals through them. Because play is a nonessential activity, this testing is done safely, when survival is not at stake….

Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s counterpart. Play is like fertilizer for brain growth. It’s crazy not to use it. As we grow older, we are taught that learning should be serious, that subjects are complicated. These serious subjects take serious study, we are told, and play only trivializes them… [But] sometimes the best way to get a feel of a complicated subject is to just play with it…

"... we are taught that learning must be serious..."

When play arises out of innate motivations it is also likely timed to occur when we are primed for the most synaptic neural growth. That is when we are embracing the issues that grab us most, the ones we may not even be able to voice logically…

Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties… Stepping out of a normal routine, finding novelty, being open to serendipity, enjoying the unexpected, embracing a little risk, and finding pleasure in the heightened vividness of life. These are all qualities of a state of play…

"... stepping out of a normal routine..."

The world needs play because it enables each person to live a good life…”

From: Brown, Stuart and Vaughn, Christopher (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York: Avery.

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CCK08: Skyped

And in other news..

I think I first used Skype in 2003 or 2004. We called the other half of the family (thanks to the dispersal of technology genes on two sides of the ocean) for Christmas and wound up talking to at least eight family members. Our pork roast baked to leather, and our elfin, eager gift-openers became more than a bit disgruntled. But the conversation and technology worked, in an echo-y, satellite-delayed way. It was new and fun (and free), and we confirmed that another year of live candles on the tree had passed without involvement of the Feuerwehr.

The problem with being an early adopter, though, was that, barring total strangers, there really wasn’t anyone else to talk to.  (Skyping total strangers, while done at the time, never really got the thumbs up here…) So while we could hold fascinating conversations about the weather with the technologically-minded brother, the rest of the family wasn’t quite as ready to make the leap.

We worked for a while with inefficient redundancy, calling people on the phone to ask them to hang up their phone and turn on their computers so that we could talk to them.  It may have saved a few dollars, but it also got old fast. I asked other folks I needed to contact if they used Skype, but never did find anyone where “skyping” became a natural, casual and easy contact method. Eventually, Skype got bumped from the applications folder, and life went on with email and the six-cents-a-minute phone card.

So it was pretty entertaining to re-enter the Skype world with Lisa, Kristina, Andreas and Eduardo during an impromptu Friday CCK08 un-session… in a sincere but comedy-of-errors kind of way. In an effort to get everyone in on the same conversation, Ustream video and audio went to multi-moderator option went to text chat went to Skype, which I downloaded on the fly. My head cold was so bad I couldn’t hear myself talk. A quick dash around the house confirmed that the elves had absconded with our headsets for their foreign language practice. Thus, everyone’s conversation got cycled back through my computer’s built-in mike. And the VERY LOUD FAN in my aged Mac Powerbook G4 began gasping for air the middle of things, drowning out everyone’s audio. Like Kristina, I, too, felt like I was hindering the conversation more than helping it.

But still, there is something “connective” about mild, technologically-induced hardship. (And it was way warmer in my office than out on one of those high ropes challenge courses.) Maybe it was just me, but it kind of felt like kids in a hayloft with a bedsheet/parachute. Could it be done?  Would there be blood? (And can I have your iPhone if you don’t make it?)

I suspect that few participants, like Andreas, had already perfected their parachute jumps, but they were very patient with scaffolding the rest of us in. Education was well served. And this little venture also served, from an education perspective, to reinforce my bias that improvisational and playful learning is engaging. No one staged this ahead of time, no one engineered the obstacles, no one defined specific expectations for the outcome, and the outcomes, not necessarily quantifiable in terms of discussion points covered or conclusions reached, were still somehow satisfying and potentially useful to participants … at the very least in the form of cautionary tales about the impulsive use of connective technologies.

 The fate of future CCK08 connections via Skype? Who knows? I’m more of a Twitterer, I think.  (Yes, indeed — insert your own joke here.) But I’m planning to leave Skype in my dock for a while again. If nothing else, Christmas is coming soon.

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