Friday evening and finally a little bit of time to look back at our last gathering this Thursday (it is actually Sunday morning when I am adding these notes to WordPress after I started writing them in notes on my iPad on Friday evening). Does it matter? Perhaps this delay is actually healthy for reflection? I noticed this time that it was more valuable to add bits over a few days and I know I will be coming back and editing further after I will have published this post. Thinking is messy, reflections are messy, trying to put them in a linear arrangement is not an easy task as the mind just keeps hopping around… and seeing new and exciting connections all the time… Where to stop? What to analyse? What to do? Can we afford to ignore internal voices? But what also about the external ones? All go into the sense making pot, I think.
On Thursday we played with small colourful plastic bricks, a mountain of them as you can see from the photos. The purpose was to experience a model-based learning approach that has the potential to foster pan-participation through playful making, sharing reflection, learning, ideas and dilemmas based on models we create and the metaphors they represent. Do we find it more natural to externalise our deepest internal thoughts through metaphors? Are we making emotional connections stronger that way without even realising? What are the implications?
We used Lego bricks and the LEGO Serious Play (LSP) method or at least a variation of it. For me it is important, with anything I use, to make sure that it could work for the specific learning situation. Could it work as it is, or do I need to make adjustments? Often, perhaps too often, we don’t ask ourselves these important questions and are then surprised when things we try don’t work… well, not everything we try works anyway, but removing our own criticality can make it even worse? For me it is extremely important to be flexible, proactive and adjust approaches when needed so that what we do is of value and participants get the maximum out of it. But also provide choice! Asking ourselves how and why we do something are perhaps more important to what we do… if that makes sense and I can parallels here when we are given “stuff” to deliver and we often feel constrained… but within these constraints lie the real opportunities, we just need to spot them and do something about them! This often means taken risks… and trying something new. What are the implications of not trying something new? Perhaps this is a valuable question we should ask ourselves more often…
As soon as the bricks appeared on the table in little plastic bags, they didn’t really stay there for very long… Colleagues took them out of the bags and started putting little models together. This just happened. I have seen it before, it seems to happen all the time, and confirms to me that it is really hard not to touch the bricks and play with them. It almost feels as if the bricks are magic and turn us again into a child where we enjoy play and are curious about the world and share this openly with others without guilt or shame.
Inviting a colleague who participated in the LEGO for Higher Education workshop series a few months ago and therefore had some experience of the LSP method already also through implementing it in their own practice, worked really well. Kerry made me smile throughout as I could see that the key messages and concepts of the approach were there and enacted successfully. It was also a lovely change I think from me introducing and leading learning activities. We talk about empowering learners and putting the learner in the driving seat… but too often we are still the ones orchestrating everything even if we achive an active participatory learning experience!!! Is this really student-centred learning? Perhaps it is a mild form of it. But we can and should do more? What will help us let go? I think scaffolding the process that leads to autonomy is really vital and I think creating the conditions for empowerment and autonomy are important. Then we can switch. Explaining our intentions, expectations, the process and approach to the learners is, I think important so that they recognise why this is good for them, their learning and development.
We learn so much through teaching others and often forget that it is actually one of most effective ways of learning. But could students misinterpret our intentions? Could they just turn around and say “I am the student” and refuse our invite to take a more leading. mentoring, supporting role of their peers? For me it is also a way to recognise expertise and mastery in students and this is a good thing, right? I think some do and will be vocal about it too! How could we manage this? What would you do? Peer mentoring and peer assisted learning are perhaps still approaches widely under-used, is this right? What needs to happen so that we value such approaches more and integrate them more organically in our sessions and courses? Helping others, just because we want to and we can, can be motivational and boost our confidence and self-belief for example, they can also boost our understanding of the subject. I have seen financial rewards been used to promote such practices. Is there any related research out there that confirms that this works? Reading this HEA publication might help gain further insights.
Value Jar responses from this week. Could not read all responses, unfortunately.
|It is amazing how we have new ideas from making things.|
|The activities in play, should be introduced as a fun activity to introduce the method. as the weeks develop more challenging activities in play should occur. Students should be given an explanation of the activities so they understand the reasons behind the activities. A new and exciting method to develop students.|
|Being able to visualise what I might not have been able to visualise at the start of the session.|
|Today’s session allowed me to explore the idea of using LEGO as a basis for the discussion of quite personal feelings and ideas. Explaining knowledge and understanding in a new and interesting way.|
|It was interesting to do the LEGO tasks again and to act as a facilitator. These sessions give me time to think and litter my thinking between sessions.|
|Playing with ideas leads to innovation. Making allows us to find new points (evads – couldn’t read handwriting, need to confirm) we can (… again, couldn’t read handwriting) ideas. Reflecting on our making helps us to understand our ideas, knowledge.|
|I think I could use LEGO as a way of students finding it easier to talk about their work: through a representation of their work, it takes the pressure off a bit.|
|I think it is wonderful that people are so excited to come and are sharing ideas withe ach other with no guardedness.|
|Excellent session to link theory to practice. Using LEGO makes me keep silent. Silent is good for my creativity.|
|LEGO – exploring ideas, creatively through play. Building/growing, very practical demonstration. Value using Lego in learning. Good for building team/group.|
I think play won on Thursday, with and without LEGO, we showed that it can make us feel more relaxed, open up, connect with our inner self and others and make exciting new discoveries. Stuart Brown in his book Play. How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul wrote:
Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner. Play is like fertilizer for brain growth. It’s crazy not to use it. (p. 101)
While the following might help some more skeptics, especially when thinking about play in higher education…
Next week will be our sort of reading week. A peer-led session by Susan and Emma focusing in on our portfolios, assessment and the online space. I will be with you in spirit and am looking forward to finding out how it went.
See you all on the 5th of March in the Studio. Info will follow nearer to the time. I can’t wait to see you then. I might be more excited about this as anybody else at the moment as I am the only one who knows what is going to happen 😉
I am part of the Creative Academic team together with Dr Alison James and led by Prof. Norman Jackson. We publish the Creative Academic Magazine and will start working soon on the second issue. You will be happy to know that the theme for it will be play. Read our short introduction regarding the next issue below and get in touch if you would like to contribute a little something, ok?
Exploring the issue of play
Play in higher education? Seriously? Often we are reminded that universities are not playgrounds and that play is childish and inappropriate… Isn’t research a playful experimentation with ideas, concepts and situations, recognised as an essential activity that drives innovation, while play in a learning and teaching context is often still interpreted as undesirable especially within higher education?
In the next issue, we will explore the importance of play in higher education to create critical and creative thinkers and doers who have the curiosity, capacity and the vision to make the impossible possible. There will be a potpourri of contributions and perspectives shared through practitioners and students eyes and minds that offer a valuable insight into the opportunities creative play presents for learning and teaching, students and their tutors.
Deadline to submit an article or digital artefact is the 1 May 15.
Chrissi Nerantzi and Dr Alison James
draft post version 2