January 9, 2009

Permission to Play

Filed under: learning,Ok2Ask,personal learning network,TeachersFirst,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 4:05 pm

Play — No, this is NOT what I look like. I just liked the picture.The greatest luxury I have in this job since leaving the classroom is permission to play. After 27 years of completely scheduled or overscheduled time, I can dedicate a morning to comparing tools in search of the ideal one for a given technology task. I can play at will and seek answers: on my own, from help screens, among online forums, or from my PLN (personal learning network). What a luxury to have “permission” to learn from play.

This week I spent several hours comparing different ways to deliver the upcoming OK2Ask sessions on TeachersFirst. I started with a desire to model entirely free tools that any teacher could use without TOO much trouble. I played with all sorts of freebies, all with jibberish names that are de rigeur these days. I embedded myself, recorded myself, shared myself, chatted with myself (on several computers at once, rolling my chair back and forth), gave myself tours, denied myself privileges, gave myself control (and took it away), took polls of myself, clicked myself, made innumerable profiles of myself, moderated myself, muted myself, dragged and dropped myself, tagged myself, explained myself, reverted myself, and even broadcast myself looking stupid as I played on Mogulus.com. (I guess that was “channeling” myself.) It was pretty funny when– for a bit — I could not figure out how to STOP channeling myself.

But I learned. And I found what I sought. In the process, I refined my search, defined my criteria, and even articulated them several times to  complete strangers. I was so glad to have permission to play and learn. And teacher-guilt made me feel bad that others are not allowed to do the same.

Our kids play this way all the time. They play with any available tool and toy. They may not be systematic, but they are comfortable. They know how to play. [At this point the early childhood people I work with would be yelling ,”Of COURSE they do. Play IS learning!]

As the OK2Ask sessions approach, I wonder if we should have named them “OK2Play” instead. I also wonder if teachers have forgotten how to play because they are simply never been given the time to do so.  I have a fundamental belief that teachers try to do the best they can for and with their students. They have been schooled in the Best Practices, research-based methods, etc. But I hope the denial of play time has not removed it from their repertoire.

I don’t really believe they have forgotten how because I have run innumerable inservice sessions where teachers have been as excited (and disruptive) as little kids as they have played with a newly-introduced technology.  I have always given them permission to play. This may not appear to be the most cost-effective, responsible, mature adult thing to do while being paid taxpayer dollars, but I would assert that these same teachers, give a meaningful mission such as I had in selecting a tool for Ok2Ask, would make permission to play into permission to learn. All it took was a focused goal.

I will find out in a couple of weeks whether my recent play time went between the goalposts or veered wildly out of bounds. Either way, I will learn from the experience.


  1. I would love time to play! One day last year I had students play with Scratch (from MIT). They could not believe I was letting them play. I did not have time to learn but had an educational goal. I played along side them. The lesson I used it for was much smoother as a result.

    Comment by Louise Maine — January 9, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  2. The greatest tragedy of our education system is not allowing teachers time to create, innovate, dream, imagine, or play. What could our educational system look like if our teachers had time to “act like a kid” and get excited about their own learning.

    Oh to dream.

    Comment by Rob Jacobs — January 9, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

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