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Let's talk about 'purposeful play'.
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Malyn Mawby's profile photoCarmel Crevola's profile photoKelli McGraw's profile photoChad Sansing's profile photo
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What is a good example of purposeful play?
 
The conversation so far from twitter (read from the bottom up):


dkuropatwa Darren Kuropatwa
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@dkuropatwa @courosa @budtheteacher @carmelcrevola @shareski @angelamaiers quoted from link Alec shared nytimes.com/2008/02/17/mag
1 minute ago Favorite Reply Delete

courosa Alec Couros
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@dkuropatwa @budtheteacher @carmelcrevola @shareski @angelamaiers @k12online bit.ly/uFT0Er
1 minute ago

dkuropatwa Darren Kuropatwa
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@dkuropatwa @courosa @budtheteacher @carmelcrevola @dshareski @angelamaiers"essence of play is sequence of actions is fluid & scattered."
1 minute ago

courosa Alec Couros
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@dkuropatwa @budtheteacher @carmelcrevola @shareski @angelamaiers Or maybe 'self-initiated' free play. Purposeful play? Whose purpose?
4 minutes ago

shareski Dean Shareski
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@dkuropatwa @courosa @budtheteacher @carmelcrevola @angelamaiers I'm with Bud, this conversation needs a better space. Google Plus?
6 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
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@budtheteacher @carmelcrevola @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa'play ethos' nyti.ms/u1V9KG
8 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
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@budtheteacher @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola differentiates b/w play (driven by pleasure)vs. exploration (by curiosity)
10 minutes ago

budtheteacher Bud Hunt
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@courosa @carmelcrevola @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa I fear this is moving beyond Twitter.
10 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
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@CarmelCrevola @budtheteacher @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa children define play as what happens when teachers are no longer around.
11 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
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@budtheteacher @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola Smith talks about 'Ethos of Play', that all learning IS play. It's not.
11 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
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@budtheteacher @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola Just spoke to resident expert on play,referred me to amzn.to/tbKJFG
12 minutes ago
TOPICATOOLS and 4 others followed you






CarmelCrevola Carmel Crevola
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@budtheteacher @shareski @courosa @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa on that one I am totally with you @ budtheteacher!
13 minutes ago

budtheteacher Bud Hunt
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@shareski @courosa @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola But too often no purpose is considered. I'm pushing against that.
17 minutes ago

budtheteacher Bud Hunt
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@shareski @courosa @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola Does everything require deep attention to purpose? No.
17 minutes ago

budtheteacher Bud Hunt
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@shareski @courosa @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola I was just about to say that. Depends on the, ahem, purpose of the experience.
18 minutes ago

CarmelCrevola Carmel Crevola
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@shareski @budtheteacher @courosa @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa that is why intent is part of the process.
18 minutes ago

shareski Dean Shareski
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@budtheteacher @courosa @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola sometimes, in the right environment I want them to play with fire too
21 minutes ago

CarmelCrevola Carmel Crevola
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@budtheteacher @courosa @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa Sure I get your point and in the context of your post I have no real issue
22 minutes ago

CarmelCrevola Carmel Crevola
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@budtheteacher @courosa @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa Justifying rather than assisting tchrs to understand the value of play for play
25 minutes ago

CarmelCrevola Carmel Crevola
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@budtheteacher @courosa @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa This is valid, but I feel that it is more confused - used to justify play
25 minutes ago

budtheteacher Bud Hunt
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@courosa @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola I want my children to play with crayons. Not fire. There's purpose in that.
26 minutes ago

budtheteacher Bud Hunt
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@courosa @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola& I'd say there's lots of fertile ground in the tension between play & purpose.
28 minutes ago

budtheteacher Bud Hunt
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@courosa @shareski @angelamaiers @dkuropatwa @carmelcrevola I'd offer this to start. budtheteacher.com/blog/2010/09/2
29 minutes ago
skarritt and 4 others followed you






courosa Alec Couros
@shareski I guess that's why I'm confused. What detriment 2 play comes from purpose?@angelamaiers @budtheteacher @dkuropatwa @CarmelCrevola
35 minutes ago

shareski Dean Shareski
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@courosa @angelamaiers @budtheteacher @dkuropatwa @k12online Part of the definition of play is that its uncertain and spontaneous
37 minutes ago

CarmelCrevola Carmel Crevola
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@courosa @angelamaiers @budtheteacher @dkuropatwa @k12online oh ...now that is of interest to me.
41 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
@angelamaiers @budtheteacher @dkuropatwa @k12online just trying to work this out, & wondering what your thoughts are on any of these points.
50 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
@angelamaiers @budtheteacher @dkuropatwa @k12online it feels to me that being purposeful may in some ways be disadvantageous to act of play.
51 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
@angelamaiers @budtheteacher @dkuropatwa @k12online why does play need purpose? does purposeful allow for same types of serendipity?
52 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
@angelamaiers @budtheteacher @dkuropatwa @k12online seems to me that purposeful is seen as better than non-purposeful, & I'm not sure why.
53 minutes ago

courosa Alec Couros
@angelamaiers @budtheteacher @dkuropatwa @k12online Have been thinking & reading about 'purposeful' play - not sure I get it & need input.
53 minutes ago
 
A good learning activity is an experience with something. That experience contains multiple purposes - the teacher's, the learner's, the institution supporting the learning, etc. All of those might be playfully approached. Side trips may occur. Those can be playful, too.
 
So I'm wondering if the difficulty with a conference themed "Purposeful Play" is a sense of unease that "purposeful" excludes "idle, creative, unstructured free play"?

Thoughts?
 
Being unstructured, when one is setting up structures for play and exploration, is, in fact, a "purpose."
 
But there may be purpose in the items you set out for unstructured exploration. 
 
"What is a good example of purposeful play?" Um, twitter?
 
+Alec Couros - Playgrounds are such spaces. As are artists' workshops. As are the playrooms in our homes.
 
Example -- You do have hopeful expectations that the students will observe the leaves with the magnifying glasses not chase each other around the room with them. 
 
I think you build an environment, community, and set of materials with kids - bring your own toy - that makes it explicit that free play is useful to discovery and relationship-building. The Sudbury School, The Trillium School, Clearwater School, and democratic schools like the Brooklyn Free School are models at which I would look. I learn about kids' learning from watching their play with as little judgment as possible.
 
@darren i wouldn't say that creativity is exclusive to play (vs. purposeful play) - but certainly the free aspect is. I do believe this creates a tension, however. "Purposeful play? sounds like a term used to justify play. Why do we need purpose in play? Is free play just as valuable?
 
+Alec Couros I like the tension of the two together. Leads to conversations and wonderings like these.
 
And, especially in my work, I want to bring playfulness to spaces where it's sorely lacking. So I'm pushing towards the play.
 
+Alec Couros I wouldn't say creativity is exclusive to play either. I don't think of "purposeful" as a justification of play, although I can see how it might be viewed that way. I just think of it as one of many types of play. Idle play is important too.
 
There are times I just need a break from working and I may play games to relax. There's purpose to that; the mental pause or distraction it provides from the stress of work. I deliberately choose to play at those moments and I suppose it might be said that distraction is my purpose.

+Alec Couros So what is the "hype" you're hearing?
 
+Darren Kuropatwa The hype is what Smith (in that same article) defined as the 'Play Ethos' - "the reflexive, unexamined belief that play is an unmitigated good with a crucial, though vaguely defined, evolutionary function."
 
The use of purposeful come into the arena when reviewing the amount of pencil and pare work that had taken over K classrooms. This unintentional side effect of Literacy Centres wher once ahead a knee jerk reaction to ' precision' ws interpreted and before you know it you have 'perscription'. Now play is back around again and folk are trying to stop the misinterpretation of 'free play' being play all day long...so they called it 'purposeful and intentful play'. Now even so play is being taken on like ditto sheets were...all or nothing
 
+Darren Kuropatwa If by "purposeful' all we mean is 'distraction' or even in some cases 'procrastination', I don't know why we don't just say 'play' then. You would think whoever defined 'purposeful play' would have been more intentional when he/she bound 'purposeful' to 'play'. Are you aware of the origin of the term? I am not, unfortunately.
 
+Carmel Crevola That was my first thought when I really noticed the term - that 'purposeful' is being used to justify play in K12 settings.
 
+Alec Couros I'm not saying purposeful=distraction or procrastination. I am saying play comes in flavours and a single word, like purposeful or unstructured doesn't capture a single species of play but more likely captures a class of play. The exploration of the types of play exhibited in each class of play is worthy, has implications for different kinds of learning, and is a valuable exercise. This year, K12 Online decided to explore the learning that comes from Purposeful Play in the context +Bud Hunt described in his blog post: http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2010/09/20/on-purposeful-play/
 
+Alec Couros +Carmel Crevola In the context of this discussion about the theme of this year's K12 Online Conference, is it possible you're conflating an emergent problem in K12 education as described by +Carmel Crevola above and a more light hearted attempted to frame interesting learning conversations?

Not that there's anything wrong with that mind you. This discussion is, perhaps, exactly the sort of thing we'd hope this years conference provokes! ;-)
 
I think from a justification perspective, play is the antithesis in many respects to outcome based learning. That every bit of learning should be a result of an intentionally, explicitly stated outcome. Play on the other hand doesn't always have a know outcome and perhaps in many cases there is no quantifiable or articulated outcome.

I think the use of the word play in this context is a backlash to that.
 
+Darren Kuropatwa yes, when I identify this problem, I am seeing it as an emergent problem in K12 education - that is correct. I wasn't alluding to the conference.
 
+Dean Shareski I agree - and thus, as a backlash, I feel that the term 'purposeful' is being used tactfully/politically in some respects/contexts to justify that play belongs in learning.
 
+Alec Couros Pulling apart "play" from "learning" is like pulling apart the notion of "gender" from "boy". I suspect we've been talking at cross purposes and more likely share similar views.
 
I think it relates to the debate about center activities in early learning, also. Traditional play centers, i.e. blocks, home, playdough, art have often been replaced by literacy centers tied to specific language objectives to ensure that children can pass 3rd grade reading tests. Purposeful play is am attempt to remind educators and policymakers that the traditional activities had purpose, also. And that these purposes are not always being being fulfilled by the current all literacy centers. 
 
+Darren Kuropatwa We're probably close, but I am not sure I would agree that all play leads to learning (unless you stretch it by including muscle learning vs. (pure) knowledge learning). And I believe that what we often call play is more likely a form of discovery. Discovery can be play, and likely often is, but I wouldn't agree that it always is.
 
+Alec Couros Can you think of examples of play that doesn't lead to learning? Even "the games kids play" and make up as they go involve the creation of "rules" or structures within which they play; they learn socialization this way amongst other things. Even if in play you are "only" learning the rules of the game this does introduce learning about systems: "I can do this within these rules but not that." or "If I play with the rules maybe I can make the game more interesting." Or do you think that's too much of a stretch?
 
+Alec Couros - This is a really fascinating thread! I agree with you and +Carmel Crevola that a lot of the "purposeful" emphasis is probably due to the bad rap that play, per se, has received over the past few years.

+Bud Hunt - I also love the tension of purposeful play and don't want to lose sight of that! Of course, purposeful is itself a loaded term, isn't it? There are many people involved in play -- not just the children, but also teachers, parents, and lots of other folks -- and all of us may have very different purposes for the same playful activity.

You're quite right, +Donna Bills, that a lot of traditional play-focused activities in the early grades have given way to test-prep-focused activities. I see an ironic and unintended consequence of that almost every day with my high-school Latin students. They're utterly burned out on testing, and at the same time they often haven't developed the self-management skills, the collaborative mindset, and the empathy for each other that their counterparts had a decade or more ago. Why? Quite likely because they didn't have any time to play together in their early school experiences, so they never had a chance to develop those skills. So I think I agree with you, +Darren Kuropatwa, that even the most "unstructured" play leads to really important learning -- especially the "games kids play" where they make up the rules, as you mentioned in your last post.

+Chad Sansing - I think the schools you mentioned are extremely important. And I love the idea of "learning about kids' learning by watching their play," as you said.

+Roger Travis - Since you are all about playing to learn, I'd love to know what you think -- and please chime in if you'd like, +Emily Lewis and +Kevin Ballestrini and +Donna Murdoch.
 
Coming very, very late (thanks, Justin!) but IMO play always has a purpose; the question is whether we can design rulesets that align that purpose with learning. If the rules say that I should play as a philosopher, I'm going to learn to be a philosopher.
 
+Darren Kuropatwa well, obviously the type and depth of learning matters. take for instance, Angry Birds. Much has been written about the game in terms of mathematics, physics, etc. in terms of what you learn. But at some point in the game, what a player can learn from the game will plateau to a point where there are less significant learning gaines (and when I say significant, I mean of the statistical kind - not what is significant as a matter of subjectivity).

Sure, you could argue, "well then the player could ...", but the point is - we don't know if they will. Play in new environments could be significantly more powerful than play in familiar environments, and vice versa. However, I do think that distinguishing play from discovery, and see the cross-section, is important.
 
So this is where I get answers to the questions I posted on my latest post - Things I leaned while playing in public - http://malyn.edublogs.org/2011/11/22/playing-in-public/

There's more to play than fun-and-games. Sometimes the learning is incidental -and tangential - rather than purposed and directed.
 
+Alec Couros +Darren Kuropatwa - Great point about depth of learning, types of learning, and the importance of new challenges and new types of play over time. Once you've beaten a game, you can still enjoy and benefit from playing it again -- but it's a different kind of enjoyment, and a different kind of benefit, from what you experienced when you hadn't mastered it yet. Perhaps that's yet another implication of the distinction you draw, Alec, between play and discovery. They clearly overlap, but not completely.
 
+Malyn Mawby - Love your list of learnings at the end of the blog post, especially #2 (*sharing begets sharing*) and #5 (*playing encourages conversations*). One of the most important benefits of a playful approach to learning, it seems to me, is that it breaks down the crazy, industrial-model idea that "real" learning is supposed to be isolated and boring and difficult.
 
+Alec Couros it seems to me that the kind of play you're talking about, where angry birds plateaus, is the point at which it becomes boring or loses interest. I'd suggest that's precisely the point where the player stops learning. Angry Birds, or any game for that matter, has to up the anti and become more challenging to maintain player interest.

As for math and physics learned from playing angry birds, those cognitive gains are small. It's a puzzle game. What ppl are learning, IMHO, is closer to the kind of systems learning I mentioned above. That could be leveraged for deeper learning which where conversations like this with players if the game come in. 
 
Isn't discovery through play a type of learning? If not, can someone explain that to me?
 
+Darren Kuropatwa - Yes, I think discovery through play is definitely a type of learning, and a very important type. But I notice that you said discovery through play -- and I think that's important. Not all discovery happens through play, and not all play involves discovery. It's the intersection of discovery, play, and learning that we're all interested in.
 
Thanks Justin Schwamm. But remember, playing can be difficult too.
 
+Malyn Mawby - Oh, yes, playing can be quite difficult, too. I agree with you completely! But it's a different kind of difficulty, isn't it, from the "hard and boring" approach that some folks associate with "academic rigor' or "real learning" or whatever they want to call it?
 
All play does not have to have a defined objective, but one should purposefully set time aside for play.

I do think some play experiences have more quality. Play among young children can degenerate into quarreling and bullying without adult input. Negative social attributes can be learned during this type of experience. Children who are behind in social skills may need more teacher direction and intervention for group play to be a positive experience.

Some skills learned through play have more transference to other areas of life than others.

Educators who structure play experiences for students can affect the quality by the materials and structure provided. I think discussion of how to structure quality play with positive, but not necessarily tightly prescribed outcomes is important.








 
+Darren Kuropatwa all i was trying to prove was that not all play leads to learning which I think is illustrated in the example i gave. i would agree that a game (or game developer) would need to be inventive to increase/maintain engagement. But that wasn't the point of the example. Again, I refer to the concept of Play Ethos.

At the heart of this, I still don't understand the relationship or differences between play and 'purposeful play', and I don't think anyone (unless I missed it) has given a solid definition of the latter. I still would agree with +Carmel Crevola that the latter term has been politicized to legitimize play as learning or as achieving outcomes. I am a bit weary of that framework as I think that spontaneity in play is key to it being play.

So, can any explain exactly what 'purposeful play' means?
 
If purposeful play means playing with purpose in mind, then I think that video I made for your brother was purposeful play. But I have to clarify that the purpose wasn't for me to learn. It was to create a video for George.
However, I did learn from the process. AND that was a surprise - have documented what I learned here: http://malyn.edublogs.org/2011/11/22/playing-in-public/ . This learning wasn't intended nor was the purpose of the whole playing thing.
I think your challenge is my point#7. maybe?
 
+Malyn Mawby I love that intro - that's really great! You'll be doing my next intro! :-)

OK, but help me understand this. How is that play vs. drawing vs. creating vs. art ... etc? Why would you call that play first, and not something else? Would any form of creativity be play then? If so, why would we call it play? I'm confused by the nuances between play, purposeful play, discovery, creativity, etc.

And I guess, if we call all of THAT play, what don't we call play? And I still think the idea of having a purpose decays the very definition of play.
 
First thing that came to mind re: your question of play vs drawing is the mindset thing. I treated it as play as against serious artwork - otherwise, I probably would've said no. Granted it was creative play and artful play but it was definitely play.

It's funny because I think play involves a risk-taking attitude and yet it also means 'what the heck. I've got nothing to lose.' I think this is why play is so hard to define - the line between play and work is negotiable and varies from person to person. So what's play to me could be hard work for some and vice versa.

Not all creative work is play, e.g. still from my 10minutes blog: http://10minutes-tbdeu.posterous.com/5-heart and http://10minutes-tbdeu.posterous.com/3-ukulele . Yet, I spent more time and effort on the work I did for George.

I don't think having a purpose 'decays' play. It depends on the purpose. I've come to realise now though, as a parent particularly, that educational games do taint the fun factor.

I've said somewhere that play is multi-faceted and defining it kinda flattens it. Maybe the paragraph on concept of play here might help? http://10minutes-tbdeu.posterous.com/4-playing-in-public

Thanks for helping me hash this out too.
 
I just posted on my blog about play, and then found this stream. I wonder if an important element is whether the purpose of the activity is 'high stakes', or 'low stakes'? Sometimes spending time on play is a risk, and this is problematic if you are coming to the activity with a 'purpose'.

My feeling is that play has to be low-stakes. But maybe it even has to be 'NO-stakes'. Perhaps that is the different between play, and a game?
 
+Kelli McGraw thanks for the post - love it. I think you've hit some of my key concerns about the term 'purposeful' play as I've written above and in the original Twitter conversation. Great post.
 
+Darren Kuropatwa late reply, but...I don't think it's helpful to come from a position that 'everything results in learning'. Sometimes people are just practicing things they have already 'learned'. I think a transformation of some kind has to take place, and not all play does this. Which is A-OK with me, because when we seek to make every experience we have 'transformative', it can be very exhausting indeed...
 
I have just finished writing a ton about 'purposive' play. purposive play is the most hegemonic of all of them because it follows what Brian Sutton Smith calls 'progress' rhetorics of play. Purposive rhetorics drive the majority of edu talk about play and also much industry marketing. Real play is voluntary, autonomous and self selected. It cannot be forced and it does not serve any purpose. That it can be purposeful or 'beneficial' has never been in doubt, but that it be defined as such is the issue. Real play is often about breaking rules, not following them. it's about transgression, the unconscious, experimentation, danger, messes, breaking things. For those interested in reading serious scholarship on play I recommend Sutton Smith.
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