These holidays, I have set myself the task of getting back to the 'why' and 'how' stuff on teaching and learning. We have the theme next year of 'colour my world' and some of the considerations we have had to make are around the 'so what?' part of learning. This is about authentic learning journeys and doing things for a reason.
So, I have been researching the changes in children as they enter school at 5 in 2012 compared to children in the past 5, 10+ years. What has changed and why? What skills are new to these children and which ones from the past are missing?
What I have discovered so far is this: children may enter school having been exposed to more technological tools - even those who do not have access to computers at home, have been used to phone technology, computers in daycare, DVD/bluray players, gaming consols and more. They have a different range of digital experiences compared to even my own 2 children when they were 5 (they are both 10 and 12 now). So the technological and digital knowledge that my own kids had at the point of school entry is vastly different to that of a 5 year old today.
The constant, however, is this: children have a skill set needed for life REGARDLESS of the tools needed to deliver knowledge or to communicate.
As I write, my own kids are sprawled across the lounge floor, playing, building and talking with Lego and Littlest Pet Shop toys. There is an adventure playing out in front of me, fully narrated and debated, negotiated and enjoyed. What is the same as 5, 10+ even 100 years ago?
Play has its own set of rules - none. It has its own language and conventions. 'Play' levels the playing field - ANYONE can do it, any ages can combine, anything can be used. My 78 year old dad talks to the kids often about the old can that used to provide a day's entertainment. Kicking it all the way to and from school, at lunchtime kicking it with friends (no soccer ball for them) and then after school, at the local pier, diving for the can with mates. A tin can? Yes indeed! ANYTHING can be used to play with!
The most important things that happen when we play are the talking and listening, as well as the collaboration and sharing involved. The thinking and communicating occur naturally!
So how can we, as educators, ensure that this happens in our classrooms? That we build time for learning through play? What do we need to do differently so that all of the learning through play doesn't happen at morning tea and lunchtime?