Learning is Play

Here’s something awesome: Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show. Her motto? “Have fun, play around and get out there and make something,” I came across Sylvia via Dr. Gary Stager’s blog post about her blog which features some withering critiques of educator attitudes about technology and learning. But you can read that on your own if you’d like. What I’m interested in is Sylvia’s amazing perspective on learning.

Again, her motto is “Have fun, play around and get out there and make something.” Mess around, geek out, and keep in mind that there are no real consequences of failure except more learning. Learning is not a competition or a zero-sum game. When I learn something, that’s not one less thing you can learn. In fact, when I learn something, you are more likely to learn as a result because we are social learners. So, relax. Have fun. Play, and give yourself a break when you feel like you’re not getting it.

Anxiety over performance, programmed into everybody through a focus on grades from a tender age through post-graduate education, is as normal and predictable as tail chasing in kennels. It’s a totally normal reaction to the institutional structure of schools. But, there is hope for all learners! For one, school ends eventually. For two, even if school continues, abandoning identification with grades and performance is tantamount to liberation and can be ours, easily. Approaching a problem as play, as tinkering, is the key to escape from anxiety. Sylvia is cool – she’s crazy talented and knowledgeable, curious and driven, funny and creative. She has the keys to the kingdom. She plays, and learns, and teaches while she does so. What a role model for students and teachers alike!

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