When introducing teachers and other adults to using new technology, they often ask me how I learnt all of the tips and tricks that I know. My honest answer: I played with the technology. Yes, there are courses you can do, and tutorials you can complete; but the best way to become familiar with most types of new technology is to embrace your inner child and simply play.
There is irrefutable evidence that play-based learning is a key strategy for early years education. Children learn through play because it allows them to practise skills, experiment, make mistakes and learn from them – all of things we need to do with technology.
Of course, playing with technology takes time. It requires time spent simply seeing what a tool or app does; entering dummy data, clicking on all of the buttons to see what they ‘do’ – discovering what makes the device or tool work most effectively, and what causes it to error or create less than pleasing results. Fortunately, the more we play, the less time it takes to familiarise ourselves as each new tool presents itself – it is amazing how many skills developed simply through playing with technology are transferable across websites, devices and apps.
Fear is also another inhibitor. We have probably all heard horror stories of massive data loss and of hideous computer viruses that have infected machines via a seemingly innocent link. Ironically, it is through playing with technology that we will develop the familiarity and ‘savvy’ which will allow us to navigate these areas more confidently.
I do not believe that all those older than 25 are simply ‘digital immigrants’. This argument (which, by the way, is over 10 years old) implies we will never be completely at home with technology, and for many of us, this is patently untrue. I do believe that it is about having an open mind and a playful, creative and risk-taking attitude. This is the type of mindset we hope to develop in our students – how better to encourage it than to model it ourselves?
Why not set aside 30 minutes a week to simply ‘play’? Better yet, schedule your playtime into your class timetable, and allow your students this luxury also. Ask them to share one thing they learnt at the end of this time – and share your own learning too. You may find it is some of the richest learning time of your week.
Share your experiences of playing to learn below, or tweet me with the hashtag #playtolearn – I’d love to know what you discover!