Playful Learning and Professional Development

playfulCan playful learning take the place of well-planned professional development? With the rapidly changing shape and form of technology solutions, even the people responsible for sharing the how-to and writing the new documentation can’t keep up with the changes. Apple’s latest iOS7 release is an example. Because it is so different from the last update, users have been told to play around to discover things. Some of us are very comfortable with this approach, but many of us like to have a bit more direction. While playing around can be fun, it does most often require a bit more time. The reality though is technology providers are having trouble keeping up with traditional approaches to professional development for their own solutions. That’s magnified for companies offering many solutions and products, or for those that rely on 3rd party products to enhance their own offerings.

Education products are probably still more playful in the hands of students than with educators. Part of that is that students have far less fear of getting it wrong—trying something out is more a game. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but trying to get there can be fun. Educators don’t have that playful time, and are usually more set in their ways. “It’s working, why do we have to change?” Changing to a new technology, software, or app can be stressful. Adults seem to give into frustration within 10 minutes of playing. Students tend to keep playing, and if the suggested path doesn’t work, kids will play to figure out a new way, and many times that new path doesn’t look at all like the suggested one. Kids usually aren’t afraid of being wrong with technology—especially with new things. That can be good… and it can be bad, but as far as digital play, kids are the best.

Before our educator colleagues toss their hands in the air, realize that professional development won’t go away, no matter how easy the tech gets, or no matter how playful solution providers want us to be. Teaching with technology is different than playing with it. Educators need to mesh both the tech and the teaching, and that requires professional development help—along with the playing around.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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