Week 5 Reflection

In Blikstein’s article Seymour Papert’s Legacy, Seymour Papert is considered to be important in three different areas: child development, artificial intelligence and computational technologies for education. It is no wonder after spending four years working under Jean Piaget that Papert believes that children are not “mini-adults or empty vessels, but as active agents interacting with the world and building ever-evolving theories.” I was particularly intrigued by the dates that Papert first expressed that “children should be programming the computer rather than being programmed by it.” Since the late 60’s he has held radical beliefs that children should teach computers as is the case for the first turtle robot program that drew geometrical shapes. In my school this year, the IT program has dedicated the teaching year to coding with robots that are to run through a maze taped out on the floor of the classroom with obstacles in the way. I think this is something the Logo company would approve of except that in many other schools this is not happening. I think Papert would wonder why half a century later we are not seeing more of this kind of learning in the classrooms.

In Thumlert’s article Affordances of Equality, I was struck by the quote “…is that serious play [in relation to new media], as a situated mode of experimental/exploratory and mimetic learning – that up to recently has been relegated to the very young (Lillard, Pinkham, & Smith, 2002) – might be fruitfully reconfigured as a significant mode of educational experience for all (de Castell et al., 2014)” (Thumlert, 2015, p. 120). Traditional curriculum as it is today, is not conducive between learning and play or learning and pleasure. There is no room in the curriculum for improvisation and serious play. As a teacher, I find myself under tremendous pressure to teach the whole curriculum which is what I am mandated to do as a certified Ontario teacher. Serious play is something I associate kindergarten and junior elementary students engaged in until they get to middle school when the expectation is preparation for secondary school serious study.

In order to promote “the new amateur” according to the Thumlert article, where he/she challenges traditional boundaries between specialist and non-expert, teachers need to change their opinions about serious play in the classroom. Teachers need to make room for student experimentation as amateurs and not necessarily guide students, step-by-step, to a major learning outcome, just like Jacotot learned it was not necessary to explain his knowledge of the text he assigned his students to translate. This “stultification” and the need to cover extensive curriculum does not allow students to close the gap between “the perceived incapacity of the student and the presumed knowledge or know-how of the teacher/specialist” (Thumlert, 2015, p. 116). What we want or need are students who as they make progress in the role of the amateur, perceive themselves in maker roles. We want students to feel in charge of enclosing their own situations and worlds. Teachers should be providing a learning curriculum where students have hands-on access to present means and media forms in order to invite the amateur student to engage in practices typically assigned to accredited specialists.

My choice for this week’s experiential learning was the software Twine. After downloading the version number two, I struggled to add images that were from scanned files rather than a url address on the Internet. I decided to download version one of Twine and found adding of the images much easier. The reason I chose Twine was because I had a story in mind that I used to do with my grade 7s around a story of child slavery in the cocoa industry (fair trade project). I have only used the story as a pdf scan and had the students read it to each other in small groups. I imagined a story like this could be told in a more interactive way. For instance, the boy who is from Mali, got trafficked to the Ivory Coast. There could be links to explore geographical areas further by having information on different passages in Twine. Mind you I tried to be as creative as I could with a fixed story but I could see how Twine could be used to allow students to create their own interactive storyboards with multiple options. I will definitely be using this software in my classes next year. I can see great potential in Twine in not only an English class but it any subject.

What I noticed while struggling through the use of Twine with little to no instruction was an example of production pedagogy. This was my learning through purposeful making. I was doing, constructing a story and could decide how it would wind itself from beginning to end. It mattered to me what I was making as it gave me a sense of control over my activities. I got to decide when to add images, split storylines and shape the story (although I had less freedom because I used a ready-made story). Even my struggles were mine and when I was able to overcome the obstacles, I felt proud of my persistence as it paid off with completion of the story. I can see how my students would feel with similar situation as I experienced using Twine for the first time. I became a new amateur. And I considered this activity as serious play. Something I had forgotten is a worthwhile activity. It is a reminder that serious play has a place in the classroom and is not just meant for younger children. Even adults can learn in serious play, as I demonstrated with software that first intimidated me when using.