Reigniting Wonder: Play in the Time of Testing at DPL 2020

During Digital Pedagogy Lab 2019, Andrea Laser and Dennis DeBay will lead a course called PreK-20 Recess: Play in the Time of Testing. Participants in this course will enjoy experiences and discover resources to legitimize the importance of play, by considering personal connections to play-based experiences as they are essential to the learning process. We caught up with Andrea and Dennis to ask a few questions about their course, and what they have in mind for the cohort.

Why have you titled your course the way you have? What does it say about your hopes for the week at DPL?

Recess is an opportunity for students to engage in open-ended play—and is often considered a break in the routine. Recess allows students to be social, take risks and step outside of many of the constraints of the day. Titling this group ‘Recess’ made sense as we hope to bring an opportunity for educators to reconsider what we often think about in traditional educational paradigms—and bring a time to consider what an alternative, more play-based narrative might look like in school settings. This process might include shifting from centering school on outcome-based measures and end products to (re)considering the process of getting there through more playful methods/pedagogical stances. We hope that our group of early childhood, elementary, secondary and postsecondary folks find both the space for their own recess (reset and recharge) as well as explore, imagine, and plan for how their own practice can be more play-centric. Plus snacks.

If you were going to describe your course as a narrative—with a beginning, middle, and end—how would the story unfold?

A sense of wonder and play is innate in young children and is fundamental for motivation at all ages. As we mature, our sense of wonder can fade. For some people, the older they become, the less wondrous the world seems. Modern educational paradigms tend to be more behaviorist, with an emphasis on teachers, curriculum, and high-stakes testing. This is in direct conflict with nurturing the sense of play and wonder in children. Curricula are designed to bombard students with information and testing. Does this serve to nurture or stunt learning and development? This is where recess comes into play.

In early childhood education, the benefits of play-based learning are often discussed, including how it helps develop social-emotional and cognitive skills, but often the emphasis shifts as children get older. We question- why should we not extend the benefits of play to students throughout their education—including teens and college students? Skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, and building empathy can be embedded in play in the work we do in secondary and higher education as well. Play is essential to learning as it acts as a catalyst for language, cognitive, physical, and social/emotional development of humans of all ages. We want to explore this with a group of educators and stakeholders at all levels.

There is no end, only recess! We hope that this gathering really never ends—and begins a community of educators who will continue to work together and collaborate throughout the year. Come play with us!

To your mind, what is the most important thing participants in your course will walk away with? Do you have learning objectives or outcomes? Do you have a fond wish for them?

Our goal for our participants is to have the opportunity to explore what play/recess looks like in their own context and to leave DPL with something tangible to enact when they get home. Our fond wish for our participants includes reigniting their own sense of wonder, imagination, and reasons why play matters—for all ages.

Describe your style of teaching. What is your pedagogical approach and your classroom style? Why?

Our class will have a big emphasis on co-constructing learning, collaborating, and hands-on activities. This will include a variety of experiences throughout the week- some time in large group discussions, field trips, recess time, and time to think critically about both the possibilities and challenges inherent in this work. We hope to connect with individuals at all levels of the education spectrum so that we can collaborate on bringing wonder, play, and joy into our work.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your DPL 2020 course?

We have spent a lot of time thinking about how to plan a week that is not only fun and allows opportunities to engage in creative possibilities, but also intentionality for participants to leave with something practical that they can put into practice. We are both former P-12 teachers, who are currently working in higher education, so we would like to think that we have understanding, empathy, and experience in settings that can be both restrictive and inspiring. We hope our participants leave the week feeling inspired to try something new, and that everyone leaves with a bunch of friends who can keep your inspiration fueled for the next school year.

Find Out More and Register Today!

Dennis DeBay

Among with Andrea Laser, Digital Pedagogy Lab

Dennis DeBay works as a Clinical Assistant Professor, Math Teacher Educator and student-teacher mentor at the University of Colorado Denver.

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