Learning through Play: the role of Imagination

‘Imagination …begins with two words – “What if”. The ability to imagine things differently than they are and the incredible power that can come out of those two words…’ – Doug Thomas

In our book discussion group we have been reading and talking about Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s book, A New Culture of Learning. This week we are discussing play. Doug Thomas says that “play can be defined as the tension between the rules of the game and the freedom to act within those rules”.

Take me to Mars, CC-BY-NC-SA by Keoki Seu on Flickr

“Take me to Mars”
CC-BY-NC-SA by Keoki Seu on Flickr

I read in the news this morning that 20,000 people have submitted an application to take a one-way trip to Mars. Talk about stirring the imagination! It occurs to me this is a terrific opportunity for learners to engage in play in the classroom.

Our discussion group includes faculty teaching in the disciplines of Sociology, English, Engineering Technology, Graphic Arts, and others. In each of these areas students might engage in imagining this trip to Mars and how it relates to their areas of study;

  • How should we prepare to journal the events? What has been written in fiction about trips to Mars? How might the reality compare?
  • Who will likely be selected to take this trip? What are the dynamics of this population? How might culture and language impact the social interactions? How will the economy work for these people (no stores – no money)?
  • How will they sustain life over time (food, water, air to breath)? What will the shelter be like? How will materials degrade over time?
  • Can we represent the trip through design projects? What is the business or marketing perspective (someone is making money on this)? Who is their target market?

There are myriad questions in this “what if” scenario for students to engage in – not only within their major discipline but across other areas of study. I can envision creating an online learning space (possibly in Google+ Communities) where students from several classes work on their questions as well as to contribute to discussions within other disciplines, thereby increasing the level of engagement with the content – learning more deeply as they consider the numerous aspects to the problem.


One thought on “Learning through Play: the role of Imagination

  1. Quincy

    Heya! I understand this is kind of off-topic however I had to ask.
    Does running a well-established blog such as yours require a massive amount work?
    I’m completely new to writing a blog however I do write in my journal every day.
    I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share my
    own experience and views online. Please let me know if you have any recommendations or tips for new aspiring blog owners.
    Appreciate it!


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