Would You Play with Me?

Gaming isn’t a hobby reserved for children and teens. It’s not limited to computer geeks. In the heart of gaming, there’s play we love at all age. We’ve been doing it ever since life existed. It’s a reflection of how our brain and heart work together; problems and solutions co-exist and multiple strategies are at work simultaneously. 

I’m a novice gamer but familiar with play. When I was about 6 or 7, I saw my father play Go the ancient Chinese chess with his friends. They would sit around and play for hours and hours after dinner. It looked funny seeing adults quietly staring at the board, their legs crossed and reaching their fingers out to place their black and white stones.  It wasn’t until I was in 3rd grade that Go was a strategic game aiming to manipulate the opponent to access and control territory. My parents sent me to an after-school academy and that’s when I learned the skills to play strategically. ( If you want to learn how to play, read this.)
go.jpgPlay is simple but it’s a complex process because you are continuously assessing every possible situations and predicting outcome based on how you do things.

Although playing requires little money, it requires time. A lot of time.  For example, Caine’s parents didn’t buy his son a cool toy set from Target nor ToysRus. He didn’t have parents who could send him to do Martial Arts or learn piano. His father was busy bringing food to the table so that they can have a full meal before going to bed every night. There was no money to spend. The only resource he had was time left to play after school at his father’s store. And then something happened. As he started to build arcades, he started to make things that would make it playable, enjoyable, and fun which drew national attention from all across the United States. He also spent a lot of time planning, constructing arcades but also spent time destroying them because he had better ideas or because he didn’t like what he saw.

I think Caine’s story marks today’s generation of students.

Our school houses about 400 to 500 Caines who are desperate to spend their time to create something that is more than scoring 4’s and 5’s on EOG’s. I feel like less students are engaged in prescribed learning which is a framework still at work in most schools manifested in worksheets, tests, and so-called “projects” that is usually translated to grades based on “the rubrics”.  What also seems to limit these students is the fixedness of adults’s framework of thinking that what’s best for the students comes from the expertise of our teaching experiences. The irony of how teaching experiences constitute to our children is that it can blind them from seeing the students’ needs and possibilities.

Students are constantly assessing themselves through trials and errors when they play Minecraft, Twitting, or even auditioning for their schools’ variety shows. Students are continuously assessing others and themselves as they craft their skills while playing. What’s really at work is not about stopping students from doing what they are doing but looking at what it is that gaming is enabling students to do. Look, more students are engaged in dynamic learning that is autonomous, cross-curricular. More students are becoming disengaged from school and turning their eyes to what works for them. And this doesn’t mean that schools should start investing more money on creating facilities or buying more supplies for #makerspace.

Students are ahead of educators. We need educators who are not ashamed to play.

Would you play with me?


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