Mindlab – Just playing around.

There is no doubt that the Mindlab workshop was the most fun I had at the ULearn17 conference.  I got to work with some cool people and to reverse engineer a working bluetooth-connected hovercraft out of pipe-cleaners, paper cups and assorted bits of plastic.  It was awesome.

The rationale behind the project was that I would get to ‘learn by discovery’.  I would get to experience a practical hands-on project that enables an awareness of future pedagogies –  risk-taking, embracing failure and collaboration – first hand.   I would get to know intimately, from a learner perspective, how the design of the challenge influences thinking.  Educators, we are told, often find this shift in approach difficult to get right.

All of this sounded amazing, but all I actually remember from the experience is that I managed to make a plastic plate float across a table.  Cool as that was.

But, is there more to it?

My daughter works in Early Childhood Education and frequently reminds me about the importance of play.  Play is essential for emotional and intellectual development. It seems to me that the Mindlab project I completed at the conference was all about play.  I got to play around with a bag of goodies and figure out how to put them all together.  I could fiddle around, make mistakes,  bounce ideas off colleagues,  experiment – all in a non-judgemental space.  I recently completed the Mindlab PGC in applied practice  and on reflection I realised that I got to play around with a lot of cool toys there as well.  We were frequently asked to try out various devices and experiment with all sorts of collaborative and innovative teaching tools.  Is Mindlab just an adult play centre?

Absolutely!   And how cool is that!   It seems that we start our education with lots of play, but somewhere along the line we manage to completely suck all the fun out of it.  Traditional teaching methods create environments where spontaneity and experimentation are frowned upon.   Instead of getting to play, we get to listen.    I certainly got to sit down and listen to a whole lot of stuff at Ulearn17,  but there were few opportunities to actually get involved and interact.  Thanks Mindlab for providing that opportunity and for reminding me how important the concept of ‘play’ continues to be in education.

Now, where’s the sandpit?


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