Saturday, 25 February 2012

The World of Play. Literally.

As a kindergarten teacher, I am on a constant quest to find authentic, engaging avenues for Play to bring to my current group of kinders.   I am a little crazy about it, truth be told. I have exhausted the patience of the colleagues I work with, facing glassy eyed “She is talking Play again” looks. So imagine my excitement when I discovered the world of Twitter,  and a Personal Learning Network (PLN) that is as intensely taken with the importance of Play as I am?  

Enter #Kinderchat, my 27/7 PLN.   
There are endless ways to Play,  and that is at the heart of the  #Kinderchat PlayProjects.  Connecting young children to a world of play has never been easier.  Twitter, Family Facebook, GoogleEarth, Voicethread, GoogleDoc Storytelling, SkypePlay - the world is at your fingertips, inviting you to connect in a way that is just right for the children in your care.
I currently find myself the curator of a Play Project that is just right for me -  SkypePlay.
If you are new to Skype, it is an online, visual telephone call. Teachers use it to connect their children to experts, authors, and to other classes.  In Kindergarten, I found that the large group gathering was nice every now and then,  but that children just wanted to come on up and have a face to face chat, connecting through conversation, and exploring a curiosity about who that other kid is,  and what are they doing where they are.  
In a nutshell, Skypeplay gives children a peer to peer audience for their play that provides immediate interaction, collaboration, and conversation.  
And so, a network of Kindergarten classes are connecting, building relationships, exploring geography, and discovering that while everyone might have their own place in the world,  we all love to play. 
Why on earth (no pun intended) would you need to play with children via a screen when you have kids right there in your room to play with?  
Well, why not?  That is my short answer.  But I get it. We need to ensure that the world of Social Media is not just a gimmicky thing we throw at kids because we think it is cool.  
So.  Here is a story from my room.  Three boys started building a 3D structure.  As it grew, and design ideas were tried, discarded and refined, their excitement grew.  Other kids in the class came over, said “cool” but got back to their own play as fast as they could.  Then our Skype Phone rang,  and a brand-new-to-us class wanted to play.  When our new friends came online, they were overwhelmed with excitement - “WOOOOOOAH!!    What is THAT!!!”  My boys beamed, and strutted with pride, and then spent their time explaining the structure, the components, the time frame (“We have been building for two days, but expect it to take 90” ) while the other kids questioned, listened, and planned for themselves.  How many curriculum outcomes do you see there? 
Teachers in the project have facilitated discussions about tornados, snow and no snow, gardens, worms, mountains, oceans, islands. We have giggled over “Giant Face Boy!!”  and wondered if we are in the future because it is after lunch here, and before lunch there. I have seen a boy make eye contact with a child a world away when he has struggled to do that with the child beside him.  We have talked Skype manners and internet safety. We have classes plotted on a flat map, on a globe, and we have soared over towns and cities via Google Earth.  We have been  Alice in Wonderland, stepping through the Looking Glass.  
And it has opened up a world of play.  Literally. 


  1. What an amazing project and a wonderful post! My class has hopped into classrooms from yours! to Montana to Newfoundland to Ohio to Texas! We have sung songs and heard the ukulele and done puppet shows with classrooms and children.

    The classrooms in this project have established a unique bond and way of experiencing the world. How incredible. What an amazing project you made Mardelle! Congratulations!!!

  2. You are inspiring! I am starting a blog after reading all of your posts! It's something I keep putting off but would really like to try! I'm jumping in. Eyes. Wide. Open. Thanks for your help!

    1. Let me know when you do as I would love to read it.

  3. I want to join, but don't have a twitter account so it won't let me complete the sign-up. Please e-mail me at to let me know if there is a way to join without twitter.


    Sarah Hagerman-Holm

    1. Fixed that! Now you don't need to be a tweacher to play : )

  4. I ADORE this project. What a great way to raise kids to be global citizens!

  5. Thanks for all your kind words. I must say how integral #kinderchat is to this. And how thrilled I am to have found the "just right" global venue for me.

  6. Congratulations. I train teachers to use Web 3.0 tools; getting the teachers involved through activities like yours should help me overcome their change resistance, here in Kerala, India.

    Kindergarten and baby talk could improve the English language fluency of my learners here. I try to help my learners earn while they learn English:

  7. You have a wonderful initiative here. At this point, the Skypeplay project is connecting kindergarten to kindergarten, with a few older primary classes showing some interest. SkypeEducation might be a place to find the audience you that would be just right for your project.

  8. Thanks for this post! It's a great intro to Skypeplay that I will be passing on to colleagues who are trying to see the value of skype at this age. I love that your children now have this new medium for play and expression!

  9. I hate to rain on your parade, but you need to look closely at your teaching methods/practices if a child in your class struggles to make eye contact with the child beside him, but can do with one on a computer screen. Let's remember the things that make us members of real communities where actions are much more important than words spoken into an electronic device. Why not have a web free week and get the children in your class actually interacting with each other in the real world. You owe it to that child, it is in school that we learn much of our social development.

  10. No worries, No rain. It is understandable that people might misinterpret a teaching style based on one blog post. You can't know that I advocate ferociously not for technology, but for for Play, as it is the backbone and brain of developing social intelligence. Unless you were to read my other blog posts.

    Plus I assume that you are seeing this through the lens of your experiences. Just as this boy was. This happened to be one of his hooks. His "in" to the rest of the world. He also found a hook through weaving, eyedropper science, and 3D build-it. My role is simply to provide all of my students with the options to find their hook.

    On a different note, the idea that somehow those relationships being built globally are less "real" then our daily interactions is unsettling to me. Certainly the time my students spend engaged in SkypePlay is minuscule compared to the time they spend engaged in face to face social interactions. But that time, engaged face to face with a global partner has impacted their social skills, their awareness of their place in the world, and their connection to it. As developing an understanding of the global community is a curricular expectation, this feels, to me at least, like an authentic way to do that.

    Thank you for your input - I think it is essential that educators reflect on the choices that they make, and are able to articulate their passion. I would absolutely agree with the concept of Web Free Weeks, not just for our students in the school setting, but for our culture as a whole. My hope is that through conversations like this, parents and educators see that advocacy for balance is essential. That we need to stop saying we will get our kids off consumer tech and start helping them find the technology that allows for creating, collaborating, and connecting. But that above all, we remember that open ended, unstructured play comes first.