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.