Digital Leading and Learning

I Wanna Play!

I did not realize it until reading A New Culture of Learning and watching the TED video of Douglas Thomas, but life really is a series of events for which people need to use passion and imagination to find ways to adjust to constraints. Whether it is budgeting for a vacation or designing a work-related project, this combination is crucial for learning, adjusting, and succeeding. Because this is how learning in the world works, the education system needs to adjust and mimic this naturalistic perspective. I believe this is a possibility regardless of the content area. Specific to my own, English, this has inspired me to rethink the more flexible aspects of my curriculum. We are given standards, a number of essays, themes, and texts to cover, but there are other opportunities that incorporate teacher discretion. It may seem as though “[teachers] have no time for imagination,” (TEDx Talks, 2012) but I know there are certain times throughout the school year in which I can include it based on my school’s expectations.

Instead of the traditional independent reading projects that students complete each marking period, I would like to integrate play by encouraging students to combine something they are passionate about with their imaginations and certain requirements. I am not exactly sure how I want to do this yet, but I do! I love Thomas’s definition of play: “an emergent property of the application of rules to the imagination” (TEDx Talks, 2012). Most people, including myself previously, associate games with play, but this definition effectively shows that it also comes in other forms. While play itself is extremely important, it is equally necessary to include boundaries. I cannot simply ask students to do a project on something they are passionate about without providing some rules because “encountering boundaries spurs the imagination to become more active in figuring out novel solutions” (Thomas & Brown, 2011). Instead I need to give them restraints so they are involved and creative. If I can find a way to do these things, then I will have successfully created the context students need to learn naturally.

I believe there are two different reasons that people resist change. One is the simple fact that people do not like change. It is often uncomfortable and forces people to face the unknown. The other reason for those who actually enjoy change and often embrace it is because it is frequently unclear HOW to do it. While watching the Creating Significant Learning Environments (Harapnuik, 2015) video and thinking about holistic learning, that is all that came to mind. There are so many different opportunities and avenues to do this that it becomes overwhelming and makes me want to shut down. I worry about putting all my time and energy into one method, only to discover that there is a different and better way I should have done things. This fear is what creates the most roadblocks for me personally. I want to include play in every aspect of my classroom. I want my students to be holistically thinking every day. But, I am constantly worried that all my hard work will be for nothing. I guess that is my ultimate question regarding all of these fantastic ideas. I want to cultivate this environment for my students and create these opportunities for them, but I just do not know how to do it efficiently and successfully.


Harapnuik, D. (2015). Creating significant learning environments (CSLE) [Video file]. Retrieved from

TEDx Talks. (2012). A new culture of learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM [Video file]. Retrieved from

Thomas, D., & Brown, S. (2011). A new culture of learning: cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change [Kindle].


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