Our theme is designing learning with a "playful" spirit. The exploration mark after the world "playful" accounts for any number of words such as spirit, passion, lifestyle, design, expression - anything you would like to insert!
The word "playful" itself contains many possible interpretations. Each of us can develop our playful spirit through engaging in various activities and by building relationships with other learners and with knowledge itself. We can become designers of our own intelligenceas well as feel an invaluable sense of motivation - what we have termed "playful motivation".
The term "playful" is often limited to children. However, our hope is that the playful spirit will be nurtured in the hearts of all youths and adults, creating pure, intimate and self-empowering relationships with people and objects we meet in everyday life.
Many changes are occurring in Japanese education - indeed in education all over the world. The concept of "playshop" can help us all rethink our ideas about teaching and learning. Considering key elements such as relationship, motivation, interaction, personal connections, and empowerment of all learners, we believe that the traditional classroom style needs to be redefined. Therefore, we are proposing redesigning our learningscapes.
The playshop metaphor can foster meaningful learning thorugh design activities which emphasize the essence of engagement, emotion, improvisation, innovation, collaboration, communication and reflection. Also it is important to remember that playful design is intergenerational and that it provokes emotional and collaborative experiences. This kind of learning advocates a self-empowering design spirit and a hands-on, hearts-in philosophy such as when making a mudpie. Playful design nurtures spontaneous and emergent creativity. In a playshop environment, learners become the meaning makers rather than simply taking meaning from others. Through the elements of magical and spontaneous engagement and learning how to break constraints in a supportive, playful environment, all of us can develop and utilize our own toys, tools and vision.
Express Yourself - A conversation among the authors of this book about being expressive.
Miya: One important goal of expressive behaviour is to externalize our thoughts and feelings. In that process we can also rediscover new aspects of ourselves.
Hillel: Yes, I think thats really important, too. One writer said, : I write so that I can find out what I think." If we keep everything bottled up then we don't get the change to grow and develop. We just keep feeding on the same things.
Lehan: So many wonderful things have come out of people's expressing their inner selves. All kinds of beautiful art.
Nobuyuki: Everything can be expression - design is expression; creating media is expression, dancing and singing are also forms of expressing ourselves.
Miya: But you know, not everyone feels comfortable about expressing themselves outwardly. How can we help each other break through our constraints? That's the first big step in helping us express ourselves.
Hillel: If we can support each other then we can have confidence to express our ideas. If others will listen and are interested in what we think, then we can enjoy sharing our ideas.
Yoshiro: We need to relax and feel the synergy between us. Then we can begin to understand the forms of expression we enjoy best and appreciate the way others express themselves.
Lehan: If we can learn to respect and give value to all forms of self-expression, schools can be such different places. Multi-media means multi-expression.
Yoshiro: We have to be careful about forcing anyone into a particular mode of expression. Some people prefer to use words, others drawings, others music, others - . We need to listen to the silent as well as voiced expressions. Then we can find joy in ourselves and the situation and help others do the same.
Discover your selves: one name, many me's
Each of us has many dimensions and ways of showing ourselves. Each emotion and situation calls for our careful listening and deep reflection. Through this process we learn to express ourselves meaningfully. Recognizing and respecting the many facets of ourselves helps us to appreciate and respond to others and to various situations. Each of us has many layers and levels of our "selves" and we are responsible for deciding how much and when we would like to share ourselves with others to begin to build intimate environments and relationships.
We've invented the expression "toyification of everyday objects" to show the importance of a hands-on and hearts-in spirit, such as when making mudpies in our daily life, or more specifically, when we transform any object to become a toy.
Each family and school can bring the spirit of playful design into their home and classroom, inspiring a design generation who feel the essence of playful sensitivity so that they may also feel comfortable in playful improvisations of their daily learning and living lifestyles. For example this book can become a constructive toy, or English itself can become a toyful object.
Everyday objects also embody evocative and provocative thoughts. The important component here is that the objects can evoke various memories or provoke various emotions or reactions for us. For us, toyification of everyday objects means that toys do not necessarily have to be a specific shape, form or style but that they can be simple and natural things that we give special meaning to.
find the me in media
What is "media"? Often, the terminology used today, refers to media as having something to do with high technology, machines and electronics. However, media can be any toy or tool that helps us understand our self and the world, in addition to helping us to express and reflect our feelings. It can be mass or personal, and can help us to be expressive and communicative, be creative, find provocative and evocative elements in the world around us, transform our self or the situation, and help us in being reflective about our actions and behaviors. Media enables us to see the people and objects around us in relation to each other. It's wearable, tradable, expandable, tangible, playable, edible, throwable and dancable.
Transformation is a biiig idea for us! Look at the word "big". We've changed the i-s - you have to change your eyes to be transformed. To become transformed we need to learn to see things with new eyes - to re-vision - and with a new mind - to re-think! We need to be fresh! In English we have a word rejuvenate that means to get new energy and new strength - "re" means "again" or "anew" and juvenate means "child". Let's rejuvenate ourselves.
We ourselves have the power to transform - the spaces around us, the objects and how they are used, people and how we see and relate to them. This is a power that we can develop through our playful design spirit.
How do you feel about this idea of tranformation? Can you understand why we value it? We want you to see that each of us have the power to change the way we experience our learning and our living through transformation. Each of us - kid, teacher, parent, office worker - can become the playful designer of our life.
We can hang a mobile in front of our desk, move our chair and table so we have a new view, we can reorganise the formation of our students' desks, or rearrange the furniture in our office to give us a new outlook. We can try to understand how people think, feel and see, and in this way transform our relationship with them.
Partyfication of everyday life - any event can be a party, Every day can be a re-birthday party!
The preparation and presentation of a party is a form of empathy between the designer and the guests. When we design a menu for a party it can contain elements to whet our appetite, and give our palates and minds sweet satisfaction, which may result in building an intimate relationship among us.
A celebration helps us appreciate each day and look at our mundane world with a sparkling eye. Simply thinking about each day as a re-birthday party (rather than a birthday party) can help us to re-evaluate our life day by day while building on the memories, experience and knowledge we treasure from our past. The designer of the party (like a designer in a learning environment) can think about the co-ordination of the food (like the source of energy or knowledge) the music (like the improvisations we can make on what we already have or know), the guests (like our intimate relationships) and icebreakers (i.e. discovering commonalities or differences) to create the ultimate aura for celebration.
In french there are two expressions - joie de vivre, the joy of life, and elan vital, the power or spirit of life - which have great impact and have been adopted into the world language. Let's adopt them into our lives. Let's live with playful spirit by creating joy in everyday events.
Savory and mindful learning
We can find new meanings in ourselves through designing experiences for others. Preparing an obento (Japanese lunchbox) for someone is one way to think about savory and mindful giving. An obento or any gift can be an expression of love, each element sending a message. It is empowering to receive a mindfully given gift as a kind of media with love and respect because it is telling you a story of the person who designed it. The obento metaphor is powerful because we like to think about the nutritional balance and the arrangement of the various ingredients, just as we would like to think about balancing content of knowledge, use of media and the arrangement of our presentation.
Everything we do and experience, everyone we meet, is part of our life story. Telling our stories is a way of connecting to the world. Everything we use to tell our stories - our voice, our hands, our eyes, a picture, an evocative object - can become our own powerful media.
Telling our stories to others helps us see ourselves and them in new ways. Storytelling also gives us a new eye to see ourselves through each other. Sharing personal memories and fragments of thoughts evokes careful listening. Asking others how they hear our stories is an important part of being a storyteller, and opening our hearts and minds to hear their reactions is part of our lifestory exchange.
Hear my story
Being a friend involves listening "heartfully" (i.e. sincerely and empathetically) and "mindfully" (i.e. responsively and attentively.) Listening is vital for having meaningful and respectful communication. If we want our own stories to be heard, we need to listen to the stories of others.
One way we relate to the world is through our many senses. The five main senses of the human body are sight, smell, touch, sound and taste. We also have other senses which give our life a definite flavour and give us a definite feeling that is emotional and informative in wonderfully mysterious ways.
Sometimes learning can seem to be a lonely and long process, so removed from anything relevant to our every day lives. However, when we think of learning utilizing our full range of emotions and in terms of motivational design and playful emergence of creativity, it can become meaningful for us. In designing optimal learning explorations and collaborations, emotional commitments and cognitive processes seem to be key in meaning-making.
If we can make emotional commitments and take emotional risks in the course of engaging ourselves in an activity or a relationship, we are able to see emergent creativity and learning taking place in ourselves.
We have transformed the word emotion into e-motion to accentuate the emotional (or affective) element of learning and motivation, as well as to imply that the "e" can be replaced by a number of playful learning words and concepts such as essence, exploratory, engaging, en-spiriting, effervescent, elastic, eager, to describe the unlimited potentials of playful constructivism. In addition, the japanese word ii means good. Thus, ii-spirit means healthy, vital spirit. ii-sense means a vital sense of design or style and even ii-motion could be motion which benefits us.
What is our place in the world? How do we relate to our friends, our family, our teachers, our students, our family and neighbours? It is important for us to express ourselves and find our own audience. Improvisations and playful explorations can give us a sense of confidence and mystery in our everyday lives. By telling our stories as we feel them or the way we feel most comfortable, we will be able to discover what our position in the universe is in relation to others. We can hear reactions from others and from our own hearts, and when we reflect on them, we can find meaning in the many playful moments we have designed. What we experience can be different for each moment, and this element of surprise can give our lives an emergently playful and stimulating quality.
Find your self through design
Through designing our learning and living spaces, we are able to discover what intrigues us and what is engaging for us. Initially, we may not be able to find activities or knowledge which are meaningful to us, but as we involve ourselves in the design of our learning-scape, we may discover something that engages our hearts. The process itself, of discovering this new meaning, could become a source of energy for us. It is important that we are active in finding our own place in the design of our learning and play so that each new discovery becomes a transformational journey.
Reflection! A way of re-visioning and re-playing our experiences. Thinking about ourselves and what we have done can change the way we experience every moment. Learning to see ourselves as playful, lifelong learners and continual designers of our lives can make reflection on empowering activity.
We can give ourselves feedback and also design learning-scapes which encourage others to give us feedback. We can re-live our experiences and re-learn with a new spirit.
Sending a "postcard" of ourself can be a way of expressing ourself and telling a story, a way of finding our self through the media of mail, a way of reflecting on an event we have experienced, a way of tranforming a piece of paper into a communicative toy. Any idea, any message can be "posted". When we "post" a message somewhere, it is usually for someone else to see and react to. These post-cards can be powerful, expressive media through which we can share various sorts of information and develop our understanding about the experiences we have just had. Travelling, learning, playing, meeting a special person, daydreaming - anything!