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Re: [xmca] The Movement to Restore Children’s Play Gains Momentum - NYTimes.com

While I am very sympathetic to the idea that playfulness in spirit and free play as such are important for socio-emotional-intellectual development, I wonder a  bit about the "computers are to blame" undertone in the article.

I find myself saying daily that I need to spend less time in front of screens: computers, tv, movie. I think that it's important to pay attention to how much time kids are spending with screens (and I'd add cellphone screens to that, and game platforms, mobile and otherwise). And I assume this is increasing a lot. 

But the issue, I think, is not what artifact the kids are interacting with, but whether what they are doing with it counts functionally as play for developmental purposes. Some play requires human partners, some does not. Kids can "play" while playing videogames together: there are two simultaneous, interlinked, activities: gameplay and playing around with and while playing the game. Kids can re-appropriate even educational software, incorporating it for their own purposes, in their play.

A lot of valuable play is also solo play. I used to mobilize vast armies (as part of fantasy role-playing, not war gaming) of chess pieces and innumerable right-scale household objects, in my only-child living room playworld. It was very imaginative and I'm pretty sure very functional for my development. It was balanced, more or less, with peer play, and some parent-play (though less of this as I grew older).

When I was a child the US population was 180 million. Today it is over 300 million. I think the sense of do-or-die competition to succeed has raised parent anxieties about test scores (and our dysfunctional educational and social policies haven't helped either). That may be behind some reluctance to waste time on play. But I think a bigger issue is the exact relation between play and learning/development: specifically the role of the former in the latter, and most importantly the extent to which excluding play from school-based learning practices makes the latter less effective.

There are many kinds of learning, but I believe that the kinds I value all fit the formula: No Learning without Play.


PS. The "computers are to blame" theme has been pervasive in the media, especially the print and broadcast media, for years. Some of it is the old-media's fear of competition and change, some of it reflects a zeitgeist among older adults that the computerization of society must somehow be bad for everyone because it's not something they feel comfortable with or good at. This seems to achieve the level of a "moral panic" when children are involved. Or, more cynically, involving children in the discourse makes extreme rhetoric more acceptable.

Jay Lemke
Research Scientist
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
University of California - San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0506

Professor (Adjunct status 2009-11)
School of Education
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Professor Emeritus
City University of New York

On Jan 8, 2011, at 5:08 PM, mike cole wrote:

> Interesting in light of recent discussions.
> mike
> The Movement to Restore Children’s Play Gains Momentum -
> <http://NYTimes.com>NYTimes.com
> <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/garden/06play.html?_r=1>
> http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/garden/06play.html?_r=1
> **
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