New Media Tools for Play by Dorothy Stoltz & Marisa Conner
We (Dorothy Stoltz & Marisa Conner) have the honor of sitting on the LittleeLit.com advisory board. This past year – as part of our research for an upcoming book – we have enjoyed talking with many of you about how libraries incorporate play into the environment. Your LittleeLit.com work prompted us to write a chapter on young children and new media in our upcoming book, The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces. Thank you!! Here are excerpts featuring how to define play and our thoughts on new media as an avenue for play.
Although play is important, it is not an end in itself, or a time for avoiding chores or ignoring others. Play is “a jumping-off place” that can set in motion the possibility of learning. Socrates set the tone for this kind of play in his debate on the virtues of citizenship in The Republic. He asks Adeimantus to reflect on how the serious play of philosophical leaders who encourage original thought compares to the common play among certain tyrannical political leaders who are interested in manipulating and controlling the crowd. Socrates guides his student to think about how a city or society pursuing noble virtues compares to the individual doing the same—that unless play from earliest childhood is noble a man will never become good. Plato likewise engages in noble play through his dialogues with his fellow readers to pursue the knowledge of the “Good.” He distinguishes between good play—that which leads to the good—and bad play—that which diverts the learner from this goal.
Does a computer program undercut the ability of a child to play, by reducing him or her to a mere spectator? Many electronic media applications (apps) are designed for a certain level of interaction. Does an app or computer program become an avenue for play that uses imagination and thinking skills? Does it offer an open-ended activity to engage the child and lead them to higher thinking—or a closed-ended activity that where, once the button is pushed and the red dot gets bigger, there’s no more thinking involved? Can Toca Tea Party, or a similar app, occupy young visitors during busy times in the library until the play kitchen is free for their use?
A computer or a tablet or a smartphone is—when all is said and done—a tool. As with any tool, children must be introduced to computer technology with caution. The key is two-fold – to offer e-books and apps that are age appropriate and high quality, and that appeal to children, and – to enhance the child’s play and learning experience through interactions between grown-ups and young children using technology.
Excerpts from an upcoming ALA Editions book to be released in December 2014. The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces © Copyright 2014 by Dorothy Stoltz, Marisa Conner, and James Bradberry. All Rights Reserved.