Four Ways Play Inspires Learning


In last week’s most-clicked ASCD SmartBrief story, veteran educator David Warlick identifies four qualities of gaming and social networking experiences that provoke active and deliberate investment, from the learner, into what they’re learning, and what it means to be learned. Warlick notices that gaming and networking experiences are

  • Responsive: Choices work or don’t, but everything gets feedback
  • Collaborative: Learners discuss and build off one other to participate and achieve.
  • Personally meaningful: Games and networking often have quantifiable value and rewards (unlocking new levels, getting likes or comments), and player and participant identities are valued.
  • Guided by safely made mistakes: Players and participants learn from what works and what doesn’t and adapt their strategy.

What would happen if students and teachers were free to play with learning?


  1. Our district math curriculum involves a lot of playing. In fact, my first grade students are playing some type of math game almost every day. In the beginning I was unsure about this new curriculum; I thought that the students would struggle to learn if all they are doing is playing games. I found the opposite to be what really happened. When the students are playing these games they are learning so much more than what I could have taught them in a 60 minute lecture or demonstration. They are not only learning the intended skill but they are also learning to play fairly with another person and work together. When they make a mistake they have the opportunity to discuss what happened and how they can fix it.
    I think that playing is a wonderful way for students to learn. They have fun and learn new things. I know that there needs to be time for the teacher to teach new material but giving the students a chance to play with these new ideas is a great way for them to learn.


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