Volume 8, Number 2
Doris Bergen, Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology Emerita and University Distinguished Scholar at Miami University in Ohio, presently chairs the school’s Educational Leadership Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program. She also served as Educational Psychology Department Chair for eleven years. A former Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at Pittsburg State University, Bergen held the same position at Wheelock College in Boston. Early in her career, Bergen learned the value of play when she directed prekindergarten programs and taught in the elementary grades at various schools in Michigan. In 2000 the ational Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators named her an Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Educator. The author of ten books—including the 2016 Technology Play and Brain Development: nfancy to Adolescence and Future Implications—more than forty refereed articles, and thirty book chapters, her research interests have included play and humor in early and middle childhood, the effects of echnology-enhanced toys, the social interactions of children with special needs, humor development in gifted children, and cross-cultural considerations in play. In this interview, Bergen describes herself as a lifelong promoter of play, talks about her formative play experiences, reflects on changes in children’s play, and notes the current urgent need for richer play experiences —especially in pretend play—to enhance the development of social knowledge, empathy, and emotional resilience. Key words: benefits of pretend play; educators and game development; play across cultures; play research; technology-augmented toys
The authors examine the potential impact of play on astronauts adapting to the extreme conditions of space travel. They cite research showing that well-trained astronauts, though in general physically fit and emotionally stable, can suffer from—among other things—boredom and sensory deprivation in the confines of the microgravity capsules of space flight. Astronauts on duty, the authors argue, are overscheduled, understimulated, isolated, and—importantly—play deprived. Introducing play into space flight routines, they contend, keeps astronauts saner, boosts their morale, and provides leisure-time pleasure. They discuss the importance of play and its uses in Ackermann’s Whole Child Development Guide, which, they argue, is also suitable for adult space travelers. And they provide guidelines for designing a playscape in microgravity that taps the unique, inherently playful qualities of weightlessness itself. Key words: Microgravity Playscape Adaptation approach; play and astronauts; playscapes in microgravity; space travel and play
The authors point out a basic contradiction: On one hand, we want to keep children as safe as possible; On the other, they suggest, learning to take risks is a normal part of childhood and child development. In Norway, research has shown that early-childhood education and care (ECEC) practitioners have, in the past, taken a permissive approach to children’s risk taking. In this article, the authors surveys ECEC managers to explore how the increasing focus on safety in Norwegian society affects ECEC programs. They find the previously more relaxed attitudes regarding risky play among children to be changing in such settings. They describe restrictions recently introduced into everyday program activities, and they discuss the implications both for ECEC pedagogy and for children’s play, learning, and development. Key words: early-childhood education and care (ECEC); play and safety; play in Norwegian preschools; risk taking and play
The authors consider the strengths and weaknesses of three different visuo-spatial constructive play object (VCPO) types—blocks, bricks, and plank—and their impact on the development of creativity in spatial thinking and higher learning during free play. Each VCPO has its own set of attributes, they note, leading to different purposes, functions, aesthetic outcomes, and narratives. They argue that one key to understanding the impact of these toys is to determine, based on the diversity of their attributes, each VCPO’s level of affordance. The authors suggest that the specific qualities of some play materials may help establish the scientific, mathematical, and technological foundations required in such professional disciplines as architecture and engineering. In contrast, they argue that the use of VCPOs hobbled by formulaic, scripted play properties may have the opposite effect, that the use of products manufactured with specialized, commercialized themes runs the risk of impeding self-regulation and even creative ideation. They hope their findings serve as a starting point for future studies that examine the benefits and shortcomings of specific play objects on cognitive development and creativity. Key words: affordance; block play; brick play; child development; constructive play; plank play; spatial thinking; visuo-spatial constructive play objects
The authors discuss an urban public school district’s efforts to reinsert play after its mandated disappearance for fourteen years under a scripted curriculum imposed to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind law. The authors analyze field notes, teacher and administrator interviews, coaching records, and surveys to chart the impact on teachers of the efforts to revive play in their classrooms. The study suggests that these attempts increased the teachers’ understandings of child development and the connections between play and social-emotional development. The authors note the role of teachers in arranging play-friendly classrooms and the problems teachers faced including the lack of any district curriculum; the complexities of public-private partnerships; the lack of understanding about play by parents, principals, and administrators; and children’s challenging behavior and volent play themes. Finally, the authors consider the sociopolitical factors influencing the sustainability of play in large urban classrooms. Key words: Common Core State Standards; No Child Left Behind; Open Court; play-based learning; social-emotional development; transitional kindergarten; trauma-informed instruction
Thanks to the commercial and cultural impact of digital games and leisure, the study of play is becoming a popular topic in academic research. Thomas S. Henricks’s Play and the Human Condition is one of the most relevant, most authoritative texts recently published on the study of play, and it should soon become an inescapable reference for scholars interested in understanding the cultural, social, and aesthetic importance of play in contemporary society.
This book tells a story of contrasts. In the subtitle, David F. Lancy indicates that children are seen in their own cultures variously as cherubs, chattels, or changelings and that these views profoundly affect all aspects of their lives. In “neontocracies,” such as mainstream United States culture, children are inherently valuable cherubs who are to be cherished and indulged. Most places around the world, however, are “gerontocracies,” where children are regarded as chattels, that is, sources of work, who are expected to contribute to the family larder from very early ages. Or, sometimes children are seen as changelings, not really wanted and disposable if necessary, but who may become viable members of society at some point. As this is a second edition of Lancy’s earlier (2008) volume, he added another contrast, that is, between most cultures and those that Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine, and Ara Norenzayan denoted by the acronym “WEIRD” or Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic (“The Weirdest People in the World” in the 2010 volume of Behavioral and Brain Sciences). Children in WEIRD societies are largely regarded and treated as cherubs while those elsewhere are thought of, and treated as, chattel or changelings.
A recent addition to the Routledge Advances in Theatre and Performance Studies Series, Play, Performance, and Identity: How Institutions Structure Ludic Spaces, brings play and performance studies together in an edited collection of thirteen essays that explore the boundaries of playful performances ranging from the massive multiplayer online game World of Warcraft to shark diving. As the title suggests, the editors’ objective is to investigate the often elusive question of who is responsible for structuring the experiences of play. A central tenant among the anthology’s authors is that institutions such as corporations, governments, and religious organizations are increasingly involved in defining the possibilities for play and that the player’s experience is thus shaped in significant ways by institutional ideologies that are worth examining.
Imagine some friends are sitting around and trying to make up the most outrageous extreme sport. What would it be? Full-contact golf? Synchronized bowling? Extreme ironing? Wait, that last one is real! It consists of people taking ironing boards to remote locations and ironing items of clothing. Originating in 1997, the sport, as one of its progenitors explains, “combines the thrill of extreme sport with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt” (p. 136).
On March 5, 1968, just under seven months before his death, French Surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp and his wife Teeny (Alexina) joined American experimental composer John Cage in performing Reunion in Toronto, Canada. Reunion consisted of a stage performance of two chess matches played by Cage, Teeny, and Duchamp on an electronic chessboard designed by Lowell Cross. The chessboard selected and distributed electronic sounds across the performance space based on the moves made by the players. Reunion’s fusion of art, performance, and games challenged assumptions about each and suggested numerous questions about the relationships between.
The Nintendo Entertainment System(NES) and its Japanese predecessor, the Family Computer or Famicom, hold a unique place in video game history as the bridge between two eras. Before Nintendo’s console, which was released in Japan in 1983 and in North America in 1985, the vanguard of electronic play was the arcade cabinet produced to play a single game. Nintendo’s Donkey Kong (1981) was one such game, which was adapted for play in the home as a cartridge for a variety of consoles including the Famicom and NES. The Famicom/NES was the platform that established home console play as the vanguard. As processing power increased and PC gaming developed, the arcade faded as a key site of electronic leisure. In the later 1980s and 1990s, playing Nintendo was often synonymous with playing video games, and Nintendo has endured into the present by continually exploiting the intellectual property popularized by the Famicom-NES platform, particularly Mario of Super Mario Bros. (1985), whose origins are in Donkey Kong’s Jumpman. Few video game producers or platforms are of greater historical significance than Nintendo and the NES. As an entry in the groundbreaking MIT Press series of Platform Studies, Nathan Altice’s I AM ERROR gives Nintendo its due as an object of rigorous critical and historical study, while also providing a welcome intervention within the literature on platforms as cultural artifacts. Our knowledge of video game consoles and of this one in particular are substantially increased by Altice’s exhaustive efforts to explore and explicate the Famicom-NES from the inside out, but so are our understandings of digital cultural expression and the poetics of computers as expressive media. This book serves as a case study and exemplar of the history of digital technology as an aesthetic terrain.
At 207 pages, Mary Flanagan and Helen Nissenbaum’s Values at Play in Digital Games is a light volume that packs a hefty punch. In this book, divided into three sections with a total of nine chapters, the authors present a framework for thinking about the ways in which games can communicate values, how to analyze the values a particular game might express, and how to guide a game development process such that its output is effective at presenting the values intended by its developers.
Marianthi Liapi is Research Director at the Technical University of Crete Transformable Intelligent Environments Laboratory and a doctoral candidate at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki School of Early Childhood Education. Her research on architectural space and its ability to facilitate the relationship between children and the learning process has been presented at international architecture and interdisciplinary conferences and has appeared in journals and books, including the International Journal of Architecture Computing; Digital Physically; and Cognitive Processing. Edith K. Ackermann is Honorary Professor of Psychology at the University of Aix-Marseille in France and visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture. She has authored or coauthored more than a dozen articles and book chapters on the future of play in relation to learning, creativity, and digital technologies. Her work has appeared in, among others, Children, Play, and Time; Collaboration and Learning in V-Environments; and A Learning Zone of One’s Own: Sharing Representations and Flow in Collaborative Learning eEvironments. She also serves as senior research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and is visiting senior researcher at The LEGO Foundation.
Daniel Ness is Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at St. John’s University. His research focuses on human and spatial development and the influence of cognitive development on STEM curriculum from birth to adolescence. He also serves as editor for “Delving Deeper,” a feature in Mathematics Teacher, and is author or coauthor of numerous articles on geometric thinking. He is also coauthor of Knowledge under Construction: The Importance of Play in Developing Children’s Spatial and Geometric Thinking, and his forthcoming book, Spatial Intelligence: Why It Matters from Birth through the Lifespan, is scheduled for release in summer 2016. Stephen J. Farenga is Associate Professor of Secondary Education and Youth Services at Queens College. His areas of research include science knowledge acquisition, cognition in science, and the affects of national standards on classroom instruction. He is the coauthor of The Importance of Average: Playing the Game of School to Increase Success and Achievement; Knowledge under Construction: The Importance of Play in Developing Children’s Spatial and Geometric Thinking; and Trivializing Teacher Education: The Accreditation Squeeze. Farenga and Ness coedited the Encyclopedia of Education and Human Development.
Julie Nicholson is Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Education at Mills College. She has written and lectured on social justice in relation to leadership, play across the lifespan, and the use of social-networking tools in higher education coursework. Her research has appeared in the International Handbook on Educational Leadership and Social (In)Justice; Teacher Education Quarterly; and Early Childhood Development and Care. She is coleader of the Center for Play Research. Anne Bauer is a research assistant and a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership Program at Mills College. She studies how social justice and play intersect in early care and education contexts. Ristyn Woolley is also a research assistant and doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership Program at Mills College. Her research interests include early-childhood policy and advocacy, continuing education, and data analysis. Woolley, Bauer, and Nicholson coauthored a chapter in Rethinking Readiness in Early Childhood Education: Implications for Policy and Practice.
Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter is Associate Professor of Physical Education at Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education in Trondheim, Norway. Her research investigates children’s risky play, well-being, and outdoor education in earlychildhood education and care institutions. Her fifty-some coauthored articles and book chapters have appeared in Early Child Development and Care; International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood; and the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, among others. Ole Johan Sando is Assistant Professor of Physical Education and Health at Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education. His research on urban administrations and injuries and accidents in kindergarten has appeared in several Norwegian book chapters and journal articles. Sando and Sandseter coauthored Municipalities Procedures and Practices to Follow up Accidents/Incidents Involving Injuries to Children in Kindergartens and Wild and Dangerous: The Children and Youth Movement Games.