Friday, April 20, 2007

Playing To Learn

What is play? It is an activity that does not have real life consequences. Play is often regarded as being just for amusement but in reality play is a simulation of life, except that it does not hold the dire consequences of life. For example, a shooting game does not kill real people. A financial game does not lose real money.

This is not to say that playing is not important. In fact, it is essential for learning. Play is a safe place to try out new skills and to explore new ideas. It is how animals learn how to hunt without getting eaten in the process, and it is how children develop ways in which to interact with their peers through role play.

The careful selection of games is important to teach people new skills. Parents and teachers should consider games carefully as a way to develop skills. Business trainers should consider games as the means to develop business skills and as a way to brainstorm for new ideas.

In order for play to work, particularly with adults, the atmosphere must be one of acceptance. The user must feel free to allow his or her imagination to roam free and to be immersed in the game. Judgement must be suspended because, as important it is for the game player to be free of physical consequences, the user must also be free of limiting peer pressure. In such an environment, games can truly be vehicles for learning new skills and as catalysts for new ideas.

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