I attended my first learning conference in March 2013. Learning Solutions is a conference and expo produced by Learning Solutions Magazine and the eLearning Guild. As a first timer, I was extremely excited to attend, but I had no idea what I was in for. I gathered so much information from the conference that I did not know how to begin sorting it out. Four days later, while sitting in my cubical I opened the notes app on my iPad. I skimmed through my pages of notes. I noticed I typed the words, “play” and “practice” multiple times. The commonality between many of the discussions and sessions was apparent. The beginning of my notes detailed my first Morning Buzz.
The first session I attended at the Learning Solutions Conference was a Morning Buzz, or “Early Bird” discussion. The Morning Buzz discussion I chose titled: Getting Creative was led by Connie Malamed. Malamed is a consultant at The eLearning Coach. Admittedly, I did not know what to expect at a 7:15 a.m. conference discussion. I made my way to the front of the room and waited. I was surprised to find ten or so fellow conference attendees filing into the front of the room. The attendees had their iPads in hand and were ready for discussion. Malamed instructed us to form a circle and we began introductions. The group discussion began with attendees sharing insights on their creative process. One of the first topics to be discussed was play.
Not only did play come up within discussions, but as I attended featured programs and general sessions, I noticed that presenters began to talk about play. Stephen Anderson, an independent consultant at PoetPainter, presented: “Ideas You Can Play With” he spoke about learning through play. Anderson quoted Jean Piaget; a Swiss developmental psychologist. Piaget said, “Play is the answer to how anything new comes about.”
Anderson brought up learning through games such as, Minecraft. Minecraft is a PC game where the players build creations out of blocks. Anderson pointed out that millions of people play Minecraft without any real reward; not even badges! Minecraft players play because the game allows self expression, challenges them, because they are autonomist. Curiosity and collecting drives players to play the game even more. Players learn more about Minecraft through playing the game. Anderson spoke about games such as chess and scrabble and how those types of games involve thinking that is tied to the body. A chess player makes a wrong move with their piece and they will be provided with feedback; therefore the player learns from the move.
Daniel Coyle, author and contributing editor to Outside magazine brought up the topic of swift feedback in order to create successful practice. Coyle’s conference presentation: “Hotbed: The Blueprint of High Performance” covered active learning. Coyle brought up questions regarding practice: Is the learner reaching and repeating? Is there engagement? Is there purposeful action? Is there swift feedback? He used the example of a child skateboarding. A skateboarder is constantly receiving feedback. The skateboarder is reaching and repeating until they get the move right, but the skateboarder has to practice on the edge of their ability in order to become the best.
The first general session speaker I attended was Robert Ballard. Ballard is an oceanographer; he is famous for his discovery of the Titanic and the battleship Bismarck. I think that Coyle may even consider Ballard to be an example of “one of the best” in oceanography (I would have to ask him though). Although Ballard did not directly speak about play or practice, it was obvious that it had a hand in his success. Ballard has not only made discoveries, he has advanced his field, and now he is teaching others to continue learning and discovering.
My take away from the conference and perceived theme of play and practice from the sessions show: that we need to want to learn, we have to play and practice to become the best, we need swift feedback from practice to become better, and we have to reach our limit and repeat practice to get closer to perfection. In my Morning Buzz with Malamed I learned play can inspire creativity. From Anderson I learned Minecraft players learn through play. Coyle showed that in order to become great you must practice on the edge of your ability, practicing is transformative. After practicing, a person can become the best in their field and eventually like Ballard they may become a teacher.