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The Science of Play (2): The Hand Puppet Proposition
Is there a universal field theory that can, in one stroke, reconfigure and reorganize our thinking about education; that has the power to destabilize the existing learning culture, shake up every individual and every single classroom, to make space for a new model?

The answer is Yes. There is a magic bullet—a vaccine to protect us against the toxins of the U.S. Department of Education’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and similar educationist politburos. Yes, the whole megillah—testing, standardized learning, old-school methodology, thinking, and models—the whole tired, top-heavy bureaucracy can be gone, vaporized—not even a poof! As smart and quiet, as simple and elegant as the earth-born bacteria that kill off the aliens in War of the Worlds. We can win. We can reclaim our learning culture. Throw a switch—click—and the lights go on. Everything that matters in education magically falls into place. Self-organization. Charmed information. Inspired Communication. Positive Socialization. Instinctive Motivation. Just by an act of nature. Concrete, tangible, and irrepressible, play is at work. Why rage against the machine when you can, like Wallace and Gromit, work smart, exact revenge, and outwit the owners of the education factory farm?

Who could entertain such an absurd possibility? These are the musings of an idealist, you say. Such things are impossible in the ‘accountable’ world of Education!

I would argue that the pages of history are replete with solitary earth-shaking change-makers, individuals whose eureka moments shower sparks and ignite enlightenment. Such subversive individuals can lurk inside the school zone as anywhere else. “Men,” wrote Churchill, “occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” One day I watched children respond to puppets in unison, their shrill squeals of delight piercing the air like the song of spring peepers at twilight in April. Something about that stuck in my brain. Something happened, and this is what eventually evolved. Something for you to ponder:

[SIZE="4"]A Field Theory of Information for the Field of Education [/SIZE]
Education = Play X communication square (E=Pc²)

Proposition One: The central active core of Education is communication. The physical makeup of communication, in a given space, say, the classroom, is the prime factor that determines the nature and robustness of information, and sometimes vice versa. Find a way to ‘charm’ and energize information in the classroom, and you have the means to reverse the polarity of conventional communication patterns from inert to ‘charged.’. When you alter communication—especially in context of Education—you possess the means to systemically alter the central processing pathway of the learning culture. When you alter the chemical makeup of communication, you change everything that heretofore has been almost impervious to change, namely in three of the most change-resistant areas of the learning culture: communication, behavior, and information. In the classroom, nature is almost always absent. Without nature, communication and, subsequently, information become conventional, dry, unimaginative, soulless. Find a way to convey information as an act of nature, on a wavelength that the young are innately tuned to, and you possess the key that opens the door to solving a host of major challenges facing Education.

Proposition Two: The active chemical element as well as the wavelength is play. Inject significant amounts of play into the central core of communication and you have the means to alter the communication core directly affecting information (content), behavior, and communication. The impact is global: both in the external dimension (teacher-student-classroom) and the internal dimension (hand-brain, emotion, movement, symbol). Fortunately, the prime recipients of the communication process in classrooms—children—are innately attuned to many forms of play. Play, the foundation of learning in mammals, is an energy force field that has yet to be harnessed. Welcome to the world of applied brain science.

Proposition Three: Play Language and Play Energy are practical forms of applied play that have been developed and tested. To change the learning culture systemically, it is merely necessary for the participants in the learning culture to speak a language composed of, and propelled by, play energy. Unless the U.S. Department of Education and other bureaucratic counterparts want to associate themselves with the likes of the Taliban and ban play officially, the inextinguishable nature of play—along with its myriad advantages and benefits to both teachers and children—cannot be stopped. This is a model of school reform—systemic reform deep inside the culture itself—from the inside out, grassroots, popular, and true to the evolutionary birthright that is play. Once set in motion, the process would take on a life of its own—just like the behavior of play.

I have arrived at these conclusions not by academic exercise, but through a lifetime study of play. “Are puppets alive?” asks many a child. Taking Einstein’s advice to adults to “ask questions that only children ask,” I would answer that puppets are psychobiologically “alive.” I believe that my view of puppets as “life forms,” as bio-media, would have captured even the eye of Darwin. My path has followed in the tradition of field biologists who have researched the communicative behavior of apes, ants, and bees, except in my case the focus on communication was sparked by art-based life forms that are unique to human communication, namely puppets—and by the response of children to them.

My work with puppets and teachers has proceeded under the assumption stated above: Find a way to systematically inject play energy into the flow of communication in classrooms, and you will have harnessed important raw chemicals from the brain—needed for thinking and communication—energy by which to warm and propel the field of education. Make playful communication second nature on a systematic scale, and a strategic means to transform the learning culture is suddenly available. Playful communication has the power to surprise and destabilize the rigid character of conventional communication practiced by adults in the world’s classrooms. Playful communication has the potential to exert broad impact and overnight transformation on the learning culture. This may sound like a tall order for such an amusingly innocuous tool as hand puppetry, but puppet play is a highly contagious and emotionally charged visual language.

“We need languages that fit the present time—that can deal with the collective as well as the individual and that transcend traditional boundaries of tribe, nation, and culture,” wrote Peter Senge. Puppet Play, practically applied, qualifies as one such language. The hand puppet is a force of nature—a symbolic bloom of organic art on the hand—at once a tool, a media, a language, and a technology capable of integrating, transmitting, and transferring information and opening the mind.

Puppet Anatomy

[URL=""]Teacher Journals, Puppets
Published Research: paper, poster
[SIZE="4"]A Field Theory of Information for the Field of Education [/SIZE]
Education = Play X communication square (E=Pc²)

I was recently asked this question about the above formula.

I've wanted to ask about the "formulal" or equation...I laughingly call myself a "math bimbo" as Speech and Language Pathologists are NOT known for their mathematical dexterity, so it an equation that really 'exists' (for want of a better word) in the mathematic/algebraic dimension or is it a 'play' on terminology. i suppose my question might be "Do linguistic equations exist in such format"? Am I phrasing this correctly? Please let me know. Difficult to put into words.

This is exactly the kind of question I was hoping I would elicit. And I am grateful for it because it signifies a mind that is really thinking about not only the points I make, but also the ground on which this formula for play and communication rests.

May I rephrase the question to see if I am reading you correctly? Are you asking if the formula figurative or literal--to the degree that such a scientific formula can be applied to the subjective reality of 'education'?

My answer is, 'It's both.' That's not a cop-out answer. It embraces both. In the figurative sense, it embraces a reality that cannot be observed.

E = mc² had to do the same. When first introduced, it embraced a reality that could not be measured. Instruments had to be created to eventually verify the formula. So the formula was first a statement of faith--a bold shot in the dark.

But it is also literal. The current formulas, put forth by Ph.D.s in cahoots with publishers and Testing Companies, promote dependence, fear, control in the name of excellence and academics. E--"Education" is determined and shaped by the formula we apply. So in the Test formula you get a learning culture of dependence, control, and fear. In the testing formula, communication is 'absent'. Of course, Communication is always present, but it is not 'real' or biological communication, so 'c'(communication) cannot be included in the Test equation. In fact the Test equation doesn't even deserve to have communication placed in the equation; that would be scientifically inaccurate, if not specious.

In my equation 'c' may be used because in terms of the communication used by vertebrates and even invertebrates, which takes on verbal and nonverbal qualities, communication has a scientific basis, and as we move closer to our own species, play enters the picture as an psychobiological driving force--a biological and synaptic energy-- in learning between adults and the young of the species. That's why 'pc' can be used and read with a certain degree of accuracy and truth in my formula.

As to the use of 'squared': the number denotes an exponential factor. What happens with pc in the hands of every individual child, teacher, classroom, and school has the potential to expand explosively--socially, mindfully, physically. With both p and c are the tools we use in context of both these evolutionary and scientific forms of behavior: Play Language --puppetools-- (literally paper media, hinge, symbol)--has the power to duplicate and morph ad infinitum--(for the hinge I believe the term is 'fractalization'--in a way that is open source and 'selective' as opposed to 'instructive.'.
Hi Gang, :anyone:

A lot of time has passed since posting The Hand Puppet Proposition. I am not sure whether people have been reading but not responding, or if the post is far beneath the radar. I'll have to check the numbers when I finish writing this. [WOW: 1,075!!]

At the risk of sounding self-serving, I would have to think, at the very least, that the prescription described here for a high-speed application of learning science, would have sparked some kind of response from members of this "Teach to the Brain" community. Instead, it appears that I've been 'Posting to the Wall."

Even if you think the idea fanciful, delusional, impractical, or just plain silly, I would think that a post to the contrary would be preferable to saying nothing. Again, maybe it's a function of the site--and not a reflection on the community.

As the world economy implodes, new ways of rethinking our systems of learning will emerge--and these new ways will come through necessity. The old ways of Educating will fall, and, if we are to survive, more sustainable models of adaptation will evolve. The Hand Puppet Proposition is one new way.

We can't afford to sit quiet and ignore attempts at imagineering, no matter how quaint or fanciful they appear. But it might help to know that this attempt is a recognized part of the OECD annals, introduced at the ELE Copenhagen Symposium, 2004.

Cheers for '09!
Hey, all. This fanciful Declaration is the very foundation of The Play Tectonics Movement--proceed to playtectonics dot org and catch a powerful whiff of innovation. What amazes me is that nearly 5,000 people have stumbled on this paper and all but one ever took a minute out to write or comment. I guess there's way too much information swirling around us. It's a good thing I'm a builder and not a bean counter concerned with the numbers. So much is written and researched about Play. And more and more will come. But the key to Play is that it must be tapped and harnessed--or at least put into some kind of order and delivery system. Because out of all the resources we have at our disposal to save learning cultures around the world from self-destruction is Play. I am putting this assertion into action. Play Tectonics will be the first attempt of its kind to leverage Play as an agent of learning culture transformation. Here's a glimpse of how it's all going to work. And here's a variation on the above theme.

Cheers, my silent lovelies!

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