In my recent play sessions with my six-year old (soon to be seven) I realize that one critical element of children’s play, and indirectly learning, is the ability to tell stories and just plain make them up going along. As adults, I think some of us lose that ability somewhere along the way; perhaps its one reason why society values storytellers and makers so much (writers, singers, film-makers, animators…).
Typically, the kid and I indulge in play sessions that use Lego as the base toy and then build an imaginary world for our Lego models to inhabit and interact with. Somewhere along the way, events with effects are added and stories occur in the imaginary environment with the models playing roles. This allows the most ordinary Lego models to become characters in the narratives children are creating when at play. As I’ve mentioned before, storytelling is integral to human culture and part of the human experience. Storytelling and making are engaging, interactive and social behaviors, we can participate in such by elaborating and refining the characters, narrative, and event time-line as we go along. While we do this, we make sense out of the social, cultural and interpersonal contexts that make up the story. Truly engaging and illustrative storytelling requires the use of metaphor – a form of thinking and the use of language that allows us to experience one thing in terms of the other. Metaphor isn’t just descriptive or flowery use of language, its more than that – it actually allows the generation of new ways to understand things. The use of stories and metaphor definitely play an active role in human cognition and learning. What’d make a really cool learning tool is a collaborative story-making and telling tool that works in both synchronous and asynchronous modes. What do you think?