Tag Archives: experiential learning

Playful learning Leadership

“We don’t learn from experience, We learn from reflecting upon our experience.”  (Thiagi)

'LeadereshipAs a guest lecturer at the Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg, Netherlands, I was recently asked to deliver an Advanced Course on Leadership to students. The students expected a course with lots of theoretical information in a more lecture style of teaching, with maybe some role-play exercises. What I did was very different. I got them up to Playfully interact with each other in simple Applied Improv Games & Playful Learning Exercises. This was initially not received with great enthusiasm but definitely woke them up in the morning.

In the debrief after each playful exercise the students were invited to give meaning to their experience and connect this meaning to insights about leadership skills, thus creating awareness and ideas for improvement.

Last week I received this review of my course. Proud and confident that my way of teaching is reaching the hearts and minds of these young people.

I was happily surprised to find out what this course was about. I had different expectations and thought that the course would be more about dry subjects and a more theoretical approach. At first, my reaction to the training (dancing etc.) was honestly “oh god, not this hippie stuff”. But as we progressed I could see the meaning behind every exercise and saw that it was actually great for learning some skills and getting insight on the matter. Letting the students come to these insights on their own by experiencing it, is in my perspective way better than just telling us or letting us read it out of a book. Also, letting us choose our own subjects and leaders to write about and making it personal, was a great way to keep it interesting and getting more out the theories rather than just reading. I would like to use the experience from this course to improve my public speaking skills and when I am ever in a position of leadership again, reflect back on this course and see if I’m following some of the rules that were stated here as good leadership. What I liked about this course, is that you looked for personal improvement and reading the message in our papers, rather than being too anal and tripping over every wrong interpretation of the theoretical aspect. It is my opinion, that you learn way more from this approach and make it entertaining, while motivating the students to progress. If I’d have to think of something that could be improved, is changing the day and hour on which this course is given on a weekly basis. While I doubt that having way more people in each class would be an improvement for the learning experience of each individual, I feel everyone should experience this course. Especially if this course, which is also mostly about personal growth, could replace the heavily overvalued and mandatory course of Creativity & Personality. Excuse my frustration, I needed to get that off my chest. This course was a great learning experience and I hope many students after me will be able to experience this as well.

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

You’re welcome to stay updated with my projects and resources on playfulness & playful learning by following my facebookpage

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Play, Playfulness & Playful Learning

What’s the difference or relation between Play, Playfulness & Playful Learning?

I’ll try to explain how I see it (at this moment).

violinPlay is an act, something that we (can) do. We can play with objects, play a game, play tennis or the violin, play a role, etc. Scholars say that Play has these following traits; “PLAY must be intrinsically motivated, you must be free to play (it has no utilitarian function), you don’t know the outcome, it is outside your ordinary life and it must be fun.” (Gwen Gordon)

play, playfulness bookPlayfulness on the other hand is not an act, but rather something that we are. It’s (as Bernie deKoven mentiones) inherited. It’s in our nature to be playful. And nature in itself is playful (Alan Watts). Bateson describes Playfulness as a positive moodstate, from where the act of playful play starts. It’s this moodstate that we see in young children much more often than in adults, who are told to act serious instead of playful. Only when we are really happy, in love or a bit typsy on alcohol, we cannot hide our playfulness anymore. It breaks through the surface of ‘behaving’ and reveiles itself as a force of our nature. No doubts: We ARE playful.

Some Play-practicioners, like Bernie de Koven, choose the path of purposeless play in the sense that pure play shouldn’t have a purpose or goal. It’s the act of play itself that’s fun and rewarding.

In Playful Learning things are a bit different. Learning games and experiences are designed to meet certain learning objectives. So it’s not play in itself that’s the goal, but the learningobjective is. In this case, Playful Learning is a mean towards reaching a desired outcome. This in itself seems to contradict with the ‘you don’t know the outcome’ of play.

I am passionate about Play AND Learning. So I develop playful experiences connected to objectives that are important to my clients. For example, a client asked me to deliver training to improve their performance at a businessfair. I designed games and exercises to raise awareness about groupenergy, connecting to strangers using status, collaboration, daring to ask for an order, etc. The client was surprised and delighted at how effective the team worked together (just after 2 sessions of 0,5 day) and delivered a peakperformance.

For me the learning that comes out of the playful exercises is more natural and much more powerful and longerlasting than traditional training. The participants are invited to make sense of their personal experiences, thus creating individual learning with possibly very different outcomes for different people. It’s teachless teaching in the sense that I don’t teach knowledge. I create playful experiences and invite my participants to make some sense out of them. And they find out: There’s sense in non-sense!

I also create Play Missions that don’t have any other purpose than to just enjoy doing them. And by doing them uplifting the energy of the player (and it’s surroundings).

So I haven’t yet made up my mind to what category of Play-practicioners I belong to. The ones that see pure Play as a goal in itself, or the ones that see Play as a mean towards reaching a goal. I play both 🙂

With playful greetings,
Annemarie Steen
Playfulness & Playful Learning

Serious Play for slumkids in India

Hi,
I came across a short video from a non-profit organization Magic Bus India, that allows slumchildren in India to play and learn essential life skills while playing fun games and sports.
This particular exercise opens the discussion with the children about obstacles they face when they want to go to school. It’s a perfect example of the power of Playful Experiential Learning. First there’s an explanation of the game, then after they played the game, they are invited to reflect on the experience and from that they gain insights. From the insights, they choose their (different) actions in real life. The results of these programs are that a lot more children are going to school, feel much better about themselves and are better teamplayers. I wish more of our educationsystem would adopt this kind of learning.

With playful greetings,
Annemarie Steen
http://www.steentrain.nl

My experience with Serious Lego Play

Last friday I attented a festival called ‘Let’s Play Innovation’ in The Netherlands, about the link between Playfulness and Innovation. Very interesting day with lots of Playshops to get a taste of different methods and insights of Playful Learning.

In the morning, I participated in a Serious Lego Play workshop. We were asked to build a bridge with for each participant the same set of Lego. The outcomes were as different as people can differ. Then we were asked to make a model from instructions. I enjoyed trying to get it right as fast as possible. Then we were asked to change our fixed model into something else that looked like a mother in law from hell. Now we really got into it (although my real Mother in Law is more of an Angel). Our creative minds were triggered. Giving meaning to our models in explaining the different bits and parts created mental attachment to our model. Even more so, when we were asked to make a personal model of ‘Serious Play’, the theme of the day. Here’s mine:

serious play

The swing represents Playfulness. It can be hanged anywhere, at home, in business, with friends. And being on the swing with others makes it even more fun and connecting. A swing is fun, as long as it’s in motion. So if you get stuck, find playfulness to get you unstuck…something like that.

Talking about our models of ‘Serious Play’with my group deepened our conversation and understanding of eachothers point of view. And because we played together, I felt closer to my groupmembers than to other people in the room. Play connects (but that I already knew).

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

 

I’m afraid, but I’m gonna do it anyway…UHM!

Hi,

In my work as a facilitator of playful learning(*), I meet a lot of different people. The ones that are enthusiastic from the start and willing to try everything immediately. The ones that are a little shy and hesitant, but after some reassurance they will try, and the ones that say NO from the start. I notice a lot of limiting believes about being playful that’s holding them back. Recognize any of these? Playfulness is childish, ít’s crazy, it’s ok in sports, but not in business, etc.

Getting the benefits and learninginsights from Playful Learning is not something you can learn from a book. It’s an experience. So therefore it’s vital that I get my participants to leave their comfortzone and join the exercises. And from my experience, 99% of my participants do…and respond with high energy and powerful learninginsights.

So how do I do it? Here are some strategies I use.

First it is important that the participants get the WHY of Playfulness.

So, I often start with explaining the difference between left and right brain functions. I show them that succesful businesses nowadays are using their creative right brain capacities to innovate, to use design, storytelling, play, empathy and meaning.  Then I ask them to leave their logical, analytical left brain quiet for a while and invite them on an experiential journey to experience their right brain.

right left brain

If the group is very leftbrain orientated (technical people), I sometimes use Steve Jobs’ “Stay Hungry, stay Foolish” or quotes from Einstein.

After the introduction of the WHY Playfulness is important, I tell them that it’s natural to feel fear. Doing something out of the ordinary is ‘out of comfortzone’. Sometimes I share a story from my personal experience with an experiment that I conducted on a busstation at 7.00 am in the morning. I handed out 80 free blowing bubble sets to waiting travellers. A lot of them reacted with fear.

In order to deal with the fear, I often show my participants this video. In this clip you see that fear is causing you to take a step back. The way how to deal with the fear, is to reverse this initial tendency and take a step forward.

Finally, I teach the participants a mantra: I’m afraid, but I’m gonna do it anyway…UHM (with the UHM we all take the necesary step forward). It creates fun and commitment, and as soon as someone is holding back, I can refer to the ‘I’m afraid’ mantra and invite them to do it anyway.

frog

And then we start seriously playing and learning 🙂

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(*) In the Netherlands www.steentrain.nl, International with www.ha-p.com

Caregivers Recharge Event Singapore

Last week I had the privilege of delivering an interactive Joy-Care workshop(*) with Avi Liran at an event in Singapore. The event was organized by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for the Caregivers of Singapore. Almost 150 participants joined us in a series of playful and fun exercises to destress, recharge and connect with eachother. After the workshop many participants (from Singapore, Philipines, Myanmar, Malasia and India) came to thank us for the uplifting experience and insights with simple tools that they can implement into their daily lives, working with sometimes difficult patients and many stressfactors. I feel very grateful for the opportunity.

(*) Our Joy-Care Concept is based on insights and findings from Positive Psychology and neuroscience. The playful and fun experiential learningexercises are aiming to enhance the participants well-being in teaching and stimulating the 5 elements of well-being; positive emotion, engagement/flow, relationships, meaning and accomplishments (PERMA as described by Martin Seligman in “Flourish”)

Mirror neurones; how do they affect you?

Recent research has come up with scientific proof of ‘mirror neurones’. What are these? And how do they work?

Well, before reading on, let’s do a small experiment.

Answer this question before reading on: how do you feel right now, on a scale from 1-10 (10 is excellent, superb, never better)

Then, have a look at my picture for at least 30 seconds.

Done? Ok, describe how do you feel right now? Has your initial number changed?

So what does this have to do with mirror neurones. It turns out, that just by looking at faces of other people, we tend to experience the emotions that we see. The effect is very strong when we mimic the face we see (you may wanna give this a try), but also by just looking, without changing anything in your own facial expression, will fire some neurones in your emotional brain, that will make you feel the emotion that you see. In this case probably (and hopefully) happy.

What is the practical side of this knowledge. Well, whenever you feel a little down or sad. Just by looking at, or surrounding yourself with happy people, you will feel better.

Have a smiling day!

Annemarie Steen