Creativity is So Much Phun!

The concept of creativity and the great opportunities for problem solving that present themselves when individuals are given the luxury to be creative in schools has been on my mind for the past few days. I have been watching my son “play” with the design game, Phun, and it has been very interesting. If you are not familiar with Phun, it is a free, cross-platform creative design environment where the  user can draw what he/she conceives and watch it work. David Perkins would describe this type of software as a “construction kit“. David Jonassen would define it as a “mindtool“. Physical attributes like gravity, wind, water, slope, motor speed and direction… and so much more can all be manipulated. The Phun website describes it in this way:

“The playful synergy of science and art is novel, and makes Phun as educational as it is entertaining.”

and

Phun is a fantastic toy for children, where they can learn and appreciate physics, science and simulations in an open ended gameplay with rich creative and artistic freedom, including colorful freehand drawing.”

But, the name is so well chosen because it is just so much fun! My son has now spent a great deal of time trying to design creations that work according to his ideas. Because he has had no formal lessons in how to use Phun, it is all trial-and-error and studying some of the predesigned scenes that come with Phun. Through his creative exploration and problem-solving, he is wrestling with concepts that drive the physical world, like gravity, surface tension of water, how water takes the shape of it’s container, how motors can drive actions that get work done, cause and effect – and I could never list them all. We have also been working at things together because I have been so engaged with it as well and want to figure out how to design things that I can conceive in my mind. The social and collaborative aspect of this has been fantastic as we learn together. He shows me as much as I show him. However, my knowledge and experience allows me to ask him the questions he need to be thinking about and considering as he builds… a perfect scaffolding opportunity and chance to make metacognition explicit.

So, how much will happen like this in school this year? How much room is there in the tightly controlled curriculum with preparation for the myriad of tests he will have to take this year for creative problem-solving and strategic opportunities for social, collaborative metacognitive problem-solving and scaffolding? I like the following quoation found on NCREL‘s website:

“Recognizing what you do know in a problem, as well as what you don’t yet understand, are aspects of metacognition in problem solving that are similar to a scaffolding approach. Perkins & Solomon (1989) point out that an expert’s behavior appears to be strongly driven by prior knowledge. When faced with an unfamiliar problem, he or she may construct a similar but simpler problem. In this way, the expert learner manages his/her own gradual self-regulation and enables him/herself to grow to meet the new task successfully.”

So, watch the video below, and, if you can indulge yourself, download it and have some Phun. Challenge your students, your children, your neighbors… to have some Phun. It may be the only opportunity for this type of learning they get all year.

 

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