Integrate play

Integrate playing and tinkering when possible, even though it may seem chaotic.

Instead of showing students what to do, try having them do the task with you as you explain. Teach students to learn from their mistakes.

© Convergence Academies
© Convergence Academies


Example for use:

Instead of showing students what to do, then having them do it afterwards, try having them do the task with you as you explain. Or simply put the tool in their hands and let them figure it out. 

Teach students to learn from their mistakes. They are really good and messing around with new media and the act of figuring something out is a lesson in itself. This generates life-long learning, discovery, and problem-solving skills. Students gain confidence and a sense of independence when something is not working and they figure it out.

© Convergence Academies
© Convergence Academies

Activity: Game Design Project


By integrating digital media like photography and video, the students will learn these tools while they are deepening their understanding of the user centered experience and governance. They will be working in teams to research and decide upon a concept. Then they will work out the details through experimentation. In the end they will capture the game through video and photography for a presentation to their peers, who will help with the final edits of the game’s procedures and rules.

This project is aimed at students grades 4+


Have them work in groups. Using the internet to research games, you can lead them in various directions, whether county fair style games, or digitally created video games, or table-top games. Have them look up the written rules of these games to see the way in which those game designers convey the rules and regulations.

Have them brainstorm ideas together and vote on a final concept.


As a team they will create the game. Using pencil and paper and their communication skills have the group walk through the game from start to finish. With each step, have one person in the group be the note-taker. What is the goal of the game and how are the different ways the user can get there? Are there various ways to get to the end goal? Are there things users are able to do and not able to do? Should there be rules, and if so, what are they? Finally, how should the game look visually? Are there characters that need to be created? Is there a space where the game plays-out?


The end products can be created done using cardboard, paper, paint, collage, drawing, along with objects like balls, plastic containers, and so on. If they are upper-level they might use programs like Twine, Stencyl, or GameMaker to create video games.

Have to write down the rules and their strategies on a sheet of paper and have them take pictures of each step of the game.


Bring in a other classes or their friend to demo their game and act as referees and make sure that everything is working. Afterwards, they can tweak their game. Then they will do a presentation for their classmates. They need to be prepared to explain their game. You can record video of the presentation or have them record and do editing. Finally, have the students create a formal evaluation for the rules of their classmate’s games.

–Unit based on Digital Media Mentor AN interview

Inspiration from Teachers

“I have seen the results, and I want to say that they are more likely to learn on their own rather than listen to a lecture and read a textbook and go home and study.” –Digital Media Mentor DM

“[The topic] had to do with the American Dream and immigration, and stuff like that. We simply opened the conversation on the topic by playing a game.” –Digital Media Mentor DM

“The first thing you need to do is make a safe zone…once you have done that, students feel comfortable reaching out…If I walk into a classroom environment and it is quiet I feel kind of bad…what starts happening is collaboration, and students are talking to each other about assignments, or about the world.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

“It is okay if you do not know how to do it, go play with it, break it and figure it out. I think that is really important too.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

“They were great. They were responsive, and that was just like a discussion…we just played around with the picture. We just photographed stuff. There was definitely a lot of play built into that. Even when they get in the lab I feel like they are allowed to walk around and take pictures. They are not having to sit in their seats.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

“Make boundaries in your classroom. If you are afraid people are going to act out then you set the tone for your classroom.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

They can learn without even really thinking that they are learning.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

“Students are really afraid to play. They are grade-focused a lot. You have to make mistakes. I try to really push them into thinking about the boundaries of what that could look like.” –Digital Media Mentor KW

Just try everything. Do not NOT take a picture. Always bring it in and talk about whether it works or not.” –Digital Media Mentor KW

You just throw them in the water and hope they can swim. They are not going to throw themselves in.” –Digital Media Mentor KW

“If people who went to their classroom to see what is happening, and if they ask the kids what they are doing, the kids say, “Playing,” that is real bad, which sucks because it is not bad. If they always think they are playing, that is great. I would love that, and I know the teachers would love that too, to think for the students to always think they are playing, but they are learning and they just do not know it. That is great.” –Digital Media Mentor SM

“[Play] does not have to be this separate. ‘What do we play this quarter? You have got to schedule one day a week where you let them play a game.’ No, it is just playfulness in teaching, in what they are experiencing, in the way we approach it.” –Digital Media Mentor SM

They were engaged. They did not get everything done, so they did not have a working thing by the end of the class, but they were engaged.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

“You could tell after you gave them things to play with that they were incredibly intelligent and they could figure everything out, but that they did not express that until you gave them something to do.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

“‘These kids are struggling,’ and then we give them something and then notice that they are improving. We are starting to play on day one…There were definitely people that I saw that came out of their shell because they got to play and had some agency over where things were going.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

I was not really used to classes this rowdy. Her class was pretty loud. There was constantly kids getting up, just stuff going on, and it was a struggle at first, but I realized she had it under control actually.” –Digital Media Mentor LS

“This teacher was super-excited about the kids. They did the first step and started moving onto the second step on their own and he was like, ‘They are just doing it!‘” –Digital Media Mentor KW

© Participatory Learning Strategies