Playful Learning

Playful Learning: The Role it Plays in Education


Children of all cultures and backgrounds play. Play is omnipresent in the developing minds of children, as well as young animals. Play is an agent that promotes early brain development, strengthens language skills, the executive functions of memory and attention, mathematics and spatial skills, scientific thinking, and emotional development. There is an evident correlation between play and cognitive progression, which grants breakthroughs in conducting education.

Guided play maintains the free and fun aspects of play, while focusing on education goals, fostering an opportunity for imaginative exploration. For children, play and activity is about make-believe, discovery, amusement, and socialization. The difference between free and guided play is gentle adult guidance to lead towards the learning goal, while allowing the creativity to be nurtured.  This innovative approach to making learning an active experience has shown to be a successful pedagogical tool in a variety of subjects, particularly mathematics and science.

Parents, educators, and policy makers want to ensure that today’s youth will grow into tomorrow’s successful adults. The time for childhood development is short, and the expectations are increasingly high. Traditional learning is direct instruction, typically using flash cards, repetitive lessons, and over explanation with a lack of discovery.  Playful learning through guided play supports children taking a lead in their instruction, while being directed to the points and concepts that are vital to education standards and goals. Current and expanding research shows that guided play provides and delivers the same outcomes in children’s learning as traditional teaching, while being a more effective teaching tool.

Research finds that children who engage in guided play activities were more likely to learn target information. Additionally, they are more likely to retain abstract themes than the children who were given direct instruction, while children engaging in free play, without any adult support, overall are less likely to stumble upon the same realizations. A study with preschool aged children taught about shapes using guided play, free play, and conventional instruction. The children who engaged in guided play lesson were able to identify more atypical shapes than those who participated in direct lessons, and more shapes overall than those who participated in free play. The role of adults in guided play is to support the children’s choices, asking open-ended questions to gently shape behavior without controlling it.

Here at High Touch High Tech, we see the value of a hands-on, discovery style of learning. Each day we get to see students come to realizations, all the while using an active imagination. Teachers and the curriculum they abide by have yet to admit guided play and aren’t given the tools to do so. Our students lead in their own education, and it provides them an autonomy of their actions. Students are just learning how the world operates by using their imagination to dream of the possibilities and discovering new information each day.  STEM education is the key to making sense of our world, thus being the single greatest influence on the innovations which will change the world.


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Independence Day!


The significance of Independence Day, also known as The 4th of July, in the United States, is commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776.  The Continental Congress declared the the 13 American colonies were now free and independent states.

On July 2, 1776 was the date that the Independence was approved by Congress, but it was not signed until July 4th and that is why we celebrate Independence day on July 4th instead of July 2nd.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the only signers of the Declaration of Independence who became Presidents of the United States and both died on the same day; July 4th.

Families spend this national holiday by having a barbecue with family and friends, going to parades and then ending the night by going to see fireworks.

We hope that everyone has a fun and safe 4th of July!

Students Should be Experimenting before Reading or Watching Videos


It was first believed that students learned better by first reading or watching videos about a new topic before jumping into hands-on learning in the classroom. But thanks to Stanford researchers, that may no longer be the case. The Stanford researchers used the BrainExplorer, a table-top tool that simulates how the human brain processes visual images, to debunk this old fashioned way of teaching students new topics.

“Our results suggest that students are better prepared to understand a theory after first exploring by themselves” said Bertrand Schneider, a GSE graduate student who led the research under the direction of Paulo Blikstein, an assistant professor of education.

The study performed by Stanford researchers involved 28 undergraduate and graduate students as participants, none of whom had studied neuroscience. After being given an initial test, half of the group only read about the neuroscience of vision, while the others worked with the BrainExplorer tool. When tested after those respective lessons, the performance of participants who used BrainExplorer increased significantly more – 30 percent – than those who had read the text.

The second test had the two groups switch and do the other learning activity. So the students who read first then used the BrainExplorer and the BrainExplorer students only read about the neuroscience of vision in the second test. The researchers revealed that there was  a 25-percent increase in performance when open-ended exploration came before text study rather than after it. (A follow-up study showed identical results for video classes instead of text.)

“We are showing that exploration, inquiry and problem solving are not just ‘nice to have’ things in classrooms. They are powerful learning mechanisms that increase performance by every measure we have.” – Blikstein

In conclusion:  The “exploration first” model is a better way to learn!

Never Stop Learning

Seniors space mudYesterday was a great day for science! Dinosaur Dan provided some great hands-on experiments with the adults at the Grove Senior Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Many participated in the Molecule Races, Fishing For Ice Cubes, and of course the famous Silly Putty! Always a fan favorite! During all of the fun, there was a camera crew from the local news station filming for their Never Stop Learning segment.
Once again, High Touch High Tech is showing that science can be fun for all ages and we truly never stop learning!