‘Playful’ vs ‘Professional’ Development

Dr Jason FoxThis week the PLANE team has Dr Jason Fox in the office "applying the power of gameplay to make everything work better." It's been a lot of fun so far. And, yes, productive too! Which brings me to today's blog topic.

One question we at PLANE have been trying to nut out for some time is the 'play' vs 'professionalism' debate.  PLANE is being developed for educator professional development. Serious stuff: accredited courses, networking, peer coaching, resources, education and learning. In the education and professional development space we want to be taken seriously, respected, and known for our quality.

At the same time, the learnings in PLANE are focused on new, innovative, cutting edge concepts and technologies including game-based-learning, the flipped classroom, collaboration, social media, crowdsourcing, open source, 21st Century strategies… which brings not only new 'knowledge' but also recommends a different attitude to education.  

Herein lies the problem: we recommend making learning fun for students, knowing they learn better this way (when the 'fun' is embedded alongside solid learning principles); however educators may not take PLANE seriously if we embed fun and playfulness into their professional development experience.

While I'd love PLANE to be playful AND professional, there are of course people who believe these are mutually exclusive values, and we must make some choices about where to draw the line. On PLANE there are areas that clearly have "play" at work, such as our game Leornian about game-based-learning, however it's not so clear what to do in other areas of the site, for example the digital portfolio and professional learning courses, as well as marketing and communication to express to teachers what PLANE is about.

Here are some of the responses our team came up with when exploring the concept of 'play' in PLANE and what we thought different stakeholders might think about the two different approaches.

Playful pros

  • Practice what we preach
  • Better learning outcomes
  • Fun!
  • Immersive, doesn't feel like 'work'
  • Rewarded while learning
  • Stickyness (if teachers enjoy using PLANE they're more likely to keep using it even when they don't 'have' to)
  • Inspiring, easy to be motivated within this design
  • Creative expression

Playful cons

  • Irreverant, teachers may feel patronised
  • Considered 'trivial' or 'childish' or 'faddish'
  • Not taken seriously
  • Harder to convince schools and teachers to use PLANE for professional development (?)
  • Some believe this type of learning will be more time consuming or inefficient
  • Some feel intimidated by this approach, afraid of the unknown

Professional pros

  • Respectable
  • Serious
  • More familiar, comfortable approach (less challenging to the status quo)
  • Easier to get schools & teachers to use PLANE for professional development (?)
  • Learning is straight to the point

Professional cons

  • Hypocritical, as we know learning has better outcomes when combined with enjoyment
  • Same-ish, nothing new
  • Boring by comparison















What are your thoughts? Will educators be happy to embrace a playful approach to professional development, or is it best to keep the tone of professional development  strictly 'professional'?