Pirates Don’t Use Computers

While playing an imaginary game with my four-year-old son, I slipped onto to my computer to check what felt like a very time-sensitive email at the time. He quickly caught me and chided me with these words, “Pirates don’t use computers!” He wanted us to play, have an adventure, and find the lost treasure! My screen was both anachronistic and annoying in his pirate world.

So true. Though this was just moment with my child on an ordinary Tuesday, it made me think not only about how we use technology wisely but also about how well I play. With my son. And with my students.

Not long after this incident, my son’s preschool teacher loaned me a short book called Play Like a Pirate by Quinn Rollins. Our little parent-teacher conference led to a conversation on pedagogy, and before you think we were taking ourselves way too seriously for a meeting about four-year-olds, I should say that our discussion was all about play!

I cruised through the book, and even though Play Like a Pirate is geared towards K-12 teachers, I took away a renewed commitment to make learning as fun as possible. If we’re not having a good time, our students won’t either; if we’re bored, they’ll be bored too. Whether we’re opening the Scriptures, training our RAs, or teaching student development theory, we should be having a blast. So much so that it’s obvious and contagious.

I probably won’t bring action figures or Barbie dolls to class as Rollins suggests, but I’m considering the ways that play fits into our work with college students. On a practical level, I just may bring some play-doh the next time I teach counseling theory and I have some thoughts on how I may incorporate comic strips/graphic novels in a module on diversity.

The book also made me think about the time I brought a pogo stick to Senior EXIT. It was in the middle of the semester when the PA winter and the stress of classes had gotten the best of the students, and we all needed to release some tension. There’s nothing like a pogo stick to lighten the mood and let us have some fun before jumping into a serious topic.

Interestingly enough, my kids and I found that pogo stick in a trash pile in front of our neighbor’s house. I usually discourage my children from picking through junk piles during bulk trash week (I promise, they’ve never come home with a used mattress or anything like that). But this was a shiny thing of beauty with its 1990s decals still clinging to the metal. They don’t make ‘em like the used to. We snagged that treasure.

It may not be play-doh and pogo sticks for you, but how do you bring passion and play into your work with students? Teaching and learning with college students is an amazing privilege. I want my love for them and what I teach to shine through at each turn. This is not to say we won’t have bad days or times when we slog through or need to address tough stuff, but overall, our students should see us leading the way in our love for what we do. Because when we do, there’s all sorts of treasure to be found!

I’m curious, in what practical ways do you bring passion and play into your work with students? What makes it challenging for you to do so? Leave a comment below. I want to hear from you!  

4 comments on “Pirates Don’t Use Computers

  • Elizabeth Givens says:

    We have taught oral English with Chinese university students in Beijing for years. One of the biggest hurdles in the first few days of any summer program was to get the students to realize that they could be having fun and learn at the same time. That was so counter to their educational system that they assumed if a game was used in classroom, it was “childish” and not appropriate to learning. But once they grasped that “play” gave them the freedom to experiment with language, make mistakes, correct their mistakes, and laugh while learning, their oral English soared. I’m saving this article for training teachers!

    • YAY! I love this story, Liz. Thank you for sharing! I remember learning Spanish in grade school, and my teacher made it SO. MUCH. FUN. I still remember phrases in Spanish I learned from our food unit (where we created a restaurant) and from our unit on parts of the body (where we made paper mache creatures and labeled their body parts). You are right — when we let go and “play,” we free ourselves to learn in new ways!

  • Meghan E Craig says:

    OH. MY. GOSH. This speaks to my heart! I am a firm believer in incorporating play into learning. I think it comes from my elementary education background. We have been doing this before our leadership team meetings, by playing a game before hand that will tie into the lesson for that night. I would love to bring this more into large group worship time some more. Maybe not all the time, but some of the time. Thanks for reminding me that this is a good direction to go in!

    • Meg! This does not surprise me about you, and YES, this is a great direction to keep moving in. We need more play! Not in an extended youth-group kind of way, but in a “let’s not take ourselves so seriously that we forgot that we were made for play” kind of way. Keep having a blast. Keep inspiring student to do likewise!


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