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August 16, 2015

On work and play...

At an educational meeting we went about making a distinction between 'work and play'. The closest I could come up with was that work was an activity being done that is useful for others and play was an activity not meant to be useful. Of course, I knew it was flawed, self-work is useful for others intangibly and for professional cricketers play is actually work. Of course this doesn't start to capture where work and play seem all mixed up! I could not define it in terms of enjoyment as there have been many times when I enjoyed myself being at work and at play.

An incident with the children helped me understand this distinction differently.

While creating an animation of the Earth going around the Sun in an ellipse (with the Moon rotating around the Earth) the children had use the computer to create the solution for ellipse equation they got from geogebra. It was all done and they had created the following animation. 
(If you are having trouble viewing animations please update your flash player).

Here is a short clip of the part where children noticed that the earth was rushing past at the top extreme in the program that they had created.

I had felt that being able to solve a complex algebraic equation was enough of a challenge and the children had already spent a week on this project and would want to move on, but the glitch really bothered the children, they were unsatisfied with what they had created. This created an opportunity for conversation about slopes and how things were changing differently when solving in one part of the curve, but faster in the other part of the curve. That we needed to compensate with more points where things were changing faster. It took another three days till the children were happy with their work and it looked like the one below:

On reflecting on the incident I learnt that its play when you do something that you don't have to. Of course this definition seems obvious when you are at 'play'. But, it applies equally to 'work'. The moments where I felt I had done something special were the moments when I did what I had to, but pondered over it and did something more. There were already solutions and I didn't have to do more, but I made work play and kept going. 

It helped me connect to the idea of the next right answer, the pursuit of excellence in getting an answer and continuing to look makes work play.

What a world we would create if all our children could make their work into play.

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