Play has been an integral part of my life. From playing games to just goofing off I have found that play is important and I have put some intentional effort into making sure play is a component of my life as an adult. I find it interesting that as adult it takes effort. When I look to my children it seems to be very natural.
As a new father I am still fascinated at how much enjoyment my sons get from everyday activities. Last night was the first time one of my sons walked into the bathroom and pointed at the tub and looked up at me with an expectant face. He wanted to play in the water. He needed some bath time. He really wanted to splash. It took a few minutes and he was 100% engaged in play and laughter ensued.
In comparison, after moving to the UK and transitioning into student life again I wanted to take advantage of my new surroundings and my wife pointed at the town of Bath and said it would be an excellent Christmas Market to explore this holiday season. We rented a car.
I practiced driving in the UK for one day. The next day we loaded the car up with two kids, two car seats, two Pak’N’Plays, a double stroller, a diaper bag, & a suitcase. Once the car was loaded we drove for 3 hours to get to Bath.
After checking in to the hotel we had roughly 4 hours in the market on the evening that we arrived and another 2 hours in the market the next morning. It was a lot of time, energy, and effort so that we could have a few hours of play. It is fascinating to me that my boys could point at something so ordinary as a bath and in a few moments be in rolling laughter while as an adult it takes planning to organize an event of play.
While the effort was high the value for me was tremendous. When I get a chance to play it feels like a chance to reset my sense of balance. I spent the first few weeks of my PhD program in a heads down effort. I have read, submitted an application to a doctoral consortium, read, proposed a book chapter, read, contributed to a symposium proposal for a conference, read, and volunteered to do a book review. The six hours of play I had over two days provided such a relief from the pressure I put on myself in my program.
It is interesting to me that my boys can play by using a bath and I choose to play by looking at a bath that was used so many years ago.
My family and I have recently moved to Milton Keynes in the UK from Boston MA in the States. I have made such dramatic moves in the past as a child in middle school when my mother decided to move from Seattle, WA to Maui, HI. I have made the decision on my own to move from Maui, HI back to Seattle, WA. I maintained a distance relationship with my girlfriend (now wife) when she moved to Connecticut. My wife and I made the decision to move from Seattle, WA to Boston, MA. Most recently it was a family decision with my wife and our two kids to move to Milton Keynes, in the UK from Boston.
It is not surprising for me to find that one of the Latin roots for Emotion is Movere which means “to move”. Today I find myself simultaneously researching the role that emotions play in learning while learning in a very emotional landscape. In looking back I think that it is common for dramatic emotional landscapes to contribute to my learning.
On Maui during my senior year in high school most students had a free period for the purposes of studying. For me, I was kindly asked to spend my free time in the headmasters office so that he could see me working. Beyond spending my free period in the headmasters office, the common punishment for students was to go to school on Saturday for work duty. A student could make amends for their behavior by doing some form of campus maintenance. It was common for me to spend my Saturdays on campus doing tasks such as raking leaves or washing vans. In fact, I even recall one occasion where I showed up for work duty when I had surprisingly done nothing wrong that week. I had grown so used to this schedule that I just assumed that I should make amends for something.
When moving to Seattle it was to gain focus and career in the form of software development at a small start-up company. It was in this time that I had to genuinely self-regulate my own learning. I spent the summer in the basement of my grandparents house in preparation for this change. I would commonly work through the night into the early morning learning the basics of computer programming. The next morning I would walk to Alki and make coffee all day and return to the computer at night. Drinking coffee and computer programming has always gone hand in hand.
After programming for a few years my girlfriend moved to Connecticut to start a masters program. I could see again that I would have to move forward. I began to catch up to her education level by spending 6 years completing a 4 year degree. She had reluctantly moved back to Seattle after her masters program and as soon as I completed my undergraduate degree we began to plan a move together. This led us to Boston MA.
In Boston I felt activated. The pace of life in that city was more aggressive than either Seattle or Maui and I can best describe my time there as demanding. I did a 9 month masters program which was at times frantic. During that time I found myself in an emotionally driven argument with one of my teachers in the course discussion board. I could see my high school self in this argument and cherished that younger brasher me. While my argument lacked cohesion and felt immature there was a genuine component to it in my emotions. This led to working for this teacher for the next 4 years at CAST researching Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In fact, this argument may be a building block in my research question about the trace of student emotions in online discussion data.
It was time to focus my learning again and this time the move was out of the United States and over to the UK. If you have ever moved a family you would know that this activates your emotional landscape. Your sense of self comes into a reflective space as you experience the change from the perspectives of your whole family. At a time where I must achieve the pinnacle of my formal education I am surrounded by a complex landscape of emotions that is hard to describe adequately with words. Somehow this is familiar territory for me and I am perhaps best prepared to succeed in this type of environment. It is exciting to be a part of the Open World Learning research project. I am even more pleased that I will be researching self-regulation using emotion and cognition analytics.