Learning + Play

Learning + Play


Why is Comp Form designed the way it is? How does sketching support learning, how does practice work, and how can you approach this class to gain the most benefit?


whiteboard + notecards

Learning + Play

Today we are going to play a game. Working in teams you will compete to complete a concept map of several key figures, institutions, ideas, and inventions related to Learning + Play, design, and technology. We are playing this game for several reasons:

Part 0: Preparation

Instructor, 20 minutes

Draw out the just the connections of concept map on the board, leaving room for the items. Assign groups and concept cards.

Part 1: Research

Groups, 10 minutes

Each group has a set of cards naming a concept that fits somewhere on the concept map.

  1. Review your concept cards.
  2. Spend a few minutes researching each of the concepts on cards.
  3. Create a summary describing each concept in exactly 7 words.
  4. Clearly write your 7-word summary on the front of your card.

If you have time left over, discuss how the items on your cards relate to each other and study the map. Guess where each card might belong.

Part 2: Map

Class, 40 minutes

Groups take turns adding concept cards to the concept map. The first group to get rid of all of their cards wins.

  1. Chose one of your team’s concept cards.
  2. Announce your chosen concept, and read your seven-word summary to the class.
  3. Propose a location on the map.
  4. If your location is correct, the card is added. If not, your group keeps card.
  5. The next group takes a turn.

Part 3: Elaborate

Instructor, 10 minutes

The instructor spends a few minutes explaining key ideas and concepts in more detail.

Video Breaks

LOGO → Seymour Papert: Logo + Body-syntonic Learning, 1986, 4:20 - 6:40

Seymour Papert → Seymour Papert: Learning with Toys, 1986, 2 minutes

Creative Learning Spiral → Mitchel Resnick: Kid’s Creative Thinking, 2014 2:50 - 5:50

Jean Piaget → Conservation, 1:30-3:10

Processing → Processing Community Day, 2019

Lego → Lego Commercial, 1955

John Dewey → Noam Chomsky on John Dewey, 0:00-1:17

Maria Montessori → Montessori School Education

At an early age, Montessori broke gender barriers and expectations when she enrolled in classes at an all-boys technical school, with hopes of becoming an engineer. She soon had a change of heart and began medical school at the University of Rome, where she graduated – with honors – in 1896.

Thoughts on the Map


learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge

  • Jean Piaget studied cognitive development and genetic epistemology.
  • humans build new understanding in relation to their existing experiences, knowledge, and ideas
  • suggests that education should be viewed as student-lead learning rather than instructor-led teaching

Connected Weekly Exploration

This class is built as a series of one week explorations of related topics. I hope it makes the topics accessible to a variety of students by providing a variety of conceptual footholds. I also hope this approach frames procedural generation as a network of connected tools, techniques, and media.


learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences as constructing a meaningful product

  • Seymour Papert studied with Jean Piaget and then founded the Epistemology and Learning Research Group at MIT
  • Supports providing tools and environments for creative exploration as a means of promoting learning

Sketch Log

I built the sketch log website to shape the environment in which Comp Form is taught. Encouraging daily sketching and peer-to-peer learning and motivation.

Activities vs Lectures

I try to balance class time towards hands-on activities, discussions, code challenges and away from lectures. This requires faith in the effectiveness of constructionism to quiet the fear that something important will be overlooked without planned struture of a lecture.

Creative Learning Spiral

imagine → create → play → share → reflect → imagine

Daily Sketching

The homework structure is designed to directly support the kind of learning described by the creative learning spiral. Rather assigning fixed project, students are given the opportunity to imagine what they want to make. They are encouraged to create that thing and play with the ideas presented each week through a series of low-stakes sketches. The homework is meant to be done in small, spaced efforts to allow time to share the work and reflect on each piece in multiple cycles each week. Looking at both their own work and the work created by the rest of the class students are encouraged to imagine new things to make.

Why we Played this Game

  • Introduce key philosophies, figures, institutions, and tools related to project-based learning and play.
  • Emphasize the relationships between these concepts and connect them to students’ day-to-day experience.
  • Introduce my view of learning as an active, student-led process of constructing knowledge.
  • Explain the motivation underlying several key decisions in the design of Comp Form.
  • Help students learn how to approach Comp Form for maximum benefit.