Transitioning the pedagogy of play from in-person learning to distance learning

By Angela K. Salmon and Muriel A. Vela

Visible Thinking South Florida is at the forefront of early childhood education. Founded 13 years ago by students, alumni and teachers under the lead of FIU associate professor Angela Salmon, VTSF works on encouraging the practice of playful learning and teaching in the classroom.

The learning community of practice is a world known pioneer in adjusting, expanding and enhancing cutting-edge research initiatives in early childhood settings. Members are inspired by Harvard Project Zero and that foster students’ cognitive progress.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Pedagogy of Play project launched the Playful home learning series that encompasses several ways to help playing learning continue while children are distance learning from home.

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“The biggest recommendation from experts is not to waste this treasured time giving children homework,” Salmon said.

In late February, VTSF offered its VI International Visible Thinking Conference “Let’s Play.”  The conference was a community effort sponsored by the Visible Thinking Ignite Foundation, and The Children’s Trust, hosted by Key Biscayne Presbyterian School and run by VTSF and student volunteers. The theme attracted over 200 local and international practitioners.

The conference gave the community an opportunity to learn from local and international research experts in the field of play. Salmon opened the conference with an invitation to explore how to make thinking visible through play. Harvard Project Zero principal investigator Benjamin Mardel offered an intercultural perspective on play and Project Zero Pedagogy of Play manager Jennifer Ryan demonstrated hands-on experiences on the practice of play to support a playful pedagogy in early childhood.

Maria Adelaida Lopez, an educational entrepreneur serving 110,000 children from displaced low socio-economic families in her town country Colombia, shared how collaborative play and community involvement is breaking poverty by changing poor at-risk neighborhoods to dynamic, healthy and playful communities.

Members of the VTSF such as FIU Alumni Association president-elect Gina Duarte-Romero, Ana Seoane, Sylvia Casanova, Valeria Fontanals and Veronica Fernandez contributed with hands-on play experiences. Psychology student Muriel Vela presented her research on the negative effects in children’s behavior and learning as a consequence of the lack of recess or recreation time – and how play helped engage them and learn.

Salmon believes it is important to involve students in professional development events like VTSF.

“It gave me the possibility to learn new things, to master my public speaking abilities and to enter the education world more deeply,” Vela said. “Through the presentations, I began to understand many facts about children and about the education and psychology field.”

In addition to the six editions of the International Visible Thinking Conference, VTSF organized the 18th Edition of the International Conference on Thinking in 2018

There are no requirements to become a member of Visible Thinking South Florida. Questions should be directed to Angela Salmon.