Playful online learning environments promote student teachers’ renegotiation of their learner role

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As part of a PhD project examining the integration of playful learning approaches and student teachers’ use of digital artefacts and physical activity, this study investigated how student teachers approach playful learning in an online environment. A pilot test revealed some reservations that arose when student teachers were encouraged to make a Rube Goldberg machine as an alternative approach to curricula. The present study considered these reservations and focused on facilitating a space for exploring playful approaches. Insights from Gudiksen and Skovbjerg (2020) showed that feeling safe is prerequisite for being playful, and therefore creating a safe space is necessary. A design-based research approach was used to plan and conduct two parallel teaching modules in an online environment. The modules were developed to investigate the students’ reservations, the reservations’ connection to specific situations and the occurrence of new modes of playful approaches to learning. The theoretical framework drew on insights from Whitton and Moseley (2019), who argued that playfulness among students is often a state of mind and they must be willing to embrace the playful activity so that learning can emerge through an iterative process—one with no guarantee of success or a clear endpoint. Furthermore, Goffman's (1959) theory of front-, back-and off-stage, as well as Meyrowitz’s (1986) work, contributed to understanding how students engage in playful activities in an online environment. A situational analysis of video recordings was used to understand how the students navigated in a learning environment that was open-ended and unfamiliar. This analysis determined any patterns in the students’ positioning when engaged in playful activities in these online situations. The study confirmed that learning designs featuring a safe space facilitate students’ playful approach. Furthermore, it showed that when moving from an educational setting with predetermined teacher and student positions and learning agenda towards open-ended learning situation, the majority of students developed failing, experimenting and hacking skills.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 20th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2021
EditorsCarsten Busch, Martin Steinicke, Regina Frieß, Tilo Wendler
Number of pages7
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International
Publication date2021
ISBN (Print)9781914587191
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event20th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 28 Oct 202129 Oct 2021
Conference number: 20


Conference20th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2021
CityVirtual, Online
Internet address
SeriesProceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL


  • Hacking learning designs
  • Learning design
  • Online education
  • Playful approach to learning
  • Stage positioning
  • Teacher education


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