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Post-playshop Dialog
1. Introduction
2. Program Evaluation
3. Facilitators
4. The Concept of Playful
5. What is a Playful Program?
6. What is a Playful Space?

1. Introduction
Researchers engaged in CRN's Research on Playfulness since 1999 and those engaged from 2001, sat down for a session of Post-playshop discussion and reflection.

Participants (without titles, in no particular order)
* Noboru Kobayashi, M.D., Director, CRN
* Nobuyuki Ueda, Ed.D., Professor, Konan Women's University
* Hillel Weintraub, Director, Center for Communication Design, Future University - Hakodate
* Miyata Yoshiro, Ph.D., Professor, Chukyo University
* Yasuko Taguchi, Ph.D., Director, Research Center of Personal Presentation
* Yoshiko Sawai, Director, Child Labo
* Yumiko Kasai, Researcher, Zenjin Education Institute, Tamagawa Gakuen

2. Program Evaluation

Ueda: Keeping a record and deciding how to evaluate the results is the most difficult. Evaluating Playshop is synonymous with evaluating feedback. Rather than studying how children changed, we want to know how to generate a community of learning. What should we change to make a better Playshop next time? Rather than trying to find some universal element, it is more in the playful spirit to reflect and keep trying to improve the Playshop as an ongoing process. This means drawing general conclusions a little at a time about what took place and how it can be improved and then thinking about how this can be applied to even more people. I believe it is possible to research and keep good records on this, and have wondered about what would be a good design.

Kobayashi: From now on, when we think about what a playful design might be, it is necessary for us to first consider the theories of biochemistry and information sciences. The brain has "programs" to process external information. If playfulness is the state in which the various programs in the brain operate simultaneously at full capacity, we also say that this fosters a rich creativity in people. This points to the possibility of examining Playshop from the perspective of biochemistry. Research in the United States has focused on the connection between education and neurology, this is finally happening in Japan, too.

Miyata: How do we take a model of the brain and relate it to Playshop? On the contrary, it could be that as we can get a better look at the brain from Playshop. During the Playshop, the entire brain is at work, and it may be possible to measure this as the brain becomes more activated.

-> The issue is how to make a record that yields general information and then evaluate Playshop within the context of continual activities and feedback.

-> The possibility of measuring participants' playfulness by neurological and physiological criteria.
3. Facilitators
* The children call the facilitators titles in Japanese that mean "playful big brother" or "playful big sister".

Taguchi: While it is important to quantify the evaluation of playfulness, we should also consider facilitators who have to be sensitive to the encounters of the moment and place. Isn't training facilitators also something close to the playful spirit? In the rehearsal, the facilitators used the left hemisphere of the brain, but in the Playshop itself, both the right and left brain operated at full capacity.

Ueda: I felt that the staff were being very playful today.

Weintraub: I think that the Growing Game was really important this time. And the feeling of "connections." The purpose of Playshop is "self-expression" and "coming close to nature," but today there were lots of instructions from above. We should let children make their own stories.

Taguchi: Yes, that is very important. Some students don't know techniques to bring out the participants and get them to express their feelings. They end up telling them what they know.

Kobayashi: The time constraints were also a big factor. It might be a good time to conduct in-depth program in the autumn.

-> Reconsider the facilitators' instructive way of interacting with participants.

-> Time for participants to engage in spontaneous, self-generated activity.

4. Concept of Playful

Ueda: The playful spirit is not a planned event. Good training is necessary, but it is similar to a good Japanese restaurant where the chef takes a look at the customers and then decides what to serve. This also means considering all sorts of possibilities so we can deal with whatever happens and simulation. In this sense, the facilitator is similar to a soccer player. A soccer player needs the ability to see the whole field on a meta-level as he runs. We can also call this playful intelligence: self-control and the intelligence to respond spontaneously while viewing circumstances at a meta-level. Just having a good time is not being playful.

CRN Staff: What sort of childhood experiences promote playful intelligence? Finding a relation on a meta-level with someone who is different from you, for instance?

Ueda: Intelligence consists of adapting and negotiating. Playfulness is like an engine that allows dynamic interaction and negotiation.

CRN Staff: Rather than asking for an answer when you run into trouble, negotiation means exchanging information and thinking about the problem with other people.

Miyata: There is a big difference between participants thinking that they had a great time and wanting us to hold another one and the realization that they can do the same thing in their lives. I think that the purpose of Playshop is learning that they can come together to do it on their own.

-> The key is preparation to deal with all happenings while having a playful spirit that spontaneously responds to whatever occurs on site.

-> Not waiting to be told, but the energy and drive to act on your own.

5. What makes a Playful Program?

Weintraub: I think it is good to combine activities and movement.

Ueda: It is probably better to do programs that don't rely on demonstration by the facilitators, but use the mind and body in a spontaneous manner. Take the bamboo dance, for example. After doing something physical like that for a while and getting a little tired, participants feel less tense.

Kasai: Whenever storytelling is held at a library, they do some playful hand movements first. This is a kind of warming-up before we start the talk itself. This kind of preparation removes tension and changes the mood completely. It prepares people to enter a different mode.

Taguchi: The last time, we stood up and sang with hand gestures, but this time, we did them sitting down to get everybody on the same wavelength. It might be a good idea to add a 15-minute exercise section. But, that would require a space large enough for everybody to make large movements.

Ueda: It may be necessary to have some sort of transformational ritual that prepares people to have a certain experience. In leading activities, space is more important than time. The relation between Playshop and its spaces is another issue we have to think about.

Taguchi: Definitely. Rather than how to allot time to activities, we need spaces where people do activities in a relaxed and expansive manner.

-> The necessity of incorporating spontaneous, physical movement as preparation.

-> A method of putting participants in an active and spontaneous mode for activities and a space that allows expansive participation.

6. What is a Playful Place?

CRN Staff:

What is your assessment of the atmosphere of the Chi-kichi Room?

Taguchi: The computers give it an impersonal, cold feel. I feel there is something incompatible about having items like crayons that children can freely use and other things that they can't use in the same space. Children want to use everything so it is necessary to create a space where we don't have to tell children "Don't touch."

Miyata: On the contrary, I think they did whatever they liked and played spontaneously, even during their free time.

CRN Staff: When there are children here who are not so energetic and lively, how can we let them know that this is supposed to be a playful place?

Ueda: What about making like an atelier? With about 100 different kinds of expressive media, from low- to high-tech. These media would make use of the five senses. They would be seamless, with smells, sound and light, and music, and appeal to the sense of touch. And the 100 different media would give birth to 100 different languages. It would be a space with media where we can learn that the media can change us.

CRN Staff: What can be done so the children will know that it is a place where they can be playful?

Ueda: We need to show them that things in the home can become playful instruments.

Sawai: The principles of computer graphics are derived from weaving. They should learn that the foundation of all high technology contains a low technology.

Ueda: There are lots of paths to take, and choosing one is fun. This is something we should teach them. So in a positive sense, I would like this space to have a certain strictness, a space where children can learn twentieth-century craftsmanship and the essence of making things. And then diffuse and spread the approaches they take here.

-> It is important to provide a variety of media that can be freely used by children.

-> From now on, provide models so children will understand that everyday low technology is connected to high technology.