Wading in on why play has a place in workshops

On BBC Radio 2, Jeremy Vine was talking about a workshop where a group from Walsall Council were asked to use Lego in an activity. The participants weren’t happy and the workshop was being mocked online. (You can read the article here.)

Well, I called into the show. Have a listen - I’m on at 1hr50.

Here’s my take: play is fine, as long as you pitch it right.

We’re huge advocates of interactivity in workshops. We’ve rallied against ‘death by PowerPoint’ for 20 years now, and that won’t be changing. It baffles me when people are herded into windowless, stuffy rooms and sat in front of a presenter and a PowerPoint for hours, if not days, at a time. It’s a passive learning experience. And a boring one to boot.

I learnt the other day that when you’re a participant in a workshop, your body becomes depleted in glucose in the same way it would if you were working out a mathematical problem*. Learning is hard work. So the last thing you want is for it to be dull too.

Building stuff with Lego, playing with plasticine, doodling. It might sound frivolous, but it can be really valuable. Play is a great way to get people thinking differently. It can unlock ideas and keeps people engaged.

When we design workshops for our clients, we think really hard about making them enjoyable and attention-keeping.

We’ve got references to Star Trek and Sherlock in our grammar workshop. We use Beyoncé lyrics to teach people about the passive voice. We have people thinking about their bucket lists so they can get better at writing bullet points. We channel poets and journalists when we want to show how to write persuasively. We get people up and moving and playing.

Because we know that it helps the learning stick.

But - and it’s a big but - we never do it for the sake of it, and we always think about who we have in the room and what’s going to work for them. It should never, ever be cringeworthy.

Join us for a workshop and you’ll see what I mean. Lego may or may not be included.

*That's from Roy Baumeister’s book Willpower

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