Summary and Notes – EGS Meeting (March 26th)

This past week’s EGS meeting was facilitated by Amy Dickerson, and centred around the theme of play-based learning. The next grad meeting will be Thursday April 9th from 6-7pm EST, led by Ellen Martin. The following notes were taken by Melissa Kenney, which reflect the organic flow of conversation that occurred. We are looking forward to our next meeting (although Understanding Education students may be unable to attend as it coincides with the real-time sessions). Hope to see you there!

Link to the Article

Article discussion by Amy:

  • Dualism between work and play is the article– there should be a balance between this in the curriculum.
  • The open-ended experiences and open-ended experience (such as play and exploration)– how can we find the balance in the curriculum?
  • “Work is work and play is play” as opposed to integrating; this is seen with older kids in particular. I do school and then I get free time; the free time is their play. This is the dualism; we need academics over play, and this is how it is running at the moment.
  • The Doll Example (p.234); how the play itself can lead to the achievement in the classroom. How can this be carried through to higher grades?
  • Older grades play can be group based teaching; is this really what play is defined as? The definition of play is and can be different from many others.
  • Play doesn’t look the same in kindergarten and grade 7, which makes things more complex.
  • The article was very black and white; either play or no play, work or play either happens, and he does not feel that it is being done.
  • There is so much stigma around play about how aimless it is. There are so many activities in the different grades that have some sort of play in them. Transformative exploration can be linked to play and learning.
  • Developmental benefits of risky play à children who are willing to take physical risks on the playground will take similar risks in the learning environment. If they are allowed to burn out their energy in play outside, they become better learners in the classroom.
    • Adventure playgrounds being built in the U.K.
    • The benefits of letting kids manage their own risks have been shown to be great, and the adventure playgrounds seem to be beneficial
  • Because recess is a novelty or reward, will they be interested in this if it is offered the whole day? Because it would become the norm to be involved in their work, this recess would not be seen as such a big and important part of their day (their relief).
  • If you can make play authentic, meaningful, and relevant they will remember it and it will be the point of learning.
  • Kids should have a right to ask “why are we doing this?”

play based learning quote - piaget

What does it mean to socially construct knowledge from the process of learning? 

  • Give kids the tools and they will make meaning of it.
  • Constructivism will make it authentic, meaningful, and relevant.
  • If you don’t make it relevant, they’ll forget it. Kids can also Google anything; they need to learn how to critically think, how to conduct research, etc. Why should they have to remember dates since we have access to all the information?
  • Self-organized learning environments– throw your kids into a computer lab and tell them to figure things out. Kids will mingle and group together, and the depth of understanding they will have will be phenomenal.
    • You can do more in less time by letting the kids organize their own learning.
  • Kids know and order themselves according to how they learn and their own level of learning.
  • Nurturing acceptance of failure as a process!
  • Kids shouldn’t feel scared to get the wrong answer.
  • Students may blame their disability if they have one which leads to the question: Labeling them that early– is it doing them a disservice?
  • Shouldn’t judge students by their peer group either
  • High schools in particular are stigmatizing students based on their choice in friends, and it is incredibly silly.
  • You are influencing lives right from the get-go; these students will listen to what you have to say and take it to heart.
  • We seem to be reflecting after everything we do now, and there is hope that the younger generations reflect on what they say to these kids in order to catch anything that they say that isn’t appropriate.

Call for Submissions

Attention all graduate students!

We are currently seeking bloggers and contributors for the 2014-2015 year!

As a community separated by distance, we are seeking stories that unify by speaking from the heart about the graduate school experience. Whether discussing the excitement of the highs or frustrations of the lows, we would love to share in your experience, discover inspiration, and stand in supportive solidarity.

Not sure what you’d like to write about? That’s okay, we’d love to help you identify a topic and provide you with any resources you’d need. We know how busy you are, and that this time is year is particularly frantic, but the open nature of the content will leave you room to play and explore, and will (ideally) be a joyful process.

Submissions need only be between 500-1000 words, images and video content are supported. The piece does not need to be heavily academic – personal anecdotes are more than welcome.

As a thank you for contributing, you will receive acknowledgement for your work, which can be added to your CV. Your writing will also be broadcast to our growing audience of readers.

We are currently aiming to establish a schedule for the remainder of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. If you would like to participate, please identify a preferred week to write and we will schedule you in.

Contact Marianne Vander Dussen ( or Michelann Parr ( for more information, or to let us know if you’d like to contribute.


Welcome to the Education Graduate Students blog!

Whether studying onsite at the exquisitely beautiful North Bay campus, or balancing coursework with careers and families (near or from afar), this blog will serve as a common ground and a place to connect, discuss, and grow. In addition to offering a menu of resources and providing information for upcoming deadlines and events, the goal of this blog is to help overcome feelings of isolation that can arise when participating in online education.

Choosing to pursue graduate level education typically entails certain personality traits associated with Type As, including but not limited to: perfectionism, ambition, and a tendency to dance on the edge of burnout. While these traits have enabled us to flourish and thrive over 16+ years of schooling, at the end of the day we also want to emerge from the program healthy, happy, and whole. Well-being isn’t simply a buzzword, it’s an investment in yourself, and worthy of your time and effort.


On Thursday October 16, 2014, seven students from EGS gathered onsite at the North Bay Harris Learning Library to discuss their insights, thoughts, and concerns about the graduate experience. Through collaboration and anecdotal stories, we hovered around the following themes surrounding well-being at the graduate level, and as a group continue to work towards tailoring our success strategies to address these challenges in our respective lives.


Just Walk Away, or The Law of Diminishing Returns

Grad Student

Looking through the lens of an investor, there is a point where increasing the time and energy spent on graduate level course or research work yields incrementally poorer results. One of the graduate student attendees summed it up as the Law of Diminishing Returns: sometimes, you just have to walk away from the work in order to be more efficient. It’s counterintuitive, and several EGS members described feelings of guilt or anxiety (shouldn’t we be working right now?) whenever they have made the active decision to take time to walk away and let the work breathe.

Inspiration frequently lingers beyond the familiar walls of offices or libraries, and doing something as simple as going to the gym for an hour can allow your mind to relax and let the ideas flow. Keep a small notebook or digital recorder with you for revelatory moments, and go for a walk, spend time with your friends, or work on a personal project. Give your mind permission to rest.


All by myself, don’t wanna be…

Engaging in higher-level academia positions us in a state of constant vulnerability; our ideas are criticized and deconstructed, the readings don’t always make sense, and many still don’t understand the full range of options available in terms of routes (thesis/MRP/course) or opportunities (conferences, publishing, funding). Feeling exposed or vulnerable can be compounded by the social limitations of online learning. How can we feel a sense of kinship or empathy when we have never had an in-person conversation with our colleagues? Without the opportunity to engage in real-time discourse, we may only see the academic persona of our peers projected into digital writing and assume they are the sum of their writing; but at the root of that verbose discussion entry there is a human being who is learning alongside you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers outside of Blackboard and build a friendly, professional relationship: swap papers, offer constructive criticism, bounce some ideas, and gain new perspective. There is a huge difference between a critic and a critical friend.

Critical friend

The Grad Student Toolkit

  • Digital Recorder – make sure it has speech to text Dragon compatibility for easy transcriptions. Digital recorders ensure that sudden creative bursts that occur during long drives, random conversations, or presentations don’t vanish into the ether.
  • Small notebook – the bedside table is the cliché home of writers’ notebooks, but keeping the old-fashioned pen and paper close can be a lifesaver when inspiration strikes at the gym, grocery store, or hockey rink.
  • Self Control Software – social media and news sites can be deadly to efficiency. You know your habits better than anyone: if you need help becoming more focused, be proactive and prevent distractions from manifesting by installing a blocking feature on your computer such as Self Control (programmable to block any site) or Facebook Limiter.

Additional Resources

What I Wish I Knew In Grad School – 16 Tips

12 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Grad School

Thanks to today’s blogger, and more than effective summarizer of our discussion:

Marianne Vander Dussen

October 22, 2014