If you’ve been following me on Twitter over the weekend, you may have noticed something happened to my avatar and the nature of my tweets. I was (and still am until 1PM Monday) a zombie. I’ve been playing a Twitter vs Zombie  (#TvsZ), which is the brainchild of the same people who brought you Hybrid Pedagogy  and MOOC MOOC  (you can check out their live-streaming presentation  on play and pedagogy at Duke University Monday  at 1:30 PM). I have to say, this is exactly what I needed.
Last week was not a great week for me. I had intended on spending three straight days reading and writing for Digital Writing Month and Academic Writing Month. Instead, I got sick. Then, my kids got sick. Then, my husband got sick. And I got my first rejection email from the job search. And I realized I was going to have to create syllabi for job applications, syllabi I would most likely never use, create classes I would never teach. I handed back some depressingly poor papers to my students. It was one of those weeks.
But, on Friday, I started to play. I mean, I just left the week behind me and embraced the fun. I took my lack of will to “live” in the real world anymore and allowed myself to be turned into a zombie. And I ran with it. I was biting people, organizing zombie dance parties, and zombie swarms. Instead of pulling my hair out trying to make a new course, I made twitter lists and played with finding an easy was to archive the large volume of tweets the game was generating. And I felt so much better.
We need to remember to stop and have fun every once and a while. I need to remember to stop have fun every once and a while, to give myself a break. I need to take my own advice, advice that I am continually trying to get my students to follow: it’s ok to play. The time-out on what I had to do, as well as all of the things that I hadn’t/won’t do, allowed me to appreciate the things that had gone right, that I had accomplished, largely through play.
My “playing” on social media has led to a new opportunity professionally for me (more on that at a later date). Later this week, I’ll be in Vegas (VEGAS!) for NCTE, presenting on how I used Twitter to grow my PLN. When the going got tough this week, my friends in my social network offered their support and words of encouragement, and tried to find ways to make me smile.
But I’m most proud of the students in my peer-driven class. Their presentations have been, largely, about experimentation, discovery, and play. We did science experiments to see our DNA and discuss scientific advancement . We played ethical games  (seriously, these are well-done), to figure out if we think man’s nature is good or evil (or neutral). We’re having debates about “just wars”. But one group explored their “failure” at being able to come up with any coherent way to present on the complexity of human nature, given all of the disparate (and disagreeing) readings they had done on the subject.
I knew, however, that their group had not “failed” when one of the group members talked about how they were lying around one day outside, reading Hobbes’ Leviathan. These students carefully read, though about, discussed, re-read, and internalized what they had read, realizing that there were no easy answers, no easy or ready way to take what they had learned and build something meaningful. So, instead, they had a little fun: they “build” a person out of these disparate parts and called her “Harmony.” While they were all nervous that what they had produced wouldn’t be “enough”, it was clear as they described their process that they had accomplished many of the student learning outcomes set for the class. And, I knew, they would never forget what they had read. The readings, as well as the experience, had become a part of them; they really LEARNED something, rather than memorizing something and forgetting it moments after the grades are in.
I’m happy that I had the chance to play this weekend. I’m thrilled that my students have largely taken advantage of the opportunities to play and experiment, to experience real learning.
And now that, according to the rules, I have earned an extra bite in our game, I’m off to find some brains.