a beginner’s perspective
Early Childhood professional needs to have a multitude of skills, behaviours
and attitudes in order to be an effective problem solver, leader
and most importantly I believe, advocate for young children.
skills are not usually acquired from ‘content’. A teacher
just simply presenting knowledge in a traditional classroom may be
providing knowledge but not necessarily changing attitudes. Australian
Early Child Professionals
are increasingly being challenged to provide inclusive environments.
Many of the behaviours and attitudes to children and families
that we practiced, even up to five years ago, are now no longer
example care of young children is seen much more as a partnership
the child care professional and the parent. The parent is not
only considered to be the ‘expert’ on their child but needs
to be encouraged to be a genuine partner in the child’s
who enable children and parents, as well as colleagues, to be powerful
partners in the process of constructing the child’s
experience in a children’s service create a genuine learning
(2002) p 37
is certainly a very different view point from when I began my teaching
career nearly 20 years ago.
teacher was the ‘expert’ and guided the learning
experience. In order for students to acquire some of the competencies
to be an effective partner with all families and colleagues,
I believe they
need to be immersed in situations that will help change and develop
does this all link to role-play? When deciding what to put in my part
of this keynote, I had to reflect on my attitudes
As far as role-play goes I see myself as a babe in the woods.
I am extremely reluctant to use role-play in the classroom
in a face-to-face
I always found them contrived and find that my students usually
what I’m telling them I expect to see. My perception after being
involved in adult education now for 10 years, is that many students perceive
role-play as ‘acting’ so they can act and react in ways they
perhaps wouldn’t in real life contexts. How do I know this? Usually
by watching students in their interactions while on work placement, or
even after they have graduated. They often do not show the behaviours and
skills they can so clearly demonstrate on paper or in f2f role-play. Basically,
I’ve got to the stage that I never use role-play in face-to-face
the online role-play is a completely different ball game. The anonymity
plus extended time frame of the whole experience
to become immersed
in the character in a way you do not seem to be able to do
a f2f class. The opportunity to reflect throughout the role-play
participants the opportunity to truly develop attitudes and
have beliefs and attitudes
as Learner – experience as a role-play participant
In 2002, I was introduced to online role-play. I participated
in three different types of role-plays and also had the
opportunity to design
a role-play based on the Galactic Wormhole email role-play
template. I will
explain this one a little later.
2002 I was a student in the Graduate Certificate in Facilitating
and Managing e-Learning (FAMe), a nine month course that introduces
to all major aspects of online facilitation. Within the module ‘Communication
Online (COL) – Online Feedback’ I was engaged in
a role-play where I needed to respond to a learner’s concerns
or issues within the forum.
first role-play was a situation where four students had supposedly
put comments/questions. Each FAMe participant then had to choose
one of these virtual students and respond to their comments.
student’ then replied back to each of us with almost another
question or more complex situation as does happen in real life.
I then had to reply.
In this experience I was role-playing myself in that I was able
to practice my facilitation skills on a fictitious student, but
got a real response
back. Because I couldn’t actually see the person (i.e.
another of my peers in a f2f class) I certainly felt that it
was more real.
here to read my debriefing of this role-play
Persona of fictitious student
role-play exercise was to take on the persona of a fictitious student
within an email spam exercise. The aim of this role-play was to demonstrate
spam to participants and get them to think of ways of dealing with
I found that it was great fun for the role players, but the rest
of the people who got all our spam were less than amused. The facilitators
a number of complaints.
Needle Stick – Web-based
first extended role-play was within the role-play Needle
Stick which was facilitated by Kate Fannon.
Stick was designed and developed in the Fablusi™ learning
environment for an action learning research project in 2002 to
investigate goal-based elearning in a role-play simulation which
modelled a complex
social system. It dealt with the issues surrounding the operation
of a Needle Exchange Program in close proximity to a school in
city. This learning strategy is highly immersive and engages
the learners by placing them as agents of the activity rather than
Given a scenario, the goals of private and public agendas in
each role-profile and the published public profiles of other roles,
solutions in collaboration with those they form alliances.
(2002) p 4
Needle Stick I had taken on the role of the Principal, Bernard Knowles.
Bernard had two agendas within the role-play. His
to foster debate around the issue of a Needle Exchange Program
private agenda was that he found the whole issue repugnant
and wanted to get the Needle Exchange Program as far away from the
school as possible.
this role-play I had the opportunity to try a variety of strategies
that I would have to use in real life
trying to lead an unwilling group and dealing with people
with very diverse public
and private agendas. It was also very interesting to have
to argue an opposite view to which I actually felt. What impact
does this have
What did I learn? And more interestingly why didn’t
I feel that this could happen in a f2f situation?
found that as I was immersed in the role-play, my knowledge,
understanding and persona became much more complex and ‘bigger’.
The following is my journey through role-play.
used to the technology
The first challenge for me was learning new technical
technology platforms were used for the Needle Stick role-play:
for initial pre-role-play instructions, inductions, introductions,
- Fablusi™ for the actual role
used to another learning platform, I found WebCT quite a bit different.
However, being a bit
of a clicker, I just
clicked around until I figured
out how to do it. The limitations of the technology
can be very discouraging, but at the same time the sense of accomplishment
I figured out
how to do it was very satisfying. This is of course
huge consideration for
facilitators. If students are not familiar with the
technology it adds that extra dimension of stress. In a f2f situation
there who can answer questions immediately. But on
downside you have an audience
which always gives role-play that element of acting.
Fablusi™ software was the next hurdle for me. In a debriefing
document I submitted as part of the FAMe course,
I made the following comments:
at the way the program was actually set up. Not being able to edit
or proofread was very annoying. If you forgot the subject line,
couldn’t go back.
- Overwhelmed at the sheer number of threads in some of the forums like
Street Talk. Found it really hard to find the time to read them all thoroughly.
Not being able to expand all messages was a real pain. It would have
saved me heaps of time being able to do this.
- Lost in the software
one point I had to meet another person in the chat room. My comments
in regards to this experience were “I met R in the
chat room on a Saturday. The actual chat was very painful. The screen kept
refreshing and I’d lose my place and have to start
of the role-play I got to go to my first internet café.
It was really interesting as all the instructions
were in Korean. Had to remember which button
All of these initial difficulties could have
led to several different outcomes. I persevered
and needed to
complete because I
was using the experience as a project for
FAMe. I feel I have quite competent computer
students do not.
They would need
to be taken
through the environment is great detail
before they would be able to interact within it.
am I within this role-play?
- How do I express this to everyone else?
I had grappled with the technology and learnt how to navigate around
the environment. I then needed to come to terms
with who I was within
this role-play and how do I express this to everyone else? I find
online communication is so much more public than in other environments.
put something on
the screen and everyone can read it. Questions like, do I make
sense, are they going to think I’m an idiot, what is the right thing
to say in this situation all kept going through my head.
in character was at times difficult. Unfortunately my real
life kept getting in the way. I had to remember not to give
away who I was
by giving information that would put me in context, eg. I
think I said in
one of the discussions that I was taking the year 6 kids
on an excursion so wouldn’t be around much. The only other
person I knew in the simulation was working with me on another project
and because of this
knew that I
was actually going to Sydney on an excursion with my Diploma
2 students. It obviously wasn’t a great leap for her to figure out
who I was. I know I almost gave it away another time by mentioning I was
Sydney, which would have told everyone that I was probably
one of the NSW people.
felt that I had very formal role that conflicted with private/public
persona. As the leader of the school I found myself
with a very formal role. My perception of ‘the headmaster’ influenced
my interpretation. This also combined with the fact that
unsure I do tend to become very formal and try to ensure
I do it by the book so
to speak. I felt that many of the others seemed much more
relaxed and comfortable within the roles.
am I in this role-play community?
am I in this community? Where do I fit?
- What is my role?
- How do I interact with the others in this community?
- Who are they?
I had established in my mind who I was in this role-play, I then
had to let everyone else know. I did this initially by writing a
based on the information I had been given about my public and
private persona. In setting my public persona I needed to write an
that everyone could read. It was great that some of the people
in role-plays previously so got there documents up there first
which gave me a great model. This took away some of the scariness.
felt very strongly that I needed to make a good impression. What
I had failed
to consider here is that some of the others had
been given information
about me, which had an impact on how my character was received.
The more I think about it, the more I realise that this is what happens
part of the community was very difficult. I like to be part of the
crowd, but found it difficult to do so in
talk was so big and confronting that I found it took a long
time to get into it. These people seemed to be so at ease
Simmo, who I now know was in her fourth simulation and found
that this worked the best.
position I had in the role-play (Principal of the school) left me
feeling a little isolated. I found
I didn’t really have anyone to turn to
for advice. I was pretty much out there on my own. The staff
appeared to have taken over the P&C forum rather than the staff
room, which I found quite disconcerting. They had privately decided
I was of little consequence (due to the information given
to them at the start) and thus I had to learn and utilise skills
to help motivate
draw together essentially an unwilling team.
do I get across my message to the community?
- How do I reveal my agenda within this character?
- How do I facilitate the overall goal of this role-play?
I had figured out who Bernard was I then had to navigate my way around
the whole role-play.
We had a problem to solve which initially was
a little unclear certainly to me. I found I went in and out of different
initially in the dark. I was reluctant to post again in case
I was a twit or worse. I really wanted to be sure I was putting
up the ‘right’ answer
or statement. This is one of the main reasons I really embraced
the idea of fostering debate within the community (my public agenda). By asking
the questions in the P & C forum I was able to gauge people’s
issues and concerns without having to make any statements of
my own. Once I was sure that I was working in the best interests
I found then I was able to be more forthright and make more of
people’s hidden agenda’s was
an area that I really felt I failed miserably at. I’m pretty
much an open book. What you see is what you get. I tend to say
what I think and try to stand up for
my beliefs. However I am realising more and more many people
do not do this. As the principal of the school I also had a hidden
agenda that I
don’t think I managed to convey to the group. I was violently
opposed to the whole needle exchange program but personally felt
in the position
I was in I was unable to express it publicly. I tried to do this
by fostering debate within the community. This was one of Bernard’s
core roles. He was very keen to do this and did it quite well.
I don’t know that
it got anyone anywhere though. Because of this I was able to
practice strategic questions. This is a personal goal of mine
(Margaret not Bernard). I went
to this great workshop based on the work of Fran Peavey that
demonstrated the use of strategic questions. I’m trying
to use them within my work and personal contexts. (Work seems
to be easier than home I have to
say). One of the first questions to ask rather than ‘Why
you agree’ is ‘what concerns you most about this
It cuts to the central core of the matter. I was asked at thedebrief
why I didn’t sign the petition (a petition to stop the
needle exchange program. The major reason for this was that it
would have given away
my private agenda very publicly very early on.
as Learner – the
- What skills do I need to be able to be true
to my role?
- What did I learn at the different stages of this journey?
skills needed to be a successful role-play participant according
to the gospel of Margaret
- Being willing to give it a go.
- Being persistent even if the technology is driving you nuts.
- Get outside your comfort zone.
Getting in there and participating. Time was always an issue for me. In
some ways I felt a little like a ‘junkie’, - kept having to
sneak away from my real life so that I could get my ‘fix’ of
The ability to ‘get into’ someone else’s life and think
how they would react. What would they say? How would they deal with this
situation? You actually need to be able to put your money where your
mouth is. You need to be able to use your imagination.
Find something you would like to practice – be it strategic questioning,
being more/less assertive or whatever and use the situation
to help with your own personal communication skills.
did I learn?
hidden agendas are not always easy to ascertain
- Lots goes on behind the scenes that you may not be aware of
- Role play is a valuable teaching/learning tool
- Need to have the time to commit to the role play
- The difficulties of trying to communicate with people out of context.
Just suddenly plunged into a world may have limited knowledge
about. Found it very difficult being so isolated. Not having a 'higher authority
on' or even directives to look at.
here to read the full debriefing document from my perspective
to from here?
hope to go on to bigger and brighter things. I would like to be involved
in more role-play. I would like to find a way of using it with f2f
students with the anonymity and extended time frames. I’m unsure how it
would go and if they could refrain from talking about it and making alliances
outside of the online environment. However, I find the so called ‘soft
skills’ are the hardest to ‘teach.’ I could see application
in a number of modules associated with inclusive practices and aboriginal
families. These modules and others focus on attitudes and beliefs.
benefits of being a designer as learner
years ago I was a ‘content expert’ for a children’s
services online course. While designing the learning experiences for this
course, I tried very hard to ensure that they were interactive. Now in
hindsight, I can look at the experiences I designed as say they were interactive.
But only within the technology. There was very little learner interaction.
Now having been a participant in a number of different online experiences
including web based role-play and the Graduate Certificate in Facilitating
and Managing e-Learning, I firmly believe that designers need to be learners
first and foremost. By being immersed in the learning experience, you can
see what is working and what isn’t. I found the experiences that
required me to work and collaborate with other learners certainly stand
out in my mind much more than some of the purely read/write exercise.
Thus if I had my time again, role-play, interactive forums and chats
much more widely in my content.
K., (2002) A role-play simulation, transformative learning
in complex dynamic social systems, Supervised Project 1 FET5660_2002S2 University
of Southern Queensland.
A., (2002) NSW Curriculum Framework for Children’s Services,
the practice of relationships, essential provisions for children’s
services, Department of Community Services, Sydney
||complexity | intuition | unpredictability | comparisons | personality | emotion | communication
||designers as learners:
igniting the spark for web-based roleplay | 2003