About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why can't learning be fun?

I just ran across a new book/game series by Rick Riordan called "39 Clues." Riordan is a middle school teacher who has designed a series of books that has been tied to an interactive on line game that builds on the interest middle school students have for both gaming and social networks. It appears to be a good way to get the next generation interested in reading, critical thinking, and problem solving in a fun way.

Now, I am actually surprised that I have not heard of this series: neither negative or positive. I would have thought it would be an instant hit from all the Webkins fans or seen as the next threat to the educational system by educators who still choose Ethan Frome as required reading.

Bringing Fun into Education (regardless of age)

I have seen my own kids become interested in history, math, and even engineering through playing computer games. I know it is rarely used in their schools, but I see the role games can play in helping students learn to problem solve, think critically, and even learn content and skills. Both Karyn Romeis and Ken Allen have written good posts in the past about its potential.

However, as I begin to think about the possibilities of learning from games and social networks, I can't get past the barrier of convincing company executives of allowing their workers some periods of fun as they learn. I can hear the complaints now: How do we justify investments in games to our stakeholders? It's play, not learning. How will that help their productivity? Can you give us the numbers on that? This is work, not recreational time.

If we look at the track, though, of some of the more successful students in a school, we will see that many have extra-curricular activities that give them the skills they need in the workplace (group work, critical thinking, strategies, interpersonal communication, task management). So why aren't we creating more "fun" elearning activities such as those used in second life? Because it is an uphill battle to convince society that "fun" and "playing" have a role in learning.

Not a New Debate

You need only read Dewey's and Taylor's works to see that this debate has been around for decades. For some reason, I will never understand, Taylor's theories that basically equate humans to automatons, seems to win out when investment decisions are made. Perhaps that is because it is easier to measure quantitatively than qualitatively. I also wonder if management is afraid to make workers too content and/or lacking in discipline. Related to this is what to do about the parts of a job that are not fun or exciting? Such as report writing, weekly meetings, resolving personal conflicts, and taking care of daily routine tasks that can become tedious.

I think there is definitely new possibilities into make learning more enjoyable. But first we must achieve the Mount Everest task of convincing management and workers that learning can be fun.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Virginia!

Thanks for the link. I concur with you. It is strange that management (authorities) cannot recognise the true value of enjoyment in learning.

Anyone who has watched a young child explore its surroundings will also know the wonder and enjoyment that fills the mind of the young learner. When watching for the first time bubbles, balloons, buzzy bees or butterflies, no normal child sits sullenly.

Having fun is a natural companion to learning.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Karyn Romeis said...

Thanks for the link. There is a wonderful Calvin & Hobbes cartoon in which Calvin poses the question: how coem grown ups don't go out and play? I posted on it some time ago, but the link to the cartoon strip is now broken and I'm blowed if I can find the strip again :o(

But isn't it a good question?

V Yonkers said...

It seems now, more than ever, as there is glum and doom in most companies with the economic downturn, that somehow we shouldn't be "playing" or doing anything that does not allow the bean counters (I was once one, so I know) to "prove" a worker is being productive.

I think this creates such an oppressive, non-creative atmosphere in the workplace, just at a time when it is needed the most (creativity, that is).

Karyn, I hate when that happens. Today I tried to access a humorous clip on bad visuals in my class, and it was gone! (It was there yesterday).