SCoPE Seminar: Informal Learning: May 15 - June 4, 2006

Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Christie Mason -
Number of replies: 10
I'm seeing similar concepts in several different threads.

From: Videogames revolution and informal learning by Bronwyn Stuckey
"Can we claim to be learning because we are engaged?"

From: Debriefing "Just Three Words" Game by Ann Busby
in reply to my post questioning what was being learned from "Just ThreeWords". "I want learning to be fun, not drudgery"

From: various threads about how children learn vs adult learning I've been wondering "Doesn't it seem like kids have fun learning just about anything, any time, anywhere as long as it's not in school?" Plus, outside of structured teaching environments, I just haven't seen a significant difference between the way that kids and adults learn.

I believe that learning is fun, it's one of my strongest motivators. I also believe that most teaching and instructional methodology is designed to remove the fun I find in learning. Why? I have no idea. I know that people/rats/ etc repeat behavior that is rewarded. What the reward could be for ignoring decades of theories and observations that indicate that different people learn in different ways continues to escape my understanding. However, I have a strong suspicion that George Washingtoncan supply a piece of the puzzle.

One of the difficulties in bringing about change in an organization isthat you must do so through the persons who have been most successful in thatorganization, no matter how faulty the system or organization is. To suchpersons, you see, it is the best of all possible organizations, because lookwho was selected by it and look who succeeded most in it. Yet these are the very people through whom we must bring about improvements. GeorgeWashington

Look at what passes for "fun" in most teaching/training environments- a game such as an ice breaker or a Flash simulation. What the training community is slowly learning is that the participants deem a game that isn?t tied into learning something about the topic a waste of time. Why isn't that reaction always reflected on the smiley sheets? I've eavesdropped on many coffee break and post training informal discussions for years and noted that even when the majority is dissatisfied with the "fun" that was imposed on them, they never notate it on the evaluation. Why? The reasons that I hear again and again are variations of "didn't want to make the trainer feel bad", "other people seemed to enjoy it", or "I've just learned to deal with it because everybody does it."

I've learned to redefine "fun" as "F.U.N." (Focusing onUnderstanding Needs). What does the learner need to learn? What need is motivating this learner to learn? When a learner is learning what they need in an environment that motivates their learning, that's when I'm having fun because I'm successfully applied "F.U.N."

I was just looking at the Maslow Hierarchy and trying to align different levels of motivation to what that level may consider a fun way to learn. It seems to me that externally motivated people are motivated by social recognition and belonging, internally motivated people have fun controlling their own quest for knowing. This closely aligns with how different personality matrix split personalities between task driven and socially driven types.

Looking at the different ways people are motivated to learn explains a lot to me about the different reactions from different types of learners to games andother training/teaching techniques. Try a nonsense game that's not tied to the topic with a classroom of engineers, programmers or successful salespeople and feel the room go cold. Those functions tend to attract task oriented people who are internally motivated. Try that same game with trainers as a audience and you'll feel the room go warm and open. I verystrongly suspect that's why trainers view sales, engineering and IT audiencesas "the toughest audience". Trainers tend to offer training based on the Golden Rule "Do unto others the way I want to be done unto" and that doesn't match the diverse needs and motivators of their learners.

I've always found it better to apply the Platinum Rule "Do unto others the way they want to be done unto". To me, the Platinum Rule encapsulates the essence of "F.U.N." and how it can be applied to support informal learning processes that meet the needs of many different definitions of "fun". I use it daily to continuously remind me that my definition of fun isn't the same as other people's definition of fun.

Christie Mason
In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Nancy White -
Christie, you might enjoy the post from Beth Kanter who is actually quoting Kathy Sierra. I have not mined the links yet - in fact Kathy writes stuff that I think resonates with what you are saying. She says it in different language but my interpretation of both of you makes them feel "close." :-)

Beth quotes:

Typology of Cognitive Pleasures

(in no particular order)

1. Discovery
User experience as exploration of new territory

2. Challenge
User experience as obstacles to overcome, goals lying just beyond current skill and knowledge levels

3. Narrative
User experience as story arc (user on hero's journey) and character identification

4. Self-expression
User experience as self-discovery and creativity

5. Social framework
User experience as an opportunity for interaction/fellowship with others

6. Cognitive Arousal
User experience as brain teaser

7. Thrill
User experience as risk-taking with a safety net

8. Sensation
User experience as sensory stimulation

9. Triumph
User experience as opportunity to kick ass

10. Flow
User experience as opportunity for complete concentration, extreme focus, lack of self-awareness

11. Accomplishment
User experience as opportunity for productivity and success

12. Fantasy
User experience as alternate reality

13. Learning
User experience as opportunity for growth and improvement


In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Christie Mason -
Thanks Nancy, I must have missed the originals.  Anything that uses single syllable words such as "kick ass" tends to attract my attention, but I have to confess that the list doesn't "click" with me.

I always find it easier to explain why something does "click" rather than why something doesn't "click" so I'll just muddle out loud and hope something makes sense.  I agree that these could be worthwhile experiences, perhaps more like worthwhile emotions, but I don't feel/see/hear any "how" or "why" to create these emotions/experiences.

Those words feel like trying to hold a handful of air and for some strange reason they sound like the same types of large concept/little shared meaning words that people use to describe the qualities of leadership.

Maybe you could expand on where you felt the sameness between these ideas and what I posted?

Struggling,
Christie Mason

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Nancy White -
I'm sharing that sense of struggling, Christie, but it feels worth it! :-)

You wrote:
From Is Learning fun or F.U.N.? by cmason on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 10:50:00 AM:
I've always found it better to apply the Platinum Rule "Do unto others the way they want to be done unto". To me, the Platinum Rule encapsulates the essence of "F.U.N." and how it can be applied to support informal learning processes that meet the needs of many different definitions of "fun". I use it daily to continuously remind me that my definition of fun isn't the same as other people's definition of fun.

The list gave me some ways of figuring out what might be the 'want to done unto' list. In other words, I could use them as a point of departure to inquire what is the hook for people's engagement.

Now a key thing that is cropping up here for me is the link between this stuff and informal learning. That list implies that someone is structuring something somewhere. Can we legitimately create scaffolds for informal learning, or is that too "formal?" You write about "supporing informal learning processes. "

where is the line? Does it matter?




In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Derek Chirnside -
I've been interested in your perspective Christie.  (So much so that I Googled you)  :-)

Nancy: From Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.? by choconancy on Tuesday, 30 May 2006 2:24:00 p.m.:
Now a key thing that is cropping up here for me is the link between this stuff and informal learning. That list implies that someone is structuring something somewhere. Can we legitimately create scaffolds for informal learning, or is that too "formal?" . . . "


Relevant bit bolded.
Christie in her original post in this thread mentions the motivation (internal/external) and the dynamics between the trainers (here, a generic term for the person(s) at the front) and participants.  Yes, I think someone is trying to structure something somewhere.  They may be achieving something, (open to defintion I know) but they may also be in cloud cuckoo land as well - they may be thinking "this is terrible"/"This is great" and be wrong.  Teaching (and the synonyms) is a hugely complex relationship.  I think alongside of courting, parenting, counselling and possibly political speechmaking/standup comedy, it is one of the most challenging interactions to seek to understand.

What goes on in the brain of the tutor/trainer/lecturer?  I interviewed some lecturers who were regarded as 'good' in 1998.  Of seven, three or four (I forget which) said they knew they were communicating 'when there was this intent look of attention and their students were with it'.  I think I was able to show this was inadequate, and a poor guide at best.  But actually I still do it myself.  :-)
For learners: Motivation, internal/external - personality - type of thinking style - type of learner, mood - are all factors.  For the lecturer - personal theory base, attitude, confidence/.security with students/subject, mood, enjoyment of the subject - ditto.
I basically nearly turned myself inside out with trying to understand classroom interactions I had videoed.  The complexity was constantly shifting - some famous Greek guy said you cannot step into the same river twice.  It's actually hard to step into the same river once.  By the time you get a small handle on what you THINK is going on - it's changed.  Your foot is half wet and the dynamics have changed.

The old dessert story: waitress arrives with a dessert and trips, dessert goes everywhere.  People round the table respond to the same incident radically differently - "If you didn't rush so much, this wouldn't have happened", "Here. I'll get you another one", "Hey don't worry (waitress) don't feel bad", "Sally, your closest, pick the plate up so more doesn't fall out onto the carpet . ."  People respond to the same event in class in radically different ways.

Then in my analysis, sometimes I figured it didn't make any difference, at one level.  This is not my finding - it is local research into success in learning at a few schools here, both high and low socio-economic decile - ""Rapport, care and love can transcend communication channel and methodology mismatches"".  This is esp true at elementary school.  This could be another aspect of Christie's F.U.N.
From Is Learning fun or F.U.N.? by cmason on Tuesday, 30 May 2006 10:50:00 a.m.:
I've learned to redefine "fun" as "F.U.N." (Focusing onUnderstanding Needs).

Here is a working view of mine: Teachers make a myriad of tiny decisions moment by moment, and the they are 'good' if they get them generally not wrong, or the ratio is in their favour, and as a result their learners learn better or worse or a little or a lot, or the right thing or not.

It's also true online.  The first month I went online to learn, I shared an office with Mike Wells (Montana State University) in 1999 when he was e-moderating class interaction in the NTEN First Class based programme (National Teacher Enhancement Network) and I'd say 'why did you say it like that?' - and got some interesting responses, and I learned a lot.  He was superb.  His toipic was engineering and real world problem solving etc.
I'd love to ask Nancy, Sylvia and Sarah at times "What happened to make you make the response like this?".  What is the complex interplay that balances risk, nuances, common sense, truth (or lack of it), relativity, irrelevant 'noise', significant/insignificant undercurrents, mood, motives, motivation etc and causes us to post in this or that way?

As a side comment, I aspire to be a good moderator/facilitator in the online classes I run.  In a course coming up on moderating, one of the set tasks will be to produce some analysis of a thread from the course, with the people in the thread seeing the analysis later, and having a chance to say their side of it.  As well, people in the thread will get a little note saying "This thread is being analysed" and they are responsible to reflect in their journal on their posts in this thread, what and why (etc) [and the scary thing: did the posts advance or stymie the dialogue] - and these reflections will be compared to the outside analysis of the same thread.  (Might work)  :-)  (Is what I have just said comprehensible?)

It's been rare, but there have been cases of poets/novelists being analysed and then on seeing the analysis being able to say "I had nothing close to that in my mind when I wrote . . ."  Analysis can be wrong.  But the process is highly complex, and even asking teachers 'why did you do that?" has sometimes reached the block "I don't Know".

Graham Nuthall was a master at recording kids at work and them not knowing when, who or what he was recording.  (Picture a class with every kid wired for two consecutive weeks, with only a few kids being listened to at any given time).  The research I read was in the area of social studies, the subject Medieval England.   It goes something like this: three encounters with the idea in several contexts lead to deeper learning as in post test, and then in a re-test later.
The context here is learning objective type learning.  Relevant incidental learning, informal learning could sometimes be seen in children's interactions, discussion and activities.  Even a simple reiteration of ideas as one child spoke to another as a poster was being prepared seemed to 'count'.  Is this informal learning in a semi-formal structure?  And teacher detemined?

Enough of a ramble.  I'm a simplicist here.  yes, I believe in informal learning.  I aspire to harness it in my acheviement of formal goals.  I actually talk about it, and hope my efforts to make it explicit do not kill it off, or corrupt it to utilitarian ends.  On balance: Formal goals I find generally will NOT be enough to bring to death the informal side.
However: The most fun, for me, being woolly and unfocused, is in the wayout and off topic serenidipitous [informal] learning, and despite mainly having taught physics I've enjoyed moving into areas where this ad hoc stuff is valued.  In tight formal courses, I like to see this as adding spice, and dare I say it, fun to the drudgery.  Like when next week I have some staff development in using M$ PowerPoint.  :-(

I will press the button in a few minutes to post this ramble, and it will be Saturday night, around 7.30 pm.  For some of you guys I think it's still Friday.  I hope your weekend goes well.  For us in NZ, Monday is the Queen's Birthday, a Day Off Work.
I'v found it too hard to post concisely and understandibly in the debrief section.  I'm constructing a picture instead.
Cheers, - Derek


In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Nancy White -
Trying a more concrete way in...

From Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.? by choconancy on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:45:00 PM:
1. Discovery

User experience as exploration of new territory

So if we think of supporting informal learning (with games or any other approach), we can think about using discovery as a tool. Rather than dumping content on people, we support (or probably more accurately, it happens) the process of an individual discovering WHAT they want to learn and HOW. We might throw in some catalysts such as useful questions or a resource. But by supporting or encouraging discovery, people learn in ways that make sense. Plus for me, discovery means a little hit of joy, that moment of AHA that makes it more pleasurable.

There is a second bit to discoverability that is very web related and supportive of informal learning - the hyperlink. I read someone's blog. It has a link to a site, to a resource and pretty soon I have followed a learning path that was not visible to me until that first link catalyzed my path.

Making more sense now?
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Ann Busby -

And I'll take a stab at:

Cognitive Arousal
User experience as brain teaser

Could this mean curiosity? I love the word pairing -cognitive arousal. Can you really initiate informal learning without it? You need a problem  to solve, a need to know something in order to do something, or that old cat, curiosity. These are motivators for informal learning. In Nancy's example, she followed some links-mainly because she wanted to see if there was anything in there she was interested in. So here's another motivator-interest-all cognitive, right? And Nancy "peeked" at a game, didn't find it interesting, so moved on feeling she wasn't interested, and wouldn't feel guilty for not spending time on it-she fed her curiosity by looking first though, didn't she? Interesting! Ann

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Derek Chirnside -
In some respects Christine, buried in your post is one small comment:
From Is Learning fun or F.U.N.? by cmason on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 10:50:00:
What the training community is slowly learning is that the participants deem a game that isn?t tied into learning something about the topic a waste of time.

I work in two worlds at once.  The world of training (where participants want to come empty and want to leave full - with just enough stuff to cope with the required technical skill) and the world of something else - lets call it professional education (where in 13 months person X will be in charge of little kids and will be called upon to perform as a professional, and in NO way will the other model cope with this)
My problem is informal learning sometimes doesn't fit with the training mindset of the people who come into the room.
Leave out informal - serendipity - fun - (and the other nouns and adjectives) from the professional training, and it doesn't succeed.

I think you are right about the training environment.  Sadly.
But I think a better link between games, fun and so on can be made to help the participants get a better deal.

To take a small divergent step, am I heretical to say that sometimes learning is a struggle, is excrutiatingly hard and difficult - but the context of all the other things you mention can help it appear fun?
Is it fun to nearly half kill yourself climbing Mt Everest?  What is fun?
Philosophically yours,

-Derek


In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Ann Busby -

Derek-an note on "training mindset" and gaming-it really depends on your audience. At my agency, they love competition, and will get into games like kids-trying to outdo the other person or team. So, using content from the course, we can play a game vs doing an end of the course test and engage every person better than using a pen & paper test. But I've seen audiences where gaming would fall flat.

And you point out another good point-what is fun to one may not be to another (ie climbing Mt Everest) Thanks, Ann

In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Nancy White -
I don't know if y'all felt yourself channeled into a conversation, but I was deep into this topic of the boundaries between training and learning, and the tension between formal expectations but informal learning needs with some colleagues. I brought up this conversation. Derek, your point about training was a really useful "handle" for me in the conversation. So in my re-reading wanderings, I wanted to leave a trail of thanks.

One of the downsides of informal learning is we often don't do the sorts of follow up or "evaluation" (take that term lightly, please), including thanking those that allowed us to learn. So this seemed like my chance to add that to my informal learning, rather than leaving it off the radar screen.
In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

by Derek Chirnside -
From Re: Is Learning fun or F.U.N.? by annbusby on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 4:52:00 a.m.:
a note on "training mindset" and gaming-it really depends on your audience


Anne, you are right, point taken.
I think I've been in settings where I see this. Like last year, where there were tons of multi-part stress management courses run for us. I did attended the first session with my own deparment and caught up with the second session where the marketing department was present. Chalk and cheese.