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

Is Learning fun or F.U.N.?

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

by Derek Chirnside -
Number of replies: 0
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