Why do we assume that learning only occurs when kids are serious and quiet?
This anti-fun vein evident in education editorials and discussion boards highlights a fundamental issue in education today and, in fact, has been with us for centuries.
The belief remains strong that learning can only take place when kids are quiet and the work laborious, that any activities where engaged kids seem to be enjoying themselves must be superfluous, and that teachers who make learning fun run the risk of being declared unprofessional. This thinking is having an adverse effect on what kids learn and how they are taught.
Is there any evidence to back up the notion that learning can and should be fun, or is this a deviation of our Protestant and Puritan heritage that declares that fun is the work of the devil and so anything worthwhile cannot be also fun?
Brain research suggests that fun is not just beneficial to learning but, by many reports, required for authentic learning and long-term memory.
Neurologist and educator Judy Willis’s book “Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher” (ASCD, 2006) is one of many that have highlighted the learning benefits of fun. Here are just a few excerpts:
The truth is that when the joy and comfort are scrubbed from the classroom and replaced with homogeneity, and when spontaneity is replaced with conformity, students’ brains are distanced from effective information processing and long-term memory storage.
The highest-level executive thinking, making of connections, and “aha” moments are more likely to occur in an atmosphere of “exuberant discovery,” where students of all ages retain that kindergarten enthusiasm of embracing each day with the joy of learning.
So fun actually seems to promote learning. It increases dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen!
The human brain and body respond positively to laughter with the release of endorphin, epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine, and with increased breathing volume (more oxygen). When a lesson starts with humor, there is more alerting, and the subsequent information is attached to the positive emotional event as an event or flashbulb memory.
What happens if students aren’t just bored, but afraid or hungry or in pain? They are not only ‘not having fun’, but they are in varying states of discomfort and anxiety.
If fun actually leads to engagement, meaning and purpose, and, yes, learning, what is the answer for education? Should we create courses based only around what is deemed enjoyable by today’s generation?
No, but we should look at the process of how current courses are taught and delivered. Ultimately, we should resist the knee-jerk urge to declare something that is fun to be educationally inferior.
Fun means engagement, doing and learning what has meaning and purpose, and it means being challenged. Embracing this belief should have a profound effect on what and how we teach.
Remember the days when everything from ABCs to math and the arts were taught the same way to every student? Well now, innovations in education are changing the ways that children learn. A few recommended ‘games for learning’ are:
Pre-school and Kindergarten:
No famous television characters are required, but a wonderful collection of interactive, educational games just for preschoolers and kindergarten kids with subjects like: animals, colors, numbers, letters and shapes can be of great help in ‘learning with fun’.
Preschool animals: Preschool and kindergarten animals section (online), designed especially for young learners with easy mouse skills, and audio instructions and game play is of good use. Kids can watch movies about the various environments and the animals that live there, test what they learned through are easy to use games, get creative by building their own animal environment or build their knowledge by going through our audio and animated animal flashcards. This animal section can include the farm, jungle, forest, and ocean.
Animal kid’s corner: games like puzzles, matching games and painting are great attractions for kids.
Geography: games related to knowing of states, countries, rivers, oceans and more are an easy way to make kids memorize these important geographical facts.
Elementary school-early middle school:
Games with knowledge about animals, math related games, nutrition knowledge, season informative games, grammar games, and games for subjects like geography and science.
Middle school-high school:
Hundreds of articles and quizzes, brain teasers, puzzles, scientific games- life cycle, plant and animal cell, deep sea creatures and movies, periodic table games for making chemistry easy and interesting, geography, math and vocabulary games and many more.
College and adults:
Be it a college going student or an adult, love for games and being able to gain some knowledge while playing is a brilliant package. Hence, games covering different subjects, and various genres of interests should be developed and made available for ‘learning with fun’.