Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Facts, Frustration and Fun

In learning, there is a balance between Facts, Frustration and Fun. In order to have it all work in favor of the learner and learning environment, the education experience should be enjoyable, informative and relatively free of barriers between the two.

Facts:
To get true command of any subject, the learner must master at least some facts. They can get the facts by being told them or pointed to them, or they can get the facts by finding them as they need them. In standardized education, some authority above the teacher and learner dictates what the facts to be learned must be, and the teacher has to make sure that the learners have an equal chance to gather, integrate and master the use of these facts. It seems a lot of the time, educators spend an undue amount of time on 'covering the facts'.

Frustration:
Frustration can be very helpful in an appropriate amount. By getting frustrated, the learner actually has something at stake in learning the material. If success comes too easy, then the prize of achievement is a hollow victory. If the whole experience is too hard and filled with blocks to success, the learner gives up too soon. Some students will slog on 'just because that's what we were told to do' and will recall the experience with dread.

Fun:
Most people do things because they are worthwhile. Adults seem to be focused on getting things done because they have to. Money is a strong motivator, especially for adults. But in learning environments, especially with young learners, Fun can be the strongest motivator. What is the value of this experience? Just doing it because they have to isn't going to be enough. Is there laughter as people explore the topic? Does the experience lead to a desire for more knowledge? Does the Fun increase the desire for more Facts? Does the Fun minimize the effects of the Frustration? Eventually, the students will reflect on their experience and judge it to be either Fun or Boring. Too many Boring experiences and things don't go well.

The more Fun the experience is, the more useful the Facts are, the fewer major Frustrations between the Facts and the Fun, the more successful the learning environment will be.



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