I really like
having cable TV. We get great reception. I can relive
shows from my childhood. And the movie channels can be
better explain the last one. A couple of months ago I
was channel surfing for some basic entertainment: science
fiction or mindless violence. Not finding either of those
I was drawn in to a movie that I couldn't follow. Well,
since they had British accents, I figured I might get
some culture indirectly. Imagine my surprise when that's
what happened. After about a half hour of bizarre vignettes
a man in his thirties appeared before a backdrop of stars
and began singing what I later learned was The Galaxy
Song. It was terrific. With a simple vamp tune he regaled
us, with remarkable accuracy I might add, with facts astronomical.
It was fascinating to hear all that hard science slide
effortlessly through the vehicles of the music and the
out I had been watching Monty Python's "Meaning of
Life". I had watched Monty Python and gotten educated!
I was enchanted.
You see, I've
been hammering away for years that both teaching and learning
should be fun. I've had quite a few arguments about this,
but I'm adamant. Both the processes of learning and that
of teaching should and can be enjoyable, stimulating and,
well, fun. Think back to your most memorable teachers.
The ones you recall in a positive light. As I've discussed
this with other people, I've found that the ones who used
humor well or the ones who created an enjoyable environment
were remembered with the most detail. You may believe
that you are only recollecting the stories or jokes or
perhaps just the good times you had in those classes,
but my own observations say otherwise. Beyond the good
times the information gained when the mind is being stimulated
in an unthreatening way is processed deeply. Even though
recall of specific details may be less than perfect, the
data is utilized by your brain and accessed quite readily
in a wide range of associative capacities. Essentially,
that means you've learned it, and you can use it.
to be happening is a combination of positive experiences
that work together to create an enhanced learning environment.
Most obvious of these is that the effective use of humor
or pleasant experiences resolves fears or concerns about
the learning process. Intimidating material becomes anywhere
from just less intimidating to outright pleasant. Fun.
The happier you feel the better you put your fears in
perspective. Since fear itself is basically an irrational
response (It's the exaggeration of caution.), then being
relaxed and in a pleasant frame of mind automatically
defeats some of the tendency toward irrationality.
when learning is fun there are fewer inhibitions against
it. This is differentiated from fear in that the defensive
response provoked by fear is global. If you are phobic
about mathematics, then your preconceived notions make
learning it painful if not impossible. Inhibitions, however,
are somewhat more specific. They can block the learning
process without regard for subject matter. Or they can
interfere with a certain teacher's ability to reach you.
Or they can simply stop you from understanding a part
of one area.
and fun are mutually exclusive experiences. Think about
the last time you were really enjoying yourself. Inherent
in that experience is loosening up, that is, releasing
inhibitions. An enjoyable learning environment releases
fears and inhibitions and makes us open to the experience
of learning. We become receptive to the input of new knowledge.
Add to that
the fact that the teacher is truly enjoying the experience
and another inhibition disappears, the age old conflict
between teacher and student. Instead of existing on either
side of the learning fence, they coexist on the same side.
Once the process becomes pleasant and pleasing, enjoyable
and fun, then can we get serious about learning.
To be sure
initially it may mean many educators will need to learn
how to use humor and how to be more relaxed. Techniques
that encourage teachers and professors to relate more
closely with their students will have to be developed.
But nobody loses.
students improve their performance and productivity in
environments in which they are having fun. Easily distracted
students find themselves much less distracted and, therefore,
more involved when they look forward to a positive and
wonder how many people have most of those astronomical
facts ready to be accessed just because of Monty Python.
Or for that matter, what would my GPA have been like if
History, Calculus, Psychology and Zoology had been taught
in something other than a monotone. At teachers' conferences
countless methods of capturing and keeping the students'
attention are proposed. Rarely are the concepts of fun
and education given combined credibility beyond the second
grade. I assume it's because it's presumed to be unnecessary.
It is necessary.