Higher Education Isn’t Child’s Play

When we are little, we learn every day. And it is fun! We learn to count, talk, tie our shoes, feed ourselves, etc … and each and every time we learn something new, it is the best thing that has ever happened! As baby George demonstrated, we even had fun when we failed ~ because failing is also learning, and learning is fun! As we age, learning becomes more tedious, likely because we are judged based how “well” we learn. When we are little, every time we fall or say the alphabet incorrectly, it is cute, we are encouraged to try again by smiling faces, and learning is an adventure (as Kuh states). But later, grades, report cards, and awards make children think of learning as a chore. Something that they have to do in order to succeed. Unfortunately, most of the times when students “fail” at something in a class, there isn’t a smiling face and the reassurance of another chance to try again.

Many argue that we learn everyday even as adults. But how often do adults think that learning is fun? For example, if someone says “Hey – Erin! Let’s do something fun today! What would you like to do?” Even as someone who likes school, my standard responses to this question include “go see a movie,” “go bowling” or “go out to a nice restaurant.” Although I do thoroughly enjoy learning, it often seems to me that I am, and presumably the rest of us in academia are, the minority because learning goes from:

Image result for i love learning learning is my favorite

To:

Image result for try not to have a good time ... this is supposed to be educational

In my opinion, using social media and blogging is a way to make learning fun again. It allows people to express themselves in often a less formal manner than typical “academic” writing. This, at least for me, takes off a lot of the stress involved with writing. Additionally, posting writing online via Facebook, blogging, Twitter etc encourages people to write well – as nobody wants to appear “stupid” to the masses. Overall, I believe that using tools such as blogging is increasingly important in today’s working world. It is not just for the youngest generation either – people of all ages are blogging and using social media to communicate with others. It will be really interesting to see how online networking continues to grow over the next decade and how it may bring fun back into education!

10 Replies to “Higher Education Isn’t Child’s Play”

  1. First: love the graphics :). Second: I can see what you mean when you say that adding social media components makes learning fun again. At the same time, I wonder if every class adopted social media as an aspect to their course, then after a few years it wouldn’t seem so fun anymore. You know what I mean? I have thought about this a few times when hearing about technological advances in the classroom. Maybe it makes an impact at first because it is new, but then… after a few years… maybe it’s just old hat?

    1. Hi Kristin! Very good point — I totally agree. Unfortunately, when things become required continuously, they tend to lose their appeal. I am not sure what can be done to overcome this!

      1. I’m curious about your thoughts on blogging when it comes to standards and requirements for course work. I feel like the “fun” is taken out of the equation when there are a set amount of links, images, and words required. At that point I feel like students are just checking a box that they completed an assignment rather than encouraging students to incorporate ideas beyond class readings.

  2. I agree with you about the difference between children’s vs adults’ learning. But I would like to add one more reason as for why I think it’s the case. For a little child, before going to a standard schooling system, learning is not intentional, she is playing, living her life, and learning happens. The fun part stops when we isolate learning process and make it specific to a school environment and forget that learning happens even by going to movies or playing bowling. When learning is separated from “real world”.

    1. Hi Shadisadat,

      Yes – that is very true. When we are little, we learn while playing. Do you have any ideas on how to bring that into the classroom more readily (and more specifically within higher education)?

  3. You bring up some good points Erin. Systemically something is not working and has not worked for a while in the grade school educational system. Somehow we tend to like organizing human beings, learners, little people into categories and this becomes almost like an obsession in grade school – to categorize and for that we need a system, and rules for success and failure, and we need numbers, and the list goes on. Learning however, like you pointed out can be made interesting, it can be made “fun” and it also gets a little difficult right there – we get conditioned to the system and when something new is presented we don’t know what to do. Hopefully some educators can help break that cycle.

  4. I had to laugh a bit when you said adding blog posts and social media to classes can make them more fun given how we all groaned in class when we were told how many blog posts we needed to write 🙂 I do agree that throwing new things into coursework can make them more interesting. On the other hand though, I do think there are just some things we as adults and even kids have to slog through to get to where we want to be. I love engineering which uses a lot of math, but that definitely didn’t mean I liked the classes I needed to take to get to this point, but (and I hate to admit it) I’m glad I took them. Honestly, it’s probably not good to teach kids that all classes and jobs should be fun. Haha…..anyway, enough cranky old person thoughts. I think, looking at the engineering example, that raising people’s vision makes learning more interesting. Nothing is quite so demotivating about math (or any other subject) as not having any idea what to use it for. Maybe throwing in social media and other activities is definitely a good idea, but I think learning can also be more fun if we teach people why they’re learning and not just what to learn. Harder to do than say, but hopefully we can do a better job.

  5. Erin,

    I couldn’t agree more with the title of this blog nor deny the fact that in order to incorporate a healthy work environment any learning done onsite must include elements of “fun”. As a transformational leader I can most certainly guarantee my trainings would be better received than someone who only has a transactional style.

    Thanks!

    Cheers, Lehi

  6. Good topic! I think your post could be divided into three sections: learning as a child, learning as an adult, and learning through social media. I think there are some factors (e.g., cost, environment, method, benefit, etc.) that affect a child’s or an adult’s motivation for learning. Child’s learning usually has no cost associated with it. A child is normally motivated to learn because in the case of failure he/she does not pay a cost unless there is a punishment (which could be hard to avoid by many parents). It seems that brain control centers become more activated when older children and adults receive negative feedback because they need to figure out why something went wrong (1). Also, compared to children, older children and adults associate more cost (e.g., money, responsibility, shame, etc.) to failure because they have a better understanding of the consequences. As the cost of learning and doing wrong increases, the motivation for learning decreases. Based on this association, Europian schools are eliminating their formal grading and scheduling system. Instead, they are letting the child learn without the traditionally associated cost (low grades, punishment by parents, etc.). Also, they are letting the children decide what they want to do (e.g., courses, assignments, etc.) and when (e.g., take an exam) and call it “free learning”. So, the elementary and secondary school system is already changing to allow for more flexibility and motivation. However, many higher education professors still follow the traditional models which are more or less incompatible with the new generation’s (millennials’) habits and learning styles. That’s why so many professors have problems with the use of technology in the classroom and find it annoying. I think higher education is still in a transition period. Providing for the use of technology in the classroom is in its early stages. I believe the next generation of professors will make a better use of networked learning and communication technology as primary or supplementary educational tools.

    1- https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/family-affair/200809/rewards-are-better-punishment-here-s-why
    2- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/01/no-grades-no-timetable-berlin-school-turns-teaching-upside-down

  7. Wow! Everything I wanted to say has been addressed in this terrific comments. So I’ll just add my voice to the chorus applauding the graphics. Thanks for this very thoughtful reflection.

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