HPR 2154: Introduction to Harry Potter

Why is it that some books are so easy to read/follow while others (many of the text books) are mortally boring; Why can we remember details of a good story (e.g. Harry Potter) even after so many years, but there are tons of information we cannot recall from our last week readings?

Harry Potter and Ron Weasley in Divination class

Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown in their book “A New Culture of Learning┬áCultivating The Imagination For A World Of Constant Change” try to answer these questions by discussing the importance of modern learning processes:

They argue that in today’s ever-changing world, it is rather unproductive (if not impossible) to continue the traditional forms of learning/teaching-i.e. when someone (teacher) transfer the solid knowledge to someone else (the student) in a unilateral direction. while the unchangeable forms of knowledge are shrinking everyday, flexibility towards change and accepting new ways of knowing become more and more quintessential for humans’ learning process.

In spite of the fact that I agree with Thomas and Brown’s idea of making sense of the world through gaming (and internet being the adults’ way of playful sense making), yet I believe engaging solely new technologies in today’s classrooms is not the panacea for our ineffective education system! Many of us “Google” new terms, watch YouTube videos and try to understand the course materials with the help of world wide web, still we do not necessarily develop the vital connections needed for LEARNING process. That means, in most cases, we gain a rough understanding of the issue but we do not ponder enough (e.g. having no time or interest) to process the information into our knowledge.

While the authors believe, Harry Potter books’ success in sticking to readers’ minds (and hearts!) were due to readers’ “experiencing the unfolding of the story with friends, both online and offline”, I think there are other criteria that leads to such memorability!

First of all, the readers “choose” to read Harry Potter in order to “enjoy”. While in many cases, we do not have a “choice” over our course work, therefore having “fun” is less achievable. Second, reading Harry Potter is not an assignment and does not have a deadline to be finished/graded, hence the reader has all the time in the world to savour each line with full concentration (and no fear or pressure of grades and so on). As a result of passion and having the time to reflect on the book’s content, the reader can make sense of Harry’s world by connecting the author’s descriptions to his/her own life experiences-the process in which a co-creation of knowledge between the author and the reader happens!

16 thoughts on “HPR 2154: Introduction to Harry Potter

  1. I often think about this concept. I can remember all the lyrics to my favorite boy-band songs from the 90’s, but I cannot tell you the methods used in the article I’ve most recently read. Sometimes, teachers find techniques to aid in learning and retention. For example, I learned the state/capitol song and the President song when I was in elementary school. While I have forgotten some parts in the middle, I remember a remarkable amount given the fact that 2 decades have passed. If I had not learned these songs, I guarantee that I would not remember the names/order of the Presidents.

    • Thank you for your thoughts. You mentioned a very interesting point, that I think all of us have some sort of similar examples of that. Maybe songs just like games bring “fun” to everything and that is why they stick to our minds better and longer.

  2. Thank you for your post! I really enjoyed reading it and you brought up a lot of important points. I agree that with many of the things that we learn outside of a classroom environment, we can follow our interests and explore things that we enjoy. How can we as educators bring some of that choice into our classrooms? What if we let students pursue a topic that is interesting to them (and is still related to the course material) instead of assigning everyone the same topic? Maybe we can start by trying to help students see how the material in a particular class might be interesting or relevant to them. And I am really excited to talk more about assessment next week. Thanks for the post!

    • Thank you Amy for your insights. I find your suggestions practically helpful, since my most effective classes have always been those in which the instructor respected the students’ discretion for choosing their own topics of research!

    • Amy- I am so glad you highlighted this. My personal teaching philosophy is built on providing students choices. I have put in a lot of work to provide students multiple choices in assignments to complete their requirements for my course. This semester, I also add a “student interest assignment” which allows students to use what they love to show me what they are learning in my course. I intentionally leave the instructions vague to let them take the reigns. Although, I am very aware that they have been programmed to ask “what exactly do I need to do to get an A?”. Therefore, if students wish to complete this option for their assignment (there are also 2-3 other choices for each assignment I give them), they have to meet with me to work out the details, expectations, and grading criteria. I am all about collaboration on this one! I have my first round of these assignments to grade this week, so I don’t know how well it will turn out, but I am encouraged that about 4 students chose to complete this assignment option. And several others expressed interest in completing this for a future assignment. I am hoping this collaborative process will engage students in some more “fun”.

      • Thank you so much for your reply and your perfect explanation of how we can practically give students choice without endangering educational goals.

  3. While reading your post, I was stuck on the idea that we do not have control over our course load. I find that true and not true at the same time. It is true in the fact that there are basic core areas within majors that any one graduating needs to understand. It is not true that those are the only courses they you would need to take. I had a different experience during my undergraduate studies. I majored in Chemistry, and I had to take physical chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, calculus, and instrumental chemistry. But, I was at a liberal arts school where I needed to take classes not in my major. I took History of Hawaii, Witchcraft in the 16th Century, American Film Studies, Banned Books, Ceramics, Political Science, and Introduction to World Religions. I chose those classes. I still had a choice in my education, and I excelled in those classes. I don’t mean to preach about liberal arts, but if choice is important in your education, then make sure that the chosen school that you attend has incorporated choice into their curriculum. Again, I’m not advocating or preaching, I’m just saying that choice is out there if you want to experience it. I agree that choice will allow a student to be mindful and get the most out of an educational experience, even if it is just reading a novel for fun.

    • I totally agree with you! In my Previous post “laptops in classroom yaaaayyy” I exactly mentioned how in higher education we have control and some level of choice regarding what we learn but in K-12 (at least in my country) students are forced to take certain compulsory lessons without having any choice!

  4. I think you brought up some good points. I can tell you all about the Harry Potter books, and it wasn’t necessarily because of the social connections I made from the book. Definitely not online connections, I didn’t have any social media until the last book came out. When I read the books, Harry and I were around the same age, and it was easily relatable. I think as educators we could make a point of bringing in familar things for students such as Harry Potter or another cultural phenomenon and use it as a tool to explain another concept. My undergraudate college actually offered a writing intensive literature course on Harry Potter. The instructor was able to take the excitement around the series and use it to explain literary concepts and improve students writing skills.

    • very cool! exactly same as what I experienced regarding Harry Potter! I really enjoyed your instructor exciting approach using Harry Potter as a base for further learning!

  5. I enjoyed reading this post a lot! I think there is little wiggle room in higher-Ed for the fun-way of learning. I am reminded, with some envy, of how 19th century philosophers in Europe could earn their PhDs: They would work for a few years on whatever interested them and then they would show up to a jury committee with a thesis showing they had done something “of value”. Compare that with the machinery that is now giving out degrees: Plans of study, specifically defined milestones, logging credit hours from a narrow set of choices for classes, etc. No wonder it kills all the joy out of education.

    • You mentioned a valuable point! PhD is losing its original meaning (philosophy as love of wisdom) and turning into some meaningless terms, another paper on the wall! Thank you for your insightful ideas!

  6. I really appreciate the idea that technology alone will not solve our problems. When it comes to these new inventive techniques, you need a teacher to guide the students to take advantage of the technology. Freedom without direction is also not a productive method for learning.

    I also really connect with the idea that when students are passionate about a subject, they put more effort into it. As instructors, we should try our best to spark the student’s passion in the topic.

    • Thank you for your reply! I am really interested to see how creative teachers will apply technology or other mediums to engage students interest in more abstract subjects such as math!

  7. I really enjoyed the approach that you took with this week’s reading. I do think that learning can be enjoyable, but it is dependent on how students are engaged.

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