What’s wrong with having fun while learning?

I don’t have issue with learning being fun. The question asks “what are your beliefs about learning?” It doesn’t say adult learning so it is inclusive of children and youth. I worked with children from K-12 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), the younger ages learned from having fun (Scavenger hunts, the Blanket Exercise, games/scenarios) and the older ages learned through exploration and self discovery (study tables, exploring exhibits).

But why can’t leaning be fun or playful for adults? Why not have fun? Some of my favourite and motivating learning moments have occurred while having fun or being playful or playing games. The best part is you can have fun and than realize it was actually about learning when you reflect on it afterwards.

The Marshmallow Challenge

I participated in the Marshmallow Challenge as part of a meeting of 200+ IT staff at UofM.

The Marshmallow Challenge has a simple task: “in eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top.”

It was playful and social fun building a creative solution to solve a problem. And I learned quite a bit: how to work collaboratively in teams (social learning), how to communicate ideas to others (social learning), how to quickly design a creative solution to a posed problem (innovative design, agile design, design thinking), how to rapidly build prototypes for evaluation and testing (rapid prototyping), how to utilize a development model: analyze, ideate, build, test. But it was also fun and we had some hilarious moments.

But the big takeaway from this exercise is that kindergarten children are far more successful than anyone else at building the tallest and most creative structures. They spend more time playing and building successive prototypes rather than one. The people who perform the worse are recent business school grads who spend most of their time planning a single solution and then executing the plan. The kids start by sticking spaghetti in the marshmallow and build down. Business students run out of time and quickly stick the marshmallow to the top in the remaining seconds.

The Marshmallow Challenge: What We Can Learn From Kindergarten Students About Team Collaboration

I tried in vain to find a way to replicate this exercise for online environments for an activity for our 21stC Skills course for the Creativity unit.

Virtual Realities

I spend a significant amount of time in virtual realities: online, in apps, video games, Virtual and Augmented Realities. I was recently engaged to be the Instructional Designer at RRC for VR and AR with a focus on partnering with industry for training.

We started with painting and building and walking through prototypes. So we explored to understand the possibilities and potentials offered by these enhanced realities, Or, put another way, we started by having fun and being playful.


About jhounslow

Soccer enthusiast, cyclist, web developer, e-learning professional, educator, husband to a graduate student, and father of four daughters.
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