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Does Making Learning Fun Make for Good Learning?

Jordan Ryder Pros: At any age, learning can be difficult and even boring, but it doesnt have to be. Each student has their own interests and some classes will be easier or more fun than others. Many students will question when they will use different topics in the real world and how it will matter in their life. Being able to connect education and real life experiences can help show students how exactly they can and will use certain aspects in the real world and in their future endeavors. Instead of reading mass amounts of texts or listening to hours of lecture, learning-by-doing is generally considered the most effective way to learn. Whether its learning state names and facts or the intricacies of algebra, calculus and geometry, [learning] can be [a] fun, and authentic experience. There are many different authentic ways in which to construct a lesson, some simple and some complex. The Internet and a variety of emerging communication, visualization, and simulation technologies now make it possible to offer students authentic learning experiences ranging from experimentation to real-world problem solving. One lesson an 8th grade class was involved in was a simulation created by the teachers where students were all divided into groups and formed their own countries. Each country had to choose a name, symbol, national flower, and bird. They wrote and sang a national anthem and elected government officials. The teachers allocated different resources to the countries. To get all the materials needed for the completion of assigned projects, the countries had to establish trade with one another. There was a monetary system and a stock market. Students had to work with their fellow citizens to

complete cooperative learning assignments. Some countries cheated in their trades with other nations, and this allowed debate about international relations, trust, and war. Another simulation that used technology was the ReMath project using newly developed teaching aids, in the form of software tools known as Dynamic Digital Artefacts (DDAs), and a comprehensive set of Pedagogical Plans for teachers to use within the guidelines of national education curricula. Some use traditional mathematical representations while others are more like interactive games that show the role math plays in the real world. One ReMath coordinator states, The tools are designed to make students think and help them learn how math works in the real world in a way that is fun and engaging. The benefits as students showed more interest in class and found it easier to grasp difficult mathematical concepts. One common factor these simulations have is student interest and curiosity. Although some students have a general interest in these two subjects, presenting information in a different and interactive manner can spark curiosity. Curiosity can be a powerful motivational tool that captures and maintains students attention. Through curiosity comes interest and greater interest leads to more positive emotional response to material, greater persistence, deeper processing, better remembering of material, and higher achievement. Cons: Facilitating a students interests in a subject by adding in fun details may work to hold a students interest, but doesnt necessarily mean a student will remember the important details. For example, students who read biographies of historical figures remembered more interestingbut unimportant-information compared to interesting main ideas. In another study , 4 experiments [were conducted with results of] students who read expository passages with seductive details (i.e., interesting but irrelevant adjuncts) recalled significantly fewer main ideas

and generated significantly fewer problem-solving transfer solutions than those who read passages without seductive details. So, does adding in glitz and glamour to the nitty gritty of learning prove effective? Many people would argue against it calling such practices an addition of seductive details to entice the interest, and minimize effective learning. Seductive details may do their damage by interfering with any of the three cognitive processes that lead to effective text comprehension: selecting, organizing, or integrating. On the basis of this analysis, three plausible theoretical explanations for the seductive details effect are (a) the distraction hypothesis, that is, that seductive details guide readers* selective attention away from the main ideas; (b) the disruption hypothesis, that is, that seductive details interfere with the building of an organized mental model of the causal chain; and (c) the diversion hypothesis, that is, that seductive details activate inappropriate prior knowledge. By focusing on the task at hand, teachers can help students set mastery goals to not only become more invested in their work, but focus on personal challenges. Many authentic learning simulations allow for student competition amongst each other and can steer focus away from the actual tasks at hand. Developing individual mastery goals, students are not worried about how their performance measures up in comparison to the others in class. In addition, they are more likely to seek appropriate help, use deeper cognitive processing strategies, apply better study strategies, and generally approach academic tasks with confidence. My Position: I believe that making learning fun and using authentic learning methods is a great way to utilize the tools and resources available to todays teachers.

Maturity levels of the students can have a big effect on which authentic style you use, but ultimately can be utilized to result in a better understanding of certain subject matter. Younger students may not be able to effectively utilize certain technology, but can absolutely benefit from being involved in activities like the 8th grade country simulation mentioned before. Tapping into a students creative world can give them the opportunity to take factual knowledge they already learned and explore different ways to communicate that knowledge. Authentic learning also allows students the opportunity of coming across new challenges and new learning opportunities. In elementary school, most students are in an environment where they are with the same students every day and are taught almost every subject by the same teacher. This can be a beneficial scenario to allow students to be involved in interactive learning roles within the classroom and within different subjects. Ongoing class projects can tie in different subject matters and give students a real-life scenario where they are learning educational tasks as well as real-world mannerisms. In middle school, and especially high school, students can utilize the advanced technological programs that are available today. These programs are not only beneficial to realworld experience, but can sometimes be more cost effective. For science classes, programs are so advanced that 3D models are used for dissection and also allows more flexibility than a real frog or pig used previous to technological advances. Flexibility is one attribute that teachers need to account for when utilizing these approaches. Each class is not going to be the same, and real world distractions like fire alarms or extra curriculars demand flexibility. In the case of 3D

dissection models, students can save progress and come back later, whereas an actual animal used for dissection is a perishable product and needs to be used in a timely manner. Other technological simulations can be used for projects such as math and business. I have used simulations like these for classes and have actually learned a lot from them. The lessons arent purely simulation, but are used as a tool in connecting lecture to real world experience. As lectures become more involved, the simulation rounds allow for more options and to grow as a learning process. It also creates competition among classmates. Competition can be argued both ways, but I believe that competition can be a tool not only to encourage students to be involved in their learning, but prepare them for lifes disappointments. In the real world, not everyone wins, but it is important to try and do your best. Activities should be monitored throughout checkpoints of simulations and allow for each student to have an opportunity to succeed. Although, not every group will be number one in the activity they have room to take what they learn each week and improve within their own successes. After any authentic activity, I believe there should be a period to discuss or an assignment focused on reflection. This allows students to look at their experience and reflect on what they have learned, what they understand, what they still dont understand, and how they can use this information in the real world.

Bibliography 1. Harp, S., & Mayer, R. (1998). How Seductive Details Do Their Damage: A Theory of Cognitive Interest in Science Learning. Journal of Education Psychology, 90(3), 414-434. 2. Harp, S., & Mayer, R. (1997). The Role of Interest and Learning From Scientific Texts and Illustrations: On the Distinction Between Emotional Interest and Cognitive Interest. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 92-102. 3. ICT Results. (2010, February 24). Digital Teaching Aids make mathematics fun. Science Daily. Retrieved June 4th, 2013 from 4. Lombardi, M. (May 2007). Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview. EduCause Learning Initiative. Retrieved June 2013 from 5. Woolfolk, A., (2013). Educational Psychology. 12th Edition. Pearson Education Inc.