What's the impact of fun in learning? Educators feel the pressure to constantly make learning enjoyable, engaging, and effective. But is it really worth the effort? In this article, we'll delve into what fun looks like in learning, explore ten ways to make a learning experience enjoyable, and discuss how to cater to different definitions of fun.
The Importance of Fun in Learning
We recently hosted a Desklight Dinner with a group of 12 education and learning enthusiasts, and we posed this question, "Does learning need to be fun?"
How would you answer that question?
I loved the response from someone at the table who said, "Skiing is super fun for me. But someone else may hate skiing. What's fun for one person isn't always fun for the other person." This caused us to explore how we can make learning fun when fun is subjective. So how do you build fun into learning when something exciting to one person may not engage another?
Learning is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Some learners may find delight in humor, while others prefer the thrill of competition in games. To create meaningful learning experiences, it's important to appreciate this diversity and cater to various definitions of fun. Many of the participants at the dinner pointed to Project-Based Learning (PBL) as their go-to when looking to create a sense of fun while providing learners with different options to fit their preferences.
We also spent some time thinking about when it benefits learners for learning to NOT be fun. Learning new skills and gaining knowledge is often challenging. Does that challenge mean the learning isn't fun? How can fun help ease the challenge so students are eager to "hit the slopes" again and again even after they fall?
The Research on Fun in Learning
In case you're now feeling like the only way to engage your learners is to layer your curriculum with an elaborate song and dance to keep your content riveting, don't leave just yet. Educators have a hard enough job, so it may feel unrealistic to be expected to inject fun into every lesson plan.
But fun actually makes the learning experience more enjoyable and effective for everyone involved. Fun has a positive effect on motivation, curiosity, and retention, meaning an emphasis on fun has the ability to boost your efforts and help make your lessons stick. Here's some research to back this up:
- The Journal of Experimental Education found that students scored higher on tests when the lecturer used humor in their lessons.
- Neurologist Judy Willis showed that fun experiences increase levels of dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen, which boost learning.
- A study for the Journal of Vocational Behavior found that employees are more likely to try new things if their work environment is fun.
- Researchers like Dulay & Burt and Krashen, have found that people learn better when they’re feeling strong positive emotions.
We've also seen fun boost learning experiences in our work. We worked with a national publisher to identify the impacts of gamification on learning. The impact of games on learning proved to be beneficial for both students and teachers as it kept everyone engaged and excited to participate.
10 Ways to Have Fun in Learning
Don't worry, you don't have to do it all on your own! We're here to help with 10 ways to spark fun in your learning experiences:
Incorporating humor in the learning process can be a powerful tool to engage learners. A well-placed joke or a funny anecdote can break the monotony and make the content more relatable and memorable.
Learning with Laughter
Pixar Animation Studios uses humor to educate. In their "Pixar in a Box" program, they employ humor to teach animation and storytelling, making the learning process entertaining and engaging.
As we identified in the beginning of this article, variety is the spice of life...and learning! Offering diverse learning activities, resources, and approaches keeps learners engaged and curious. Switching between text, video, group discussions, and hands-on activities adds excitement to the learning journey.
Learning Through Multimodal Experiences
The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) offers diverse exhibits, interactive displays, and live demonstrations to cater to various learning styles. The variety keeps visitors of all ages engaged and excited about science.
Encourage learners to explore their creative side. Assign projects that allow for artistic expression, imaginative thinking, or problem-solving. Creative tasks can transform mundane subjects into engaging experiences.
The LEGO Group has transformed learning through creativity. With products like LEGO Mindstorms, they encourage students to build and program robots, merging creativity and learning in an enjoyable way.
Provide learners with choices, whether it's the topic they want to explore or the method they prefer to learn. Choices empower learners to take ownership of their education, making it more enjoyable.
Coursera provides learners with the freedom to choose from a vast array of online courses, allowing them to explore subjects that genuinely interest them and take charge of their learning journey.
Gamification is a proven method to make learning fun. Integrating elements of competition, rewards, and challenges can turn a traditional curriculum into an engaging adventure.
Learning through Gamification
Duolingo gamifies language learning by incorporating point systems, levels, and competitions. Learners have fun while honing their language skills in a playful and competitive environment.
For learners who thrive on physical activity, incorporate movement into your lessons. Encourage them to stand, stretch, or participate in physical experiments to maintain engagement.
Outward Bound offers adventure-based learning programs that require physical activity. These activities help participants develop teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills in an active and enjoyable way.
Practical experiences are often more enjoyable than passive learning. Hands-on activities, experiments, or simulations allow learners to interact directly with the subject matter, making it more memorable.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago allows visitors to engage in hands-on experiments and interactive displays. It transforms complex scientific concepts into interactive learning experiences.
Harness the power of technology to make learning fun. Virtual reality, interactive simulations, and educational apps can transform traditional content into immersive experiences.
Interactive Learning Tools
Rosetta Stone leverages technology to make language learning enjoyable. Their immersive language learning platform uses multimedia and interactive exercises to engage learners.
Relate Lessons to Real-Life Hobbies and Interests
One of the most effective ways to engage learners is by connecting the content to their real-life hobbies and interests. This personal relevance can turn a subject into a passion project.
Making it Relatable
Khan Academy Kids incorporates relatable themes and characters, making learning fun and engaging for young children. It connects educational content to their everyday interests.
Surprise and intrigue learners with something new and unexpected. Introducing novel concepts, guest speakers, or field trips can spark excitement and curiosity.
Mystery Science delivers science lessons with a sense of mystery. By adding unexpected elements to their lessons, they pique students' curiosity and keep them engaged.
Solving for Different Definitions of Fun in Learning
The key to accommodating diverse definitions of fun in learning lies in personalization and flexibility. Here are some strategies to ensure that learners of all types can enjoy the learning experience:
Assessment: Conduct surveys, interviews, or observations to understand the preferences of your learners.
Mix and Match: Use different elements of humor, variety, and creativity into your curriculum, so there's something for everyone.
Choice-Based Learning: Allow learners to choose their preferred methods of learning or topics of interest. This autonomy can enhance motivation and enjoyment, leading to a greater sense of fun.
Feedback Loop: Continuously gather feedback from learners to refine your teaching methods. What they find fun today might change tomorrow, so stay adaptable.
Not Sure Where to Start?
At Desklight, we believe that making learning fun is an essential part of creating meaningful learning experiences. If you would like to add more fun into your learning experiences, but you're not quite sure where to start, reach out to us at email@example.com. We help organizational leaders like you understand exactly what their learners want so they can build learning experiences that are impactful, effective...and FUN!