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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Can education really be fun?

I’ve been reading, and pondering Ewan’s post about bringing games and fun into secondary education. Can we really bring play into the main part of our teaching? Play, by definition, seems to be what we do when work is done.

It’s true that if we can add an element of fun to our teaching, things go more smoothly. On the very simplest level, announcing that we will play a game when this activity is over, frequently galvanises even the most lethargic pupil into action.

But games aren’t just about competition. What exactly are they? What is play?

Play is pretending. It’s about trying something out, free from the anxiety that what you do will have a permanent effect. Children play naturally. They play at schools, at work, at being grown ups.

Play and failure really are closely related. Play gives you the permission to fail without there being disastrous consequences.

This is why, when we want to give ‘authentic’ experiences to children, we need to take care that this constitutes a risk which adds excitement, and is carefully structured to maximise success. We choose tasks which we know they can achieve, but won’t necessarily achieve immediately.

There is a tension between school and the real world. And there is a tension between play and real. But tension provides a wonderfully elastic basis for some really brilliant bungee jumps!

How can we use this in education?

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