The interest in applying fun and/or computer games to education mostly comes
from two opposing memories with strong emotion: on the one hand, struggling to
force ourselves to learn and hating it; and on the other, times of spending
hours on something we love and learning huge amounts with no pain.
However it does not follow that because some learning occurs with pleasure and
no pain that therefore all learning could be without pain.
A contrary view to meditate upon (which I have appropriated from Terry Mayes)
goes like this. Piaget says there are two phases of learning: assimilation,
and accommodation. The former is when you attach more and more facts and cases
to a well-established schema, as when a football fan reads the scores and
effortless remembers many of them. The latter is when you have to abandon
ideas and concepts (e.g. prior misconceptions), and rebuild quite other ones.
Terry suggests that assimilation is pleasurable, accommodation is painful.
Since we need both even to develop normally as a child, much less to do well in
HE, we can't expect learning to be pleasurable for all or most of the time.
These 4 points are illustrated diagrammatically in these
slides. You might want to have the
slides up in a companion window while you read the bullet points.
Fun is pleasurable play: that is, done to satisfy some intrinsic motivation.
Play is activity defined by a process which is
undertaken to discover what the result will be (not for the material result
itself, if any).
Play will result in discovery i.e. learning,
but is often undertaken for other reasons.
Similarly, much learning does not involve play.
Learning by exploration (LBE) is one of the two great modes of learning
that pre-existed organised education (the other being narrative). This is
essentially play-like, and it may well be that some disciplines do not use it
enough. But it is unlikely that everything could be learned in that way.
We might take Direct Manipulation (see references in my Fun papers), and
"flow", as highly compatible with LBE or even as names for different facets of
the same thing. So there is learning mileage to be had; but probably not a
single universal solution.
Learning and doing
Everything a person does, they learn at least a tiny bit from.
Everything a person learns, is associated with some doing.
But there is a big difference in whether their goal for the activity was to
accomplish the doing, or to accomplish the learning.
And enjoyment doesn't in fact belong more to one than the other.
The goal is: The product
The goal is: The process
Discovering "what if?"
The pleasure is: Succeeding in getting it done (self-efficacy)