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Fun index page

This is an index page to my documents on analysing the concept of fun, and other concepts on which to build it.

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Around 1999 I was invited to give a talk on fun. I produced and published a short paper, but worked on a much longer version which I abandoned around 2002.

My views in brief

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.

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.


Doing Learning
The goal is:
The product
The goal is:
The process
Work Play
Realism, authenticity Discovering "what if?"
The pleasure is:
Succeeding in getting it done (self-efficacy)
The pleasure is:
Finding out (curiosity)