HAVING FUN WHILE LEARNING
BY: AMOS TSAY
Without incorporating fun into one’s learning, the learning process will generally be very tedious and the student will be less motivated. It is therefore the responsibility of the teacher to make the teaching as interactive and fun as possible. Teachers that students and parents appreciate the most are those that can create an educational program by providing many supplementary teaching tools, teaching vividly by telling jokes or even linking the topics to everyday life.
Recently, I read a shocking article about some Korean students who studied 18 hours a day ever since they were young up until university. They attended all the extra-help sessions that were available to them all year long, barely getting any breaks in between including during the winter and summer. Even after university, the graduates went to supplementary schools, spending the whole year to prepare for exams and interviews either for graduate school or for their next potential job. All throughout their life, the students did not experience any fun. When asked what their most fun and memorable experience was of their childhood, most students answered that they had none, spending the majority of their time studying.
Tiger moms are quite common among Asian families. Some mothers fill their kids’ weekly schedules with so many activities that the kids are often overwhelmed. I am often asked whether or not this type of scheduling is too tight for their kids and my response is quite simple – it depends on the kid’s character. But one thing that is certain is that a lot of observation and communication with the kids is required – are they happy when they take part in the activities that are planned for them?
So how do we make learning fun? The key is mixing in the play aspect so that the work doesn’t feel like work but like a game.
“Unraveling the myths about gaming” was a topic that I wrote before talking about four kinds of myths. ( Some parents are afraid of their kids getting addicted to videogames so the solution for this worry is for parents to accompany, play, chat or even study with the kids especially those without any siblings.
In North America, kids generally have plenty of time to do what they want after they come home from school. No matter the circumstances, kids can come up with ideas for games and learn about the world naturally. When I was young, I played a lot of marble and card games, fished for frogs in the pond but ended up catching a snake and raised a bunch of different pets including silkworms. I also used to catch fish while sitting in a tree by using a long stick while gathering nearby fruits. These experiences that could only be made where I lived made the city kids quite jealous.
Three criteria are needed to combine fun and learning.
1) Let your kids experience, be inspired and view things from as many different perspectives as possible. They can create their own games and compete against each other or just enjoy one another’s company over a board game bought from a store. I remember when my son was five years old, I taught him many edutainment software. Later on, as the better he got, he was able to demonstrate the programs on the computer in front of many Montessori teachers and impressing them. Mahjong and bridge are very common games that are played by older people in the Asian community that can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. These games work on combination and permutation in probability and train memory and logic. Blokus and chess are other games that can train strategic analysis and logic. Games suitable for younger kids include colour code where they can practice their abilities of combining different colours, shapes as well as their logic.
2) Increase the complexity of the games to increase the response and to diversify the points of view and management capability. A board game published by the author of “Rich Dad and Poor Dad” is very good in teaching wealth management to teenagers. Mastermind can train one’s logic and probability either by playing against the computer or against another person using the physical board game. Superkids is currently developing a video, educational game that can be played by 5-20 people simultaneously to apply Speedybee 2.0 in training one’s arithmetic calculations.
3) Extend from play to travel. Every year, many schools organize field trips to visit museums, theaters and even overseas cultural trips. The theme parks in Disney world in Florida are a great way to have fun while learning. For instance, Epcot centre is great for learning the trends of the future and for inspiring imagination while Animal Kingdom is great for learning about nature and animals. Another learning opportunity is giving kids a budget for their trip and letting them learn about scheduling and keeping track of their expenses from filling up gas, tickets to the parks, food and hotel.
A highly-ranked Google manager is known to play Google search with his kid to train his ability to question what is presented to him and analyzing it. For example when they read an internet news article showing a picture of a giant on Mars, they competed to see who could verify the accuracy of this news faster. In the end, they found a link to NASA’s website which said that the news was false.
As we all know, lifelong learning is crucial and could be more exciting if we integrated fun in all aspects of life: fun and music, fun and sports, fun with school. In order to apply fun and learning together in our summer camp, students can learn through e-tutoring software by individual progress and play educational games to train their language and math skills.
Amos Tsay is the president and founder of Superkids e-Tutoring Center with 30 years of experience in education. He is also a publisher of many math books, the inventor of the I.C.E learning method and the founder of FQAA (Foundation of Quebec Academic Achievement) – a non-profit organization.