Making Learning Fun!
More Than Learning by Dr. Linda Crismon
When you are in school studying how to become a teacher, you learn a lot about educational psychology theories, educational methodologies, and instructional methods. What no one seems to tell you is how important it is to make learning fun for students.
After teaching in higher education for over 20 years, I have learned that a key ingredient in helping students get motivated is to make learning fun. This is the one key element that I have not had to change when I am teaching students across different cultures. By and large, students seem to appreciate the effort I put in trying to make content engaging, meaningful, and enjoyable.
Here are some practical examples of how I make my online classes fun and engaging. As soon as I start my online class, I ask students to turn on their cameras. I know that this may seem silly, but I promise you, this is the first step you need to take when you are connecting with students. I respect that some people don’t like to be on camera and I don’t force it. Having said this, my argument is, how can I connect with students if I can’t see them?
Then I ask students to share something. It could be about the class or it could be about their work, or even something personal. By doing so, I am creating a cohesive classroom climate that helps students open up, relax, and feel comfortable. Of course, it also helps me to get to know them better. This is another aspect of how I can make learning fun, which is to get to know my students so that I can tap into their intrinsic motivation.
The next thing I do is that I share something. This helps students relate to me and tells them something about me. I sometimes have students ping me directly commenting on what I said, which tells me that I am succeeding in building rapport with my students.
I also do my best to model what I am teaching and I have to admit, I have so much fun doing it. I especially love it when students actually realize that they have ‘experienced’ what I am trying to teach them, and they have an ‘aha’ moment. I teach teacher preparation courses, and I believe the best way to show teachers how to teach is by modeling.
Another thing I do is acknowledge the long day they have had and how tired they must be, but I ask them to bear with me and I help them see the return on investment and how important it is to focus. I teach graduate education courses, so most of my classes are in the evening. Although I am saying that I am also tired, I am very energetic. I am the performer on the stage, just like I would be in a physical classroom. I am always smiling. I can’t tell you how many times I have connected with students because of my smile. Students respond to kindness and empathy. Humor is also integral to the learning process. Make students laugh and see how they open up and learn. Listen to them, to their needs. Understand where they are coming from and lead them to where you want to take them. It is a learning journey. It has its ups and downs. But try your best to make it enjoyable. Try to relieve their stress. Try to be there for them. Those simple gestures go a long way.
You might be asking yourself, who am I and why am I writing this blog. Well, my name is Linda Crismon and I have dedicated my academic career to researching and enhancing students’ learning experiences. I also lead Unicon’s Learning eXperience Design (LXD) practice, bringing joyful learning experiences to the market.
This blog started from a conversation I had with my CEO. I was sharing with him what a student had said to me during my last class. He thanked me for making the online class so fun and engaging. I was telling my CEO, the key to my success as a teacher is that I make learning fun, I connect with my students, and I really care about them and their success.
At that moment, I realized that in addition to writing for academic journals and publishing articles, I want to start writing a monthly blog to share my experiences as an educator in a less formal way.
So take care, stay safe, and let us all work together to make learning fun!