Fun and learning

Last week I was invited to give a seminar to OUCS and rather than a more usual games talk, I decided to consider the role of fun in learning. This is a topic that seems to come up regularly at meetings and events I attend, and one that polarises opinion, so I thought it might get some interesting discussion going. I wasn’t disappointed.

Regarding fun and learning, my argument (much truncated) is as follows:

  • The concept of ‘fun’ is a red herring because it is too difficult to define, subjective, contextual, and there is little evidence (beyond the GBL rhetoric) that learners (and teachers) actually want learning to be fun.
  • Instead, we should be focusing on: a) better understanding the nature of engagement and what we can learn from games that can be applied to education; and b) instilling a sense of playfulness in learning and supporting a culture of curiosity and experimentation.

The presentation slides are available here.


  1. Tom Franklin

    Why is playfulness any more “objective” than “fun” or “engagement”

  2. nicola (Post author)

    Ah Tom, I’ve missed important nuances of the presentation.

    a) I argue that engagement can be objective, and show one model for understanding and measuring engagement.

    b) Playfulness doesn’t need to be objective, it is a philosophical approach to learning.

    Simples. If you need more clarification I’ll let you buy me a pint and explain it to you ;o)

  3. Richard Millwood

    Nicola – forgive me for referencing a post I made on the subject of delight. I find using that word, rather than fun, helpful and John Heron (referenced in my post) helped me to explain how delight works and when it is likely to be present. As for measuring…

  4. nicola (Post author)

    Hi Richard – thanks for that :o) I think the poster will be going on my wall!

    Where does ‘love of novelty’ fit in? It’s not quite the same as ‘love of potential’… and what about ‘love of surprise’?

  5. Richard Millwood

    Agreed – and ‘love of being puzzled’? They perhaps surround Heron’s ‘interest – the love of knowledge’, but deserve their own articulation because I think it would help the practitioner think of ways to delight and the inquirer, ways to explain it when observed. I think I am going to do another workshop with others like-minded someday soon and enhance the poster, which started life with only six (and I could make it a little more delightful too – its become a bit of a table…).

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