Another dot in the blogosphere?

Important things cannot really be taught, they must be caught!

Posted on: May 2, 2014

It is sometimes said that the most difficult learners to teach are teachers. As a teacher educator, I should know.

Most people would say this is because teachers are adult learners. But for me, the only difference between andragogy and pedagogy is that adult learners have more life experiences.

Experience is a double-edged sword. It can be used to cut apart every new experience that comes their way. But it can also provide rich context for new seeds to take root.

I have been conducting game-based learning experiences for the last seven years. I rely on off-the-shelf and mobile games to facilitate topics such as:

  • self-directed learning
  • collaborative learning
  • change management principles
  • game-based learning

While the topics are different, I use exactly the same games and the same five or six learning stations. I walk the talk that you can teach just about anything with just about any game. A tool might define a task, but it is the tool master that determines what it does.

That said, I have noticed different behaviours among the many groups of people I have tried to influence (teachers, managers, leaders; folks from schools, institutes of higher education, military, private sector).

The group I just worked with was an interesting bunch. This was a group of teachers from one school who have been identified as change agents. They are a mix of classroom teachers, managers, and leaders. I am hoping to work with them later in their school to effect change.

They were with me for the last three weeks to experience ICT-mediated change management principles. I used games as a context for change and a shared experience from which to extract change management principles.

After the first session, I noticed that the teachers who arrived earlier than their colleagues would start playing games at the stations without being told to or even without permission. I was not miffed, of course, because that is one things games do: They pull people in, and as a result, participants learn something whether they want to or not!

One week, I heard one participant tell his peers that he looked for a few of the games online and played them on his own time. The school is paying me for my services, but you cannot really pay for that kind of response.

I take offense at people who are dismissive of activities that are “all just fun and games”. Learning can and should be fun. But fun does not mean that it is easy. Ask any of my workshop or course participants and they will tell you I put them through mental and emotional wringers!

Games are a natural extension of learning and to dismiss our nature is to deny powerful opportunities to teach and learn.

One of my favourite quotes is: We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. It has been attributed to a variety of famous men: Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Lee, and Bernard Shaw.

No matter who said it, it is something I believe in. It keeps me mentally fresh and open to change. I do not just think about change, I live and breathe it. People see that and I think it is infectious. That is why I believe that important things cannot really be taught. They must be caught.

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