A friend of mine had posted this video on her Facebook account:
Disclosure: I love VW. I blame my brother. He repairs and repaints old vans, beetles, jettas, etc. He and his wife currently own 4 VWs!
People weren’t taking the stairs because it is more work than taking the escalator and (unless people are concerned about their health) there is no benefit for choosing to take the stairs instead. As I watched it, I was thinking of how it applies to the world of education. Students might choose the easy way out if it gets them the same result in the end. Either way, the people taking the escalator still get to the top! Once the keyboard was added to the stairs, not only were people taking the stairs, but they were actually creating even more work for themselves by jumping around between steps and running up and down, etc. By making an activity more enjoyable, people will spend more time doing it and actually put in more effort.
As far as the classroom goes, I don’t think this means everything needs to be “fun” per se, but there needs to be an opportunity to take an activity to another level and get to what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi refers to as flow. Flow is when someone’s skills are balanced with the challenge of the activity to create a space where the individual is completely immersed in the activity and feels energized by taking part in it. By getting our students to this stage, they will naturally enjoy the activity. That doesn’t mean the same thing as having fun, it is something much more satisfying than that. Of course this is just a very brief summary of Flow, considering Csíkszentmihályi wrote an entire book on the concept! If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest it.
The concept of flow also reminds me of Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. I always find it interesting to explore the areas of overlap among different theories. The activity must become increasingly challenging as an individual’s skills improve otherwise they will become bored. On the other hand, if it is too challenging they will feel anxious and will be unable to achieve flow. I am looking forward to finding ways to incorporate flow type activities in my teaching. Do you have activities that you think create flow in your students? How would you measure this?