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'Making learning fun' does a disservice to our kids

Esther J. Cepeda on

Which brings me to my absolute favorite thing about Boser's book. It plainly states something that teacher-preparation programs, education technology corporations and practically the whole educational-industrial complex have been trying to deny for years: Learning isn't always fun.

In fact, a lot of times, it's hard work! And that's OK.

"I ran into a math professor who actually put it really well and argued that it being hard is what makes the learning fun," Boser told me. "I was actually surprised that I didn't get more pushback on how many times I brought up the idea of cognitive struggle in the book. In fact, it has spurred some great conversations about how we can view the difficulty of learning as part of the enjoyment; of making the difficulty part of the reward."

Those words are like manna from heaven to me as a teacher in a society that has convinced education professionals, parents and, most of all, kids, that learning should exclusively be an easy stream of fun, laughs and joy.

It isn't all giggles. But "Learn Better" offers a host of frameworks, strategies and tips for acquiring new knowledge -- whether it be collaborating on projects for school, learning a new skill at work, or improving your basketball game -- faster, better and in such a way that you'll retain what you've learned for longer.

Most of these revolve around "metacognition" -- the practice of thinking about how you think and understanding how you come to understand things. It basically boils down to planning your learning and then monitoring your progress.

--Sponsored Video--

Metacognition is filtering its way from social-science research journals and into classrooms and corporate training programs across the country. And as it does, it's helpfully discarding tired, old practices such as mindless text annotation and the highlighting of vocabulary terms. It's also debunking the new, common belief that deep learning can be powered by a quick Google search.

It's the end of January, folks. Most people's New Year's resolutions bite the dust by Groundhog Day. But if you're determined to learn a new language, pass an entrance exam or step up your tennis game (or piano playing), "Learn Better" will help you get there.

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Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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