When I look back to a couple of years ago, I would start my class with a funny YouTube video or a funny website. I believed that these videos and sites convinced students that what I was about to teach was worth learning. Unfortunatly, I was being decieved by this notion.
Students want and need to have fun, however not at the expense of learning. I believe true student engagement can be fun, but it doesn't have to be. Recently, I have asked some of my students which of the two enviornments would they prefer:
Option 1: A class where you laugh and joke, watch funny videos, but do not understand the concepts being presented
Option 2: A class that is very structured where no jokes are allowed, but you can completely apply the knowledge and concepts you have learned.
Most either said option 2 or a mix between the two classes. Not one student picked option 1. As educators we need to realize we are not doing our students or ourselves a favour by showing non-relevant material in class. The question then is “How do we engage students on learning and allow them to also have fun?” The answer is simple; create activities that relate to the outcomes not to entertainment.
To introduce non-permissible values in math, I showed an example on how 1 could equal 2. I then asked the students to find the mistake.
The mistake is at one step you have to divide by 0 which is breaking the law in the world of math. Was this task as fun as showing a video where a kid runs into a stop sign? Absolutely not, however this task was more meaningful to the students. As teachers, we are not entertainers but educators, and sometimes we need to be reminded of this.