Learning is a quintessential part of life. We learn everyday from every thing we do, but we can’t stand having to sit in a classroom and learn. I know I am not the only one who was forced to read “The Classics” in school, and then formed an aversion to them. It took a long time for me to get rid of the horrid taste in my mouth that would appear every time someone said ‘classics’.
It’s the paradoxical issue of learning. Try to make people learn and they turn and run. Several in my family have been teachers so It’s always a subject we end up discussing, and I inevitably end up analyzing afterwards. I don’t think I have the answer to improve upon teaching, but there is something I see and have experienced that might lead to finding that answer.
Brace yourselves folks, it’s story time…
Years back I stumbled upon an anime called Spice and Wolf. It was based off a series of Japanese novels. The story is set in a European-ish fantasy world and focuses on the life of a merchant named Kraft Lawrence who crosses paths with a 600 year old pagan wolf/harvest deity named Holo (Sometimes translated as Horo).
Some of you rolled your eyes when you heard the word ‘fantasy’, after all we are all aware of the cliches that get thrown around in fantasy stories. Swords, sorcery, castles, and dragons. However Spice and Wolf doesn’t touch on any of that. Instead it focuses on economics, bartering, and trade. The whole plot revolves around that. Lawrence would explain to Holo the various tactics for buying low and selling high, as well as stuff about bulk. value, supply, and demand. In doing so the audience also learns these things.
Granted, the term Accidental Learning is a misnomer since these things were intentionally put into the story. I call them that since it wasn’t the goal of the show to teach the audience that. Its only goal was to tell an entertaining story about these two characters. Because the intent was not to teach, it was able to focus on producing a quality product: An enjoyable story. Since the audience enjoyed the story, they remembered what was in it.
The opposite can be said for ‘educational video games’. Those were built from the ground up to educate and so don’t focus on story or enjoyment. Which is the reason those games/programs/shows do so poorly.
I believe this is an element that can be used in education….somehow. Perhaps it boils down to the audience simply enjoying it. It might be the quality of the product, or it could be that nothing is being forced upon them. It however will never be a replacement to traditional education, but perhaps it can get more people interested in the subject matter taught there.