I saw an animated cartoon the other day online when I was “stumbling upon.” It summed up one of the things I believe about learning and that is that we learn the best when we are in a state of flow–when it doesn’t feel like we are learning, but we are. The example they used is a guy who hated school and ended up dropping out. Then his father offered to give him a motorcycle for his 16th birthday if he could get it running. He was so excited about the motorcycle that he learned everything he could about it by reading, inquiring, talking to people, and experimenting with trial and error. He felt a true personal purpose for what he was learning and ultimately didn’t see it as a struggle. He was unwilling to give up until he succeeded. He enacted the habit of minds that lead to great learning experiences, including persistence, curiosity and resourcefulness. It’s brain-based research made accessible. In the end of the video, this guy grows up to want to be a teacher so that he could create this flow and exciting learning opportunity for his students.
This scenario illustrates that a powerful learning experience for any human is one that has purpose for the individual, one that he is interested in pursuing, even if it is difficult. In these situations, students engage in the academic behaviors needed to truly learn.