They’re having fun… but are they learning?
MIT Media Lab Learning Initiative

Unfortunately, our society has come to believe that a “number” attached to something is “more true” than other forms of assessment. Learning can not be measured in any meaningful way. The only “measurable” learning is knowledge that is demonstrable through words or skills. Many other parts of the acquisition of knowledge are “non-literate.”

However, learning can be assessed using many proven qualitative methods — some as simple as observation. For example, I once watched a 3-year-old in a play-based preschool filling a plastic bottle with water and pouring it through a toy water wheel. There were no adults telling him what to do or making suggestions. It was a “play” activity that he had chosen. He filled the bottle and poured…over and over…not at all distracted by 15 other 3-years-olds engaged in a variety of activities around him. After 20 minutes, he filled his bottle, stuck his finger into the mill and pushed down a lever. As he poured the water through, the wheel turned in the opposite direction. He did it once more to confirm his hypothesis. Then, having learned what he wanted to learn, he took off for other opportunities. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that significant learning had taken place — but there was NO way to “measure” it.

Why do people think that “having fun” doesn’t involve learning? For children, learning IS fun!