There is an abundance of myths that have a deep impact on our perception of reality. We often hear things that are little more than superstition, and because of either the power of suggestion, or our want to accept that myth, it goes unchallenged into the recesses of our brain as "fact." One such myth is that learning needs to be fun.
I have heard many people judge the successfulness of a lesson plan based on the amount of fun that transpired because of it. Certainly it is easier to learn when you are having a good time and you are engaged but how important is it that students have "fun?" Certainly I do not want my students to be miserable, but how important is entertainment?
There seems to be an insatiable desire within many teachers to amuse their students, as if the goal of the class is for the teacher to feel appreciated. "Amuse" is actually a very interesting word because when broken down it becomes a - muse. "Muse" obviously means to think or ponder, while "a" is a prefix which negates. Thus making the word amuse to literally mean "to not think." This gives me a whole new appreciation for the words "amusement park."
But is it true that if students are having fun then they are not thinking? My answer: not always. However, I think that true learning is not always fun, and if it is, or if that is our constant goal as teachers, we are doing our students a terrible disservice. Learning to ride a bike (at least in my case) was not tremendous fun. The hard pavement made sure that the learning process was difficult. Similar to the training wheels on a bike, fun enables you to get going, but it ultimately prevents you from experiencing the real thing. That is not a perfect analogy, but I hope it makes some sense.
Staying up until 1am in order to read about the life and literary career of Herman Melville is difficult, not fun. Even though he is a favorite author of mine, the learning process is not always fun. True learning can also challenge our preconceptions of the world which is a very difficult thing. If you read a piece of literature which challenges your idea of what truth is, this is not always a fun realization, and takes a significant amount of internal conflict to resolve.
The distinction between amusement and instruction is especially important when discussing the use of technology in the classroom. In my opinion teachers need to use technology where it enhances pedagogy and engages students. Yes, fun can be apart of engaging students, but it should not take priority over all else. Learning is not always fun, and we as teachers should provide students with that truth. Students I have talked to often think that it is the responsibility of the teacher to make a lesson entertaining. This puts a lot of stress on the teacher but it is also a form of disingenuousness with the students because it misrepresents how difficult and "unfun" the learning process can be.