Welcome Address

Garr Reynolds

Professor at Kansai Gaidai, Honorary Principal, Established Author and Keynote Speaker

Great education is great entertainment.

I have always said that good teachers—like good presenters—are in a sense entertainers and that great education was great entertainment. This idea was reinforced for me when I worked at Apple’s head office in Silicon Valley many years ago. At that time, I met many software developers of educational computer programs. One of the challenges they said in the development of educational applications is that the material had to be presented in a way that was entertaining and stimulating to the users. If the material is too easy, the user gets bored. But if the material is too difficult, the user feels discouraged and may give-up. This is why developers concern themselves with principles such as storytelling and other ways to engage and “entertain” as a method to optimize learning.

The idea of “entertainment” sometimes receives a bad reputation in the field of education. If the lesson is “entertainment” then learning must not be going on people say. That is old thinking. But what I mean by the word “entertainment” is “engagement” and “meaning” and “personal involvement.” In fact, the adjective “entertaining” is synonymous with many appropriate educational terms such as: absorbing, affecting, compelling, delightful, diverting, engaging, engrossing, exciting, fascinating, inspiring, interesting, lively, moving, poignant, priceless, provocative, stimulating, and so on. We should be so lucky as to have students describe our lessons with one or more of these adjectives. There is nothing wrong with a teacher being entertaining. The thing about entertainment is that it is student-focused, not teacher-focused. It’s not about us, it’s about them. Different students are “entertained” in different ways—it’s up to us to figure out what the most effective methods are for stimulating, inspiring, and informing. Entertainment is not necessarily a distraction or diversion at all. Entertainment in the best sense is about human connection and emotional involvement with the subject and with the teacher and fellow students. The lesson that is “entertaining” is a shared experience, not a one-way monologue to be endured.

The point of a live lesson is to make a human connection beyond just the content of our words (numbers, data, facts, instructions, etc). Otherwise, what is the point of getting students and teachers together in a classroom? Students could learn the subjects on their own if they had to, and indeed most of their learning in their life will be self-directed anyway. Therefore, our precious time as teachers in the classroom must go far beyond trying just to cram information in their heads for a test. Learning, after all, is a life-long pursuit. As teachers we want to stoke the fire of the natural curiosity that burns in every student, and to encourage and to inspire them and to help them develop the critical-thinking skills and emotional intelligence that will help them outside of the classroom long after they have graduated school. Students won’t remember a certain test score, but they will remember how you made them feel and they will remember your passion for the subject and your eagerness to share. Teaching is not about showing how smart we are, it’s about helping the students see how creative and intelligent they are and helping them to develop their own confidence to explore the subject more deeply and on their own terms.

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