This short video  seems to be proof that humans can be as silly as avatars:

Ed Webb sees this video as an illustration of “the pedagogy of fun.” Second Life teachers talk about this aspect of learning all the time; but as the comments on Ed’s blog show, there’s a lot to be examined here. This is, after all, an advertisement, and the case is overstated and under documented; we are not even told how long the experiment continued, or how successful it was over time (AnnMarie Cunningham).

Here’s what Ed said:

I think one could make a case that in the experiment shown in the ad people were manipulated rather than educated. If the numbers remained high after the novelty wore off, then we could speak about them being trained or conditioned. If, as a result of their exposure to this experiment, people self-consciously made changes in how they approached choices about whether to burn carbohydrates or hydrocarbons, then we are entering the domain of education.

I think Ed’s overlooking the real lesson here. The problem with the video is its expression of intent, seen in the opening frame: “Can we get more people to choose the stairs by making it more fun to do so?” I’d argue that the “pedagogy of fun” just doesn’t work with a behaviorist aim of making people do anything. If we changed the opening line to ask a different question, then this video becomes an example of a highly successful lesson: “Can we help people to see that life is full of possibilities, and that even the most mundane activity can be transformed by a different attitude? If you watch the faces of the people in the video as they reach the top of the stairs, I think you can see that the lesson has been learned.

Imagine what would happen if, when you started off every morning for your boring job at the Volkswagen car factory, this kind of experience awaited you every day. If play became a part of your city’s culture, would people be more open to alternate possibilities, would they be more liable to reflect on different ways of doing things, would they be more accepting of people from other cultures?

I suppose that kind of fun is too much to ask for in carbon-based cities, but it’s easily achieved in a virtual world. What is the carryover for students who spend three or four hours a week in Second Life? Will the pedagogy of virtual fun have beneficial side-effects in the actual world?

Thanks to Steven Downes for this link.