Educause 2008: My Experience (3)

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Geek in Residence on 04-11-2008

My conference notes on How to Use Technology to Be Funny and Successful by Professor Peter Jonas of Cardinal Stritch University.

Professor Jonas greeted us with a homemade CD necklace draped around his neck — the budget conscious version of a USB key.  Groan.  Is this how we are starting out?  No worries — it got better.   Professor Jonas’s work in humor is research based – it all about opening minds wide enough for learning to occur.

“Once you get people laughing, they’re listening.”  And the research shows that learners remember more and remember more efficiently and remember longer — and the kicker, it works even if the humor is “crappy” (his word – he has tenure).

And apparently humor helps keep learners on message.  If you put a non-humorous, droning, pedantic talking head at the front of the room, 10% of the room will be drifting off after 10 minutes.  After 15 minutes, 10% more are taking a mental vacation.  At the 20 minute mark, another 25% are drifting off into sexual fantasies.  Puts a whole new spin on how I look at rooms now — I’ll tell ya.

Ok – minds out of the gutter, thank you very much.  Besides keeping learners on message, humor helps keep our amygdalas in a relatively relaxed state which is important for learning to occur.  If you are in a low or high stress state, the amygdala wants you focusing on whatever it is that has caused that state.  In other words, you are distracted.  For many people, IT causes fear and the amygdala engages — using humor when explaining IT concepts is like a spoonful of sugar.

Humor helps in other (research-supported) ways too — 8 ways in fact:

  1. humor builds culture
  2. humor improves instruction
  3. humor builds team work and relationships
  4. humor helps communication
  5. humor reduces tension and stress — Jonas showed one of my favorite videos at this point
  6. humor promotes creativity and divergent thinking (which is good for problem solving)
  7. humor helps maintain interest in work
  8. humor helps adjust student behavior

Here’s a link to Professor Jonas’s full powerpoint presentation.

Stay tuned for my notes on Is IT Really Strategic for Higher Education? The Annual Gartner/EDUCAUSE Update by Michael R. Zastrocky, Vice President and Research Director, Academic Strategies of Gartner.

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