The 2021 H818 The Networked Practitioner Conference was held, virtually, on Thursday 11th, Saturday 13th, and Monday 15th February 2021. And what a great conference it was!
The conference was open to H818 participants, MA ODE (and constituent module) students, alumni and staff, and IET and WELS staff. Registration is open here.
I presented on Saturday 13th February 2021 at 4.15pm “Humour in eLearning: Making Sure Everyone Is In On The Joke”
Here’s a pre-recorded, rehearsal version of the presentation:
I enjoyed the conference experience very much and was very grateful for the questions from those attending. We didn’t have time to get to them all so here we go:
Have you thought about the sustainability of the resource?
Definitely! Neither humour nor eLearning stand static in the world. Ensuring the resource doesn’t become an unworkable tome is one aspect I need to address. As anyone who knows me will attest, brevity and I are not a match made in heaven. Ensuring the resource is manageable and keeping myself accountable in it’s upkeep will be paramount. I think this will be heavily influenced by my keeping up the “network practitioner” practices, develop content around the resource (such as in my blog and on other outlets), and ultimately feeling there is a need or use for the resource from users.
Have you found anyone else who is interested in this topic?
Yes, and many more than I anticipated. Firstly, finding the level of research into humour as a pedagogical tool was encouraging, albeit largely focused on in-person and live scenarios. Secondly, finding several industry outlets featuring articles on the topic was great though often felt more like a starter and I want the topic to be the full three course meal if that makes sense. Through networking with my fellow H818 students on our Open Studio, forum and Whats App group, the topic definitely peaked several people’s interest and what was telling about that was the vast range of background they’s were coming from, from further and higher education to corporate, private and public sector training. I think it was seeing this tweet shortly before the H818 presentation that made me think “I’m not alone. This is a real topic!”. Up until then I was (and still am) suffering with extreme imposter syndrome – who am I to talk on this subject?!
how will you measure if the humour you use is appropriate?
Much like testing any eLearning content I create, I like to have it reviewed or tested before being released. Just as if I created a module and it was working on my Windows Operating System, I may ask someone else to test it on a Mac system, or mobile device. In the same way I think we are our own little operating systems and so I like to run items past colleagues or other volunteers in my company from various backgrounds and ask for their feedback.
how did you go about selecting resources?
I scoured many articles on humour and content, not just in terms of learning but also in terms of marketing, PR, news coverage etc. I researched the most popular memes, gifs and cartoons globally of the last year. TedX Talks and similar open resources on places such as YouTube were also invaluable and it always come down to one thing – taking time to watch and review them myself and seeing where they sat on my internal measure, and whether I felt if they were borderline if the challenge of the resource to the user was still appropriate. As with dinner parties sex, politics and religion are best avoided! I did find going through some videos on YouTube one who’s title suggested it contain 10 Great Jokes to Help English Language Learners has a joke about a political along with ‘funny photo’ which could certainly cause offense for many users, especially any from that country. A lesson to us all – never be tempted to put in third-party or open content without reviewing it first!!
Have you changed your use of humour after your research?
I am certainly more cautious about my use not for any reason of causing offence etc but in self-reflection, realising I may have a tendency to over use it in a bid to make the learner happy and/or like me (I am needy, I admit it!). But in other ways, I am much more confident in my use of it, especially for my global and diverse audience. Whereas I may have previously talked myself out of it in some circumstances, possibly basing those fears on stereotypes of the learners, I am now much freer and also know if it doesn’t work, I can change it. We don’t tend to throw other tools out the window after one bad experience.
Have you come across different kinds of humour in different communities?
Absolutely, and humour can differentiate between cultures and within. However, rather like the term ‘digital native’ makes many of us squirm, the same is true of the presumption the kids love memes and emojis, and the grown ups like observational, word play. There is a lot of crossover. If you are addressing a diverse audience often getting people to interact and explain a topic that is presented in a humorous fashion can be beneficial to both parties. If you have a community or audience, where there is a very particular humour theme it can be a very empowering way of making that experience even more personal, there’s nothing like being one of the people in on the joke – so in a science lesson when you get why a neutrino goes into bar but just passes straight through, it can give you a bit of a boost.
Do you think ‘less is more’ with humour in learning? The point should still get across without the joke maybe to help people avoid feeling excluded?
Like any tool, or wearing jewellery to the Oscars, less if often more. Unless the humour is there for a specific objective – underlying or reinforcing an information point, challenging the learner to think differently on a topic, or positively affecting the learner’s emotions at the point – it isn’t needed and you need to question why you are including it.
did you learn anything surprising when making this resource?
I was surprised at just how powerful humour is in language learning, and how often it is used online language learning, and wishing we’d had more of that when I was in school. The linguistics behind some jokes in different languages was fascinating such as the example of a Chinese Mandarin joke in which a woman keeps getting up every time the bus she is in stops. Because Mandarin can be read both from left to right and from right to left, the sentence “Stopping at the next bus stop” can also mean “When the bus stops, stand up.”
Also how many pop cultural points we often take as definitive worldwide not being so, such as Big Bird from Sesame Street not being yellow in different countries. Mind blown.
How do you based the level of humour if you don’t know your audience?
I’ve come to the conclusion if I don’t know the audience enough to gauge at least some level of suitable humour to use, I actually don’t know my audience well enough to be creating any content for them. So in that way it is a really good indicator to me I need to dig deeper to understand my audience and it has cemented my use of learning personas.
Thank you so much for the great questions, they really got me thinking!
Also massive thanks to Simon Ball for the amazing organization and MCing of the H818 Conference, my tutor Rhona Sharpe, and the never failing support of my fellow H818 cohort!