If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you already know I love Disney. Now that I have a daughter, I’m super excited to introduce her to this world that brought me so much joy as a child, and continues to today. We’ve started watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the morning, and while she’s too young to really understand what’s happening on the show, it’s a fun thing we do together (she does like the colors, and seems to recognize characters now). The other morning, while watching with her, I came to the realization that it wasn’t just teaching her problem-solving skills. It was also teaching me.
Let’s talk premise. The show opens with some event that’s happening, then a problem arises. Mickey and his friends then need to solve this problem. They gather some helpful tools (using the Mouseketool) and they’re on their way.
They define some objectives, and work towards their goal, selected a Mouseketool as needed. The objectives are things geared towards kids like, “Oh no, this door needs the right shaped-key to open it.” Children then need to identify which shape they need to use.
So what is the show teaching me? How to teach! There are a few common techniques I noticed each episode employs to make sure that children are learning.
Teaching Through Repetition
The first technique I noticed is repetition. They repeat the main problem after each objective, and regularly restate solutions or other objectives. “We need to find the right shape. Can you help us pick the right shape?”
This repetition helps kids remember and understand the objective. The show will also perform similar objectives in different contexts from show to show (“we need to choose the right shape to complete this puzzle”).
When applying this to my own courses, I won’t be as obvious as I’d need to be to teach children, but there are a few things I can do:
- Define a main problem both course, and each lesson, is trying to solve
- Reinforce the main takeaways multiples times, in different contexts
- Reinforce the takeaway in the following lesson
Constant Engagement is Key
Mickey and his friends are always asking us what we think, and then pausing to let us figure it out. The engagement here is something that you find in lots of online courses; but what they also do is engage with the kids even when an answer is not required. They are asked to help summon the Mouseketool (named Tootles) by saying, “Oh, Tootles!” When they solve a problem, the kids dance. There isn’t a long time before the kids are asked in engage in some way.
Engagement keeps students involved, and is especially important with online courses. You want your students to easily participate in lessons. So moving forward, I’m going to try constant engagement by:
- Asking students to try to solve the problem before I reveal the answer
- Think about situations in their lives where the problem has applied
- Think about ways they can implement the solutions today
- Rewarding them
Reinforce Teaching with Encouragement
Speaking of rewards, another thing Mickey Mouse Clubhouse does is encourage the children. This is as simple as a “good job,” or “well done.” It assumes the good outcome, and let’s them know they’re on the right path.
They will also throw in the wrong answer sometimes, then explain why it’s wrong. This isn’t direct encouragement, but it shows the kids that there are no negative repercussions for guessing the wrong answer, and that even Mickey and his friends are wrong sometimes.
With online courses, it’s sometimes hard to know if you’re on the right path. Further, if you start down the wrong path, it might not be easy to self-correct. This can be pretty discouraging. So how can online course creators reinforce with encouragement?
- When answering questions during engagements, select a wrong answer and state why it’s wrong
- Congratulate students when they make it to the end of the lesson
- Have short quizzes or recaps at the end of lessons to make sure they are understanding. This will let them know if they do need to self-correct
- Let them know common problems, and that it’s OK if they see these. Knowing they aren’t alone can be a big boost for them
Make it Fun!
The overall goal is to make sure the learning experience is worthwhile. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is fun for the kids, and they happen to be learning. Understanding my students’ learning objectives (they have to, they want to, they are curious, etc) will help me craft better courses. The above techniques will help!
I’m glad that even into my 30s, Mickey Mouse can still teach me.