Icebreakers Suck

Category: American Education
Published on Thursday, 14 February 2013 Written by Anonymous Teacher

By Rear Admiral Harley D. Nygren, NOAA Corps (ret.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm suffering through an online "learning" class that seems to be composed of nothing but the dreaded icebreakers.

You know what icebreakers are, right? They're the insufferable activities that teachers put at the beginning of the class to "warm people up" and get more participation.

The problem with them is that they almost always have nothing to do with the lesson. When teachers begin a lesson with an activity connected to the content, it's a learning activity. When the activity is a complete waste of time, it's an icebreaker.

I searched the web for others who share my disdain for this horrible practice and found an article on Icebreakers are Harmful to the Learning Process

  • Ice breakers suggest a frivolous training will follow – Forcing involvement in an activity with little seeming connection to the subject being taught implies a lack relevance in the training as a whole

  • Ice breakers risk learner alienation before the subject has been introduced – Communication experts suggest that people, upon meeting someone new, make up their mind about that person and their message within seconds. The same dynamic holds true in the training environment. Ice breakers waste those precious seconds on seemingly mindless activity.

  • Ice breakers squander valuable time on non-essential information – The short attention spans of modern learners brought on by the endless barrage of TV commercials and the point-and-click ease of the Internet make it difficult enough for learners to maintain a continued focus with on-target content. Activities that don’t readily connect to content send learners channel surfing

It's possible to do something like an icebreaker and have it work. Go ahead and do something that requires participation if you want. Just make sure it's related to the content! Don't do something stupid to "break the ice", you'll waste time and turn off people like me who actually give a damn about learning something.


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