Learning, Gamification, & Interaction April 2013

The first hour of a class is a waste - details about how the class is set up and organized. I’m busy and I get bored easily. I don’t have time to sit and listen to you tell me why you’re grading me 30% percent on quizzes and 40% percent on tests. I don’t care, I just want to learn the material. Just tell me, what do I need to know about the subject matter? Don’t tell me why I should learn it - clearly, I already understand that it’s worth learning if I’ve decided to subscribe to your online class. Just start telling me cool things that I can go use in the real world.

Gamified, abbreviated, and interactive content is the right way to go. DuoLingo gets it right, for example. I want to feel like I’m being rewarded and making progress. Give me points, or badges, or money… give me something. Even if it’s arbitrary. Give me squirts of dopamine for getting answers right.

And don’t make me learn something I already know. Let me test out or fast forward. We have pretty damn good artificial intelligence at this point in the technical world. I see no reason that our education software can’t learn about the learner and know what to teach us based on what it realizes we already know. C’mon now, it’s 2013.

Also, do you know any super smart, creative people? I do. And they generally can’t sit still for long. They’re fidgety. Probably have ADD. They lose focus after 5 seconds if there’s nothing to interact with. They like to see the result from their input into a system instantly so that they can learn quickly what inputs lead to what outputs. They want to learn thought processes and draw high-level conclusions from detailed technicalities, and not the other way around. It’s a similar reason to why video games are so good at captivating brilliant people (and often leading them to wasting hours of their lives playing them addictively) - it pulls them in through interaction where the participate can quickly adjust their behavior to change the outcome of the situation.

“Oh, when I press this button, this light turns on? Cool. Now if I press this one, that light goes on. What if I press both buttons at the same time? Cool. Now I can start combining behaviors to get this new outcome. Great.” Over enough time, brilliant people can take complex systems and create phenomenal projects. This is the process of learning, and I would love to see university courses that are actually designed for learning.