TIP: Edutainment - why fun should be taken seriously

Bestseller author Kathy Sierra blogged about learning techniques. Some of my favorites are
  • Get past the brain's crap filter... to the brain, a dry, dull, academic explanation is definitely CRAP (regardless of how much your mind cares about the topic)...Learners are not "empty vessels" waiting to be filled with content pushed into it by an expert, blogger, author, etc. Learning is something that happens between the learner's ears--it's a form of co-creation between the learner and the learning experience. You can't create new pathways in someone's head... your job is to create an environment where the chances of the learner "getting it" in the way that you intend are as high as possible.
  • Use redundancy to increase understanding and retention: Redundancy doesn't mean repetition--it means "say the same thing again, but differently." And "differently" can mean:
    • From a different perspective.
    • Using a different information channel (channels include things like Graphics, Examples, Prose explanations, step-by-step instruction/tutorial, case studies, exercises, summaries, bullet points, commentary, devil's advocate, Q & A, personal POV, etc.)
    • Also, the more senses you engage, the greater the potential for retention and recall. Even having a bowl of just-popped popcorn or the smell of freshly-baked cookies while learning, can make a difference. Bummer about web-delivered content, though...
  • Use conversational language: The brain pays more attention when it thinks it's in a conversation and must "hold up its end."...
  • Use mistakes, failures, and counter-intuitive WTF?: Describing the things that do NOT work is often more effective than showing how things DO work. (We call this the "WTF learning principle"). But showing is even better than describing. And even better than showing is letting the learner experience. Take the learner down a garden path where everything makes perfect sense until it explodes. They are far more likely to remember than if you simply say, "Oh, and be sure you do it such and such a way." It's tempting to want to protect the learners from the bumps and scrapes experienced in the real world, but in many cases (with many topics) you aren't doing the learner any favors.
  • Use the filmaker (and novelist) principle of SHOW-don't-TELL: Rather than lecture about the details of how something works, let them experience how it works by walking them through a story or scenario, where they can feel the bumps along the way.
  • Use "chunking" to reduce cognitive overhead: we have very little short-term memory (RAM) in our heads. The standard rule is that we can hold roughly 7 things before we must either commit some of it to long-term storage or toss it out to take in something new. And the things you hold in short-term memory vanish as soon as there is an interruption. You look up a phone number, and as long as you repeat it to yourself and nobody asks you a question, you can remember it--usually just long enough to dial the number. By the time you finish talking to the person on the other end of the line, the number is long gone. Chunking takes fine-grained data/facts/knowledge and puts them into meaningful or at least memorable chunks to help reduce the number of things you have to hold in short-term memory, and increase the chance of retention and recall.
  • Use a spiral model to keep users engaged: Game developers know the importance of "The Next Level", and learning experiences must do the same. Each iteration through the spiral should start with a meaningful, motivating goal, followed by the interaction/activity/reading that moves you toward that goal, followed by a meaningful payoff. Ideally, the "meaningful payoff" leads right into the next motivating goal. For example, in a game the payoff for completing a level might be "You Get A New Weapon". But now that you have that new weapon, here's the cool new thing you can do that you couldn't do before. Learning doesn't need to be any different. "Imagine you want to do X on your website..." is the goal that starts the topic, but when the topic is complete, the learning content can say, "Now that you have THAT new [superpower capability], wouldn't it be cool if you could do Y?" And off they go into the next round of learning.
  • Don't rob the learner of the opportunity to think!... Think back to those teachers you had who would ask a question then immediately answer it, as opposed to those who would answer a question then just sit there... waiting...
  • Use the 80/20 principle to reduce cognitive overload. It's far more important that they nail the key things than be exposed to everything... Knowing what NOT to include is more important in learning design than knowing what TO include.
  • Emotion matters! People learn and remember that which they FEEL... One of the many ways to help tap into emotions (and increase attention and memory) is to use the brain's reaction to faces. Almost any kind of face with a strong expression evokes a part of the brain reserved just for processing faces. The ability to accurately recognize faces and read facial expressions is a key element of survival for the brain...
  • Use pacing and vary the parts of the brain you're exercising.
  • Remember, it's never about you. It's about how the learner feels about himself as a result of the learning experience... Don't use learning content as a chance to show off your knowledge--that virtually guarantees your content won't be user-friendly. Use it as a chance to help someone's life a little...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

1 comment:

  1. It is a lot tougher to entertain than put out information.

    If desire is there a student will seek information.

    Training the unwilling is hard work.


    With all the competition for mind space, we may all have to learn some song and dance.