Have you ever read the questions and answers at the end of a chapter in a textbook? All of them? If they were not assigned? Most people have not. I certainly didn’t. Usually I felt good about having read the whole chapter and underlining a bunch of stuff. It’s interesting that we do this. The author of the textbook almost certainly put those questions there because they think the answers to those questions are the most important aspects I needed to learn from reading the chapter. But usually reading the chapter was slow and tedious, and I would get back to it later. Or so I told myself.
Reading the chapter is essential. There is no getting around it. However, the process of answering the questions at the end of the chapter is done in the most boring way possible. There is room for massive improvement here. It should look and act like a game. This is one of the central concepts that we have built our app around. And if you think about it for a minute, it makes perfect sense. Most games are based on learning something. Level 1 starts off pretty easy. Learn a few basic moves and you have “mastered” that level and you are on to level 2. Level 2 will make you use the stuff you learned in level 1, but add a couple new jumps and kicks that you have to do at exactly the right time in order to keep progressing. The levels progressively get harder, so that getting through level 9 or 10 will probably take you some time and feel like a real achievement when you do get through it.
Interestingly, most video game developers refer to moving on to the next level as mastery. Mastery Based Learning is a great form of education. It is better because so much time is wasted in classrooms where the student is either bored because they already know the material or they are lost because the material is too difficult. If you follow the model of the video game, this would never happen. Or it would only happen in a poorly designed game that was either too easy and boring or too hard to figure out how to play it.
Too much of digital education looks like we just took the classroom or last night’s homework and put it in an app or a website. Too many one hour plus lectures that you can see online. Or they are basically just digital flashcards. Nobody has ever enjoyed the process of using flashcards. It is possible that somebody got a good grade by using them, but the user experience is absolutely awful. Video lectures, on the other hand, tend to be very long and take a while to finally get to the part where they help me understand the part that I don’t understand. And these videos are intended for millennials, right?
A game developer knows that they need to entertain you. They need to create an engaging environment if they want the users to care. Most games require points, point animations, levels, badges, challenges, trophies, and more. And yes, if the user doesn’t learn fast enough, they should probably die. Isn’t that what happens in almost every game?
The point is that games are based on learning. Learn some stuff and move on to the next level. And they must be interactive and engaging or else nobody will use them. These concepts could and should be the basis for learning things that are actually important to one’s educational career and not just for games that we play for fun with our friends.