Friday, 19 August 2005

Learning should be hard fun

by Clark N. Quinn.

In this article, Clark pointed out a number of elements which will lead to engaging experience.

Contextualized – the learning should be in a setting where the learners actions make sense. A story, if you will. Learners learn best when it's in a meaningful context.

Clear Goal – the learner should have an end state that they are motivated to achieve. ... Learners are better able to take action when they have an outcome they know they're trying to achieve.

Appropriate challenge – the level of difficulty has to be beyond the learner's capability, but not so far that the learner can't accomplish the task; learning happens best in the space just beyond the learner's capability where, with some effort and support, they can accomplish the task. Learners learn fastest when the challenge is significant but not impossible.

Anchored – the actions that the learner takes have to have a meaningful effect on the outcome. There can't be meaningless actions by the learner after which the story proceeds, but instead there have to be real consequences in the story line of the actions they take.

Relevant – in addition to the actions taken being meaningful to the story, the story and actions have to be meaningful to the learner. We need stories that appeal to their interests and motivations.

Exploratory – the environment has to have a wide variety of possible choices (or at least a perception of same), and the ability to try different things and explore the internal relationships. Learners learn best when they have to make choices and face the consequences of those choices.

Active manipulation – a related facet is having the learners active in exploring those relationships, and operating on the world in ways that are similar to the way you operate in the real world and that reflect the story setting. Learners learn best when there is minimal overhead between their intentions and the actions taken to achieve them.

Appropriate feedback – the feedback from the world has to come in a way that makes sense in the world. They need to know they've acted, even if they don't immediately get to know the final outcomes of their action.

Attention-getting – the action can't be totally deterministic, there needs to be some randomness and probability. Total determinism isn't desirable. Learners learn best when their attention and curiosity is maintained.

I agree mostly with Clark. There are a few points I would like to clarify in light of the experience of designing role play simulation.

1. Game goals and learning objectives are different. Game goals are the objective of the player as a character in the game world (or simulated world). This is related to the game context. The achievement of some or all game goals, however, will depend on the mastery of the learning objectives embedded in the game.

For solo game, game goal will mostly universal for all the players as the player all assume a role in the game as dictated by the game design. For co-operative/collaborative game (such as role play simulation). it is not possible to have the same game goal for all players. In fact, the difference and contradiction of game goals will need to interesting and engaging play.

2. In solo game, exploration is always limited by the build-in "surprises" and hence sometimes need an element of luck. While we know that we don't need 100% consistent response in order to learn, a consistent response, however, will produce more reinforced learning (at least this is the theory of the behaviouristic paradigm). If we do not need randomness to enhance attention or curiosity in a collaborative role play simulation. There are sufficient exploration to occupy players' attention by interaction between different roles.

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