Saturday, July 19, 2014

The app life cycle

Caution: Amateur post

Recently, we started playing 'Threes'. And while Clash of Clans was a favourite, interest on it is waning - though it is still in demand. Subway Surfers has long since been forgotten. For a short while Tiny Troopers ruled the roost. Some of the drawing and sketching apps are still in demand - but they are not addictive. And yes, for a while, we did play Dragon box.

First phase, you heard about the app and there is immense curiosity. You want to know the mechanics and you want to get the better of it. This is also the learning phase. With most good apps, this would last a few minutes. If it is boring or 'not good enough' most likely, the interest level drops here itself. Flappy bird did not cross this phase - it was too difficult.

If the interest level is good, one continues. Next phase, is to work through the challenges of the app. Here the experience of the app begins. As you cross the first few levels, life is good and one begins to enjoy the challenges. Push cars and a couple of programming apps kept us hooked through this phase. As did a few initial levels of Cut the rope and Angry birds. This is the most engaging phase perhaps.

At the next level is the plateau and some inflexion points. This is tough. Each level one reaches a plateau - either it takes too much time or it is way too complex and one has to cross those inflexion points. Clash of clans crossed quite a few of them. Dragon box crossed almost all of them. But in many other games, it is just too long - like Tiny Troopers.

Most apps give up here and then are consigned to the unused apps bin and from there they get deleted.

The non-addictive apps - like the sketching apps and the photo apps - which are more about the users skills still continue because here the level is in the users mind.

Now to check my amateur theory with some real data!

How not to learn 'computers'

This is a snapshot from the little ones text book on 'Computers'.  Now, computers does not mean that they learn programming. They are learning, of all things, MS Word. And they are learning the theory of MS Word (if there ever can be such a thing) and then working on some lab exercises. 

Now, my take on this is that, it is practically useless. There are concepts one needs to know - and these concepts like indenting text and column breaks are supposed to be learnt when it is to be used. I really do not see the point making children learn by rote such concepts like indenting and then trying to explain it in theory. MS Word will be used by these kids in a few years from now, when they create project documents or something like that. And at that point, they will learn it. There is no dying need for children in class 4 to learn MS Word. Sure, they can play around with computers - and playing around DOES NOT mean Excel and Powerpoint (isnt that what people do in workplaces). 

If there is something to be taught, it is perhaps about a simple programming language, like Scratch that makes programming fun. The way they learn 'computers' today they will most likely grow around to hate it. 

Most likely, this is a 'sponsored program' - a software company must have sponsored it -maybe software, maybe labs - is one possibility. 
Second, the kind of money teachers are paid, it is tough for any school to get any decent programmer to teach its kids - so they go for a check in the box approach and teach MS Word and people think their children are learning something useful.
Third, limited lab time. Schools have a few machines on which each student spends perhaps half an hour a week on the lab - which is but about enough time to copy paste junk from one page to another. 
Fourth, some idiot who decided the syllabus knows MS Word and MS Excel and decided to make it a part of the curriculum.

All in all, garbage in garbage out. 

Now, the same kid with some enthusiastic parents at home will learn so much more - through programming apps, by playing around and then goes to school and learns to describe 'indenting'. This is beyond irony. It is learning to fly a kite - without ever getting close to trying and learning. 

Whatever happened to learning by doing?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Range of thoughts

What is the motivation for someone to play a game?
How to create a cool new game that everybody wants to play?
How to create stickiness for an event?
How to build a bridge so that the audience in an event takes away something meaningful?
How to change a team culture?
Why does an organization need vendor co-ordinators? [Alert: Coordination is not a skill!]
How to create a course that delivers what it promises!

Hoping to find creative solutions to every one of these questions and many other questions!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gamification ahoy

Gamification is the new Social Media. Which in turn was the new Web2.0. Which in turn was the new Black.  Everybody wants to be Apple - but well, you cannot.

Thus it is that everybody wants a piece of the latest buzzword. So, today it is gamification.

Now gamification is not about overlaying badges and trophies on an elearning. It is clearly much more than that. But more often than not, this fake gamification is used an excuse to beautify otherwise pathetic content.

Gamification has to be inbuilt into the experience, it is not a separate piece that stands out like a bad comedy track in the movies. And real gamification is hard work - it means looking at the content and literally constructing a game out of it - that means competition, levels, hidden alleys, wild cards and a tough algorithm - among other things. And by the way, some randomness and unpredictability as well.

Read the wiki page and find out if your 'gamifying' idea can hold its own against the many mentioned there!

Just by awarding a  few trophies and putting up a few badges does not get you anywhere. It gives a bad name to gamification and worse, the next time you do a real gamifying experience, you have lost the audience before you even start.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Subjective versus Objective

Years ago, I was at a training class. This training was on martial arts. There was one person who taught us a bunch of things each class and then moved on to a different set of things each class and thus it went. Class after class, we were taught a set of things - seemingly connected - but for us, it did not make sense. We learnt technique after technique and promptly forgot technique after technique - because there was nothing to keep those techniques internlinked - no framework - nothing. No way to recap. Nothing to take away. No multiple repetition. No structure.

And then I had the opportunity to be coached by a different person. Now this person was an expert -  actually there were two of them. They taught from the start. Basics. Repeat. Steps. And then week by week they increased the complexity till we got one step right.  And as we progressed, we also learnt techniques.

Which one do you think is more amenable to be learnt by students? The latter, quite obviously. A process or a structure allows students to assimilate learning rather than throwing things at students and hoping that they learn.

A similar approach often happens in organizations. Subjective processes can be only with experience - which is all very fine, but if you expect it to be scalable, then the process has to be objective. A lot of times, people keep things subjective because in a way, it protects them. When  you go with frameworks scale follows. So, if you want scale, build frameworks.