Saturday, May 9, 2015

Challenging the learner

As we usually do, the little ones and I explored the app store for trying out a game or anything that catches our fancy.

This is something we do quite often. Explore. Discuss. And then try out. Sometimes we try out someone that someone has recommended on the net (and usually paid apps fall in this category). Sometimes, we try out something on a whim. And a few clicks later, some apps fail the initial interest test and are deleted ruthlessly. Some sustain interest for a longer while. Some keep us occupied for a long time. And so on and so forth.

(As customers, someone who explores the app store is more ruthless than a channel surfer on television. But thats for another post.)

As part of this process, we chanced upon an app named Valiant Hearts. It is part graphic novel, part strategy game, part war game, laden with juicy clues as 4 people make their way across a war theatre (WWII). (Aside: There are zero games with Indias freedom story as a backdrop as much there is a ton of WWII stuff out there). There is a lot of information - so it is not just a game. And perhaps, the episodes are from real theaters. 

So, what sort of games do we like? We do not like shooting games or action games that are purely depending on reflex action. We prefer games that are a little slower paced and make us think and so something - rather than just go click, click, click. 

The nature of the game is such that it falls into this category fair and square. At every level there is that perfect level of challenge that makes us want to try - multiple times, not want to give up and try till we crack that level. 

Usually, it requires the intelligence of all of us, some level of effort, plus a bit of serendipity, trying out various permutations and combinations and even a little thinking on resourcefulness before we hit that a-ha moment. Such games are fun. And the challenge has to be just perfect. Not too tough that the user gives up. Not too easy that the users intelligence is insulted. But just about there to make the user think, discover an a-ha moment. And each day for the last few days, we have woken up and tried to 'crack that level'!

(In this particular game, it has been amazing - it has taken a combination of collective patience and intelligence and some fearlessness to get to where to want to get to. It is not just one person or the so called smartest person who can solve it. And therein lies a learning - how we get stuck in paths, miss blind spots and how fresh thinking in liberal doses solves the problem - every single time.)

We have experienced this before in push cars, threes, dragon box, clash of clans - almost any app that has kept us enthralled has this perfectly balanced level of challenge.

As someone in learning, this is a great meta-challenge to think about.

How do we, as we design a learning experience, make learners reach this level of 'play' where they want to engage - not in mindless banter, but in an engaging, absorbing contest of the mind? Where they want to try and reach a different level of learning? Where the learning is sticky and makes the user want to come back to it and later on revisits it when she needs it...

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