Do you like to learn? Do you crave for the tiny little bits of dopamine release in your brain every time you solve an intricate problem? Well, most people do.
But a majority of us find it extremely laboring to learn new things, especially if it is not something we are used to. Kids always pick up new things much quickly compared to adults because they are void of muscle memory. They are also extremely curious and have lots of free time. For adults we get used to certain ways of thinking and doing our activities so much that it gets ingrained into our subconscious mind. But when we need to learn something new, our brain refuses to break out of its mold. This becomes even harder when it involves complex mental analysis and critical thinking since such activities require extended periods of concentration and perseverance and if you are not used to that, well, we all know how good our brain is in convincing us that we should stop things it doesn’t like.
I was reading some game design articles today and found some interesting principles involved in creating any video game. A game must be intriguing, entertaining and constantly challenging. The game should not be too complex that it frustrates the user but it should also make it challenging enough to the user that finishing a level or task should provide a sense of accomplishment. The one thing that all successful games manage to achieve is that they make the user come back, often. They make the user come back for the next level, come back for a retry if they failed in the pervious attempt and come back for the second, third and many more play-throughs even after finishing the game for the first time. That is the essence of any game. Make the user constantly learn new strategies and they will keep coming back.
They have a term for such type of learning – Inductive Chaining. The principle is this – Present a well laid out problem (or a ‘level’ in a game) and the tools to solve it, and let the user figure out the answer. Once they solve it, you give them the next problem which is based on the previous problem, but a bit harder. Oh, by the way, you can’t get to the next problem unless you solve the current problem but you can try as many times as you want. The problems become complex but never enough to make the user lose interest and the tools get more sophisticated but never too easy. For decades this flawless principle has turned little boys and grown men into superheroes, gritty soldiers, zombie killers and even righteous gangsters. I have not met a girl who likes video games, yet. We learned more from these games than we did from most of our college classes.
Now, if only we can apply this inductive chaining method to learning real-world stuff, like languages and programming, math and physics. Well, the famous language learning software Rosetta Stone uses exactly this principle and so does the website Project Euler and many other softwares focused on education. Project Euler is brilliant website that uses a set of clearly-defined and seemingly complex problems designed using the inductive chaining principle with followers pouring in solution from all around the world.
I know what you are thinking. If this so great, then why is this approach not used in schools and colleges? Well, there is a reason why schools and colleges suck. They have a hard time retaining students and it is near impossible for them to find a quality teacher. If only we had teachers who don’t mindlessly follow the curriculum and then give tests and grades that have no meaningful purpose, we would all be geniuses now solving cosmic problems and inventing things that would make Einstein proud. We would all live in a world where Facebook statuses make sense and where tweets have less pictures of congressmen junk.
Check out Project Euler’s website and I promise you, you wont regret it.Although the problems seem complex and at times frustrating, if you have curious mind and some determination, you will learn more stuff than you thought you could.
What is your take on this principle? Do you think this can be applied to learning more abstract skills like, art and philosophy? what about history? Do you have your own learning tool that has made you the genius that you are now? As always, share and make this world a better place.
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I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or home-made fish curry.