I should have posted this a few days ago, but I’m doing a webcast tomorrow (Wednesday May 15th, 1pm ET) for ASTD on using the psychology of game design for learning. Talking about some familiar stuff (flow, hyperbolic discounting) and a few new things (visceral feedback). Not sure if you need to be an ASTD member to attend, but I *think* you can just sign up:
Just wrote a piece for the Research for Practitioners series over at Learning Solutions Magazine on some really fascinating research at the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab. It’s crazy interesting research, and it involves virtual chainsaws, behavior change and crafty research techniques. What’s not to love in that?
Go check it out here: Research for Practitioners: When It’s Not a Knowledge Problem
The last blog post I wrote was about starting design with a problem rather than a solution, and it came from a conversation with Stephen Anderson about a presentation he was putting together for the IA Summit.
Here’s his presentation, and (of course) it’s great stuff:
So, several conversations recently are coming together:
- Judy Unrein’s post on Mike Monteiro’s How Designers Destroyed the World talk, and her discussion about how designers can’t be just be order takers (go watch the talk – it’s amazing)
- A conversation with Stephen Anderson about his upcoming IA Summit talk called Stop Doing What You Are Told! about reframing the design problem (soooo looking forward to those slides)
- Dan Lockton’s article in the guardian about sustainable design, which talks about how, if people aren’t doing things the way we would like, we should figure out how to solve their problems, rather than treating them as the problem.
Getting to the problem
So, this is hard. I think designers are often given solutions to implement, rather than problems to solve. I sometime think that’s half my job with clients — getting a clear statement on the problem they are trying to solve, or the opportunity they are trying to realize. It’s something where the outside perspective can really help — when you live with problems all the time, they frequently become tacit.
When I was teaching undergraduates, this was a hard idea to communicate, but it’s a key skill that everyone needs to have. I used to have a really simple card sorting game that I’d have my students play to see if they were being given a problem to solve, or a solution to implement. If it was a solution, then they had to work on a way to get the actual problem clearly stated.
I think, in light of Dan’s article, I’d tweak it a bit more, and talk about strategies for unpacking even the problem statements (e.g. the card “Sales people aren’t able to answer customer technical questions” would probably be better as “Customers have technical questions that they need answered during the sales process”).
I have several different questions that help me dig for the problem:
- “Uh huh, and what do they need to do with that?” or “What do they need to do differently?”
- “What bad thing will happen if they don’t know that?”
- “Can you give me an example?”
- “If you woke up tomorrow and we’d implemented this perfectly, what would be different?”
- “What does is it look like when they get it wrong? What are common mistakes?”
Curious to know what other people do — what do you use to understand what the real problem/opportunity/challenge is?
Had a lovely time at the Learning Solutions Conference last week. Did a full day pre-con on Gameful Learning Design with Rick Raymer, which was a lot of fun.
I also did a session on Narrative Techniques for Learning. When I was working on Design For How People Learn, I listened a lot to a podcast on storytelling techniques.
A lot of learning and development folks *are* fiction writers, in the form of learning scenarios, examples and case studies, but (in my experience) it’s frequently pretty dull stuff (and I say this as someone who has written some dull scenarios myself).
So this session is about pulling some of the specific strategies that fiction writers use to into learning scenarios. There are a lot of other interesting ways to explore storytelling in terms of meta-structures, psychology and cultural constructs. This isn’t that presentation (though I’ll probably do that one too, one of these days).
This presentation is focused on specific strategies for making learning stories more interesting.
- Storytelling podcasts: http://www.storywonk.com and http://popcorndialogues.com/
- The Hero’s Journey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heros_journey
- Three Act Structure: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_act_structure
- Clark Quinn on narrative urgency: http://blog.learnlets.com/?p=2931
- Movie Cliches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbhrz1-4hN4
- Article: Effects of humor on sentence memory. Schmidt, Stephen R. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol 20(4), Jul 1994, 953-967. doi: 10.1037/0278-73188.8.131.523
- TV Tropes: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage
- Resonate by Nancy Duarte: http://www.amazon.com/Resonate-Present-Stories-Transform-Audiences/dp/0470632011
- Kathy Sierra on Building the Minimum Badass User: http://businessofsoftware.org/2013/02/kathy-sierra-building-the-minimum-badass-user-business-of-software-a-masterclass-in-thinking-about-software-product-development/
Hey folks, this is a really excellent discussion of the issues and research around using extrinsic rewards as a way to motivate behavior. Chris Hecker is looking at the question through the lens of game design, but it really, really applies to learning design as well.
There’s a write-up at the website, and a recording of the talk if you scroll down. It’s long-ish, but well worth the listen.
Found this via Amy Jo Kim on twitter: https://twitter.com/amyjokim
This is excerpted and expanded from a post that I wrote for the Tin Can blog
We’ve talked about WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) for years – it’s one of those things you always hear that you need to include in learning experiences to persuade your learners to pay attention.
I’ve started to think that’s a really unsatisfactory view of the world – most of the people I know don’t need a sales pitch to do their jobs, or to learn something to help them do that. Instead, they need to know that the thing they are learning is actually useful and necessary.
One of my favorite studies is this one from Dan Ariely called Man’s search for meaning: The case of Legos.
The paper starts with a discussion of meaning and work:
“Most children think of their potential future occupations in terms of what they will be (ﬁremen, doctors, etc.), not merely what they will do for a living. Many adults also think of their job as an integral part of their identity. At least in the United States, “What do you do?” has become as common a component of an introduction as the anachronistic “How do you do?” once was, yet identity, pride, and meaning are all left out from standard models of labor supply.”
The paper goes on to explain “we view labor as meaningful to the extent that (a) it is recognized and/or (b) has some point or purpose.”
They did two actual experiments — one where they had participants do a word problem exercise, and a second where participants were constructing figures with legos.
All the participants were paid money for their efforts, but some of the participants had their papers shredded as soon as they were done (without anyone even looking at the page), or their lego figures immediately broken back up in front of them (I particularly love that they labeled this last instance as the “Sisyphean” condition).
You can read the details here, but essential, people worked significantly longer or for less money in the condition where their work wasn’t meaningless. That shouldn’t be the case if people where primarily motivated by what they could get out of the situation (i.e. $$$). Dan Pink talks about several similar studies in his book Drive, when he talks about the importance of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
So, my issue with WIIFM is that, while it probably doesn’t hurt to let people know about the benefits of something, it’s not really a complete answer.
How about WCIDWT?
I think we should talk about WCIDWT (What can I do with that?). If I have the knowledge or skill that you are trying to teach me, what will I be able to do that I couldn’t before?
Kathy Sierra talks about this when she compares old school marketing (“Buy this because we kick ass”) vs a focus on the user (“Buy this because we want you to kick ass”). What can *you* (the end-user) do to be more awesome, to know more and to do more.
I’ve been playing around with the idea of accomplishment-based learning — using accomplishments as the fundamental organization of content and learning experiences, so that the very structure of the course is about learners accomplishing thing (*real* accomplishments – not finish-the-lesson or pass-the-test accomplishments). For example which photoshop course would you rather take?
So, my issue with WIIFM is that it feels transactional — I’m trying to *buy* your attention by waving shiny things, when instead it should be about your goals, and what you can do. WIIFM also feels disrespectful of learners for those same reasons.
Thoughts? Opinions? Examples? Violent disagreement? Would love to hear about it in the comments below.
So, I just finished Reuben Tozman’s Learning On Demand, and it’s great stuff. It’s particular great because I’m working on some of the exact issues he describes right now.
Specifically, we are just starting to create content for a new system, and I’m wrestling with questions like:
- What kind of structure should we use for the content?
- How do we make the content searchable?
- How do we make the content adaptable?
- How do we use the same content in multiple places without having duplicate content?
- How do we make intelligent content that can be recommended to users when they need it?
Reuben addresses all those questions, in a really accessible way – the book is fast and very readable, despite the fact that Reuben is talking about some fairly complex stuff.
I’ve been talking a lot lately about how we aren’t in the content delivery business any more, and if nice content delivery is the only tool in our instructional design toolbox, then that should be a worry. The tools are just starting to appear to support doing something beyond pure content delivery in elearning, and Reuben’s book is a great place to start to understand that perspective.
As an aside, I’m working with these folks for the next several months as their Director of Instructional Design:
It’s been *really* interesting work so far, and it gets me out of Minnesota for the winter. So if anybody is in the Bay Area and wants to get together for nerdy shop talk, just let me know
So, my self-appointed mission today is to encourage as many people as possible to go look at the slides from Stephen Anderson’s latest talk about things like curiosity, design, play and experience. So so great.
Peachpit (my publishers) are doing kind of a cool little series of posts on the Best Design Advice You Ever Got.
Click here to see my entry: http://www.peachpit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1930037
What’s the best design advice you ever got?