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?
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.
I’m listening to the most recent toolbar episode with Judy Unrein, Brian Dusablon and their guest, Connie Malamed. They talk about a number of things, but there’s a lot of discussion of creativity – how to be creative, the importance of creativity for problem solving, and the unfortunate lack of creativity that can happen in learning design.
I think that there’s a weird attitude to creativity in our field – that it’s a nice-to-have (and just be clear — this isn’t something Judy, Brian and Connie said, but rather an attitude I’ve bumped into many times elsewhere). I think that there are a couple of reasons this isn’t true:
- We pay attention to things that are novel and unusual. We are constantly concerned with engaging our users. We know what whatever we build isn’t effective if users aren’t paying attention. In the same way that humor can improve learning and retention, unusual and novel stimuli break through our cognitive tendency to habituate to an unchanging stimulus (and yes – using big words to make your business case is a legitimate strategy).
- Well-designed experiences create positive affect in learners, which can improve learning and retention. The best resource on this is probably Don Norman’s Emotional Design, but his contention is that things that are well-designed do work better.
So, creativity is a legitimate design strategy – not something that is a pretty garnish on the plate.
Here are a few other interesting things on creativity:
- Connie’s great blog post on evidence-based practice for improving creativity: http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning_design/improve-creativity/
- This fascinating video that suggests that creative problem solving isn’t just about stimulating creativity, but also about inhibiting our current set of rules for how things should work: through-the-wormhole-creativity-cap.html
- And because this post needs some creativity actually in it – here’s a Kickstarter Thank You note I just got from a former student (Taylor Baldry http://www.taylorbaldry.com) who did a project on helping people remember the genders of foreign language nouns by attaching little cartoon genitalia to pictures of the objects (and if that’s not creative, I don’t know what is):
So, I’ve had a crazy spring so far — between a brutal travel schedule and some unexpected health stuff (all resolved now), there’s barely been time to draw breath.
There have been lots of good things, including some interesting projects in the works. A particular good thing recently was a really nice review of the book by Clive Shepherd:
“There’s book a I’ve been meaning to write which I hoped would address the problem. I tentatively called it ‘What every L&D professional needs to know about learning’ (not so catchy I know). But I’ve been beaten to the gun by Julie Dirksen.” – Clive Shepherd
Still giddily fanning myself a bit over that…
For local folks (Minneapolis/St. Paul area), there are a few things going on also:
On Thursday (April 12th, 2012), I’m doing the Design for Behavior Change talk for the local UPA (Usability Professionals Association) chapter. The event starts at 6:15 PM, and the talk starts at 6:45 PM. You can get details here http://www.upamn.org/events?eventId=456463&EventViewMode=EventDetails
Also, the fantastic Connie Malamed (author of Visual Language for Designers and http://theelearningcoach.com/) is in town this week, so check out her talk on Friday:
Your Brain on Graphics: Research-Inspired Design, Friday April 13th
Information here: http://www.pactweb.org/ (you can also get details about her 1/2 day workshop at that link)
Program Details: Learning through visuals opens up new pathways in the brain. You can optimize opportunities for visual learning and provide better learning experiences when you understand how people perceive and process visual information. During this presentation, you will learn how graphics can leverage the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses of our cognitive architecture. You’ll learn how to make design decisions based on research. We’ll look at lots of examples in the process. Topics include: * How our brains are hardwired for graphics * How to speed up your visual message * How to make graphics cognitively efficient * How to speak to the emotions through visuals * How to visualize abstractions This presentation is for anyone who selects, conceives of, designs or creates visuals or anyone interested in visual communication.
Location: The Metropolitan, 5418 Wayzata Boulevard, Golden Valley, MN 55418 When: 8:30-11am
(She also wrote a very nice review of the book, btw)
The recording of the webinar that I did for the Gameful folks has been posted – it’s available here:
We wound up with a troll in the room towards the end, who kept posting links to -erm- unsavory sites, so be careful about clicking links in the chat (The ones in the actual presentation slides are safe). Made for a slightly odd experience.
Slides and links can be found here: http://usablelearning.com/about/presentations/leef/
Do you want to capture and maintain your learners’ attention? You need to talk to the elephant.
Peachpit (my publishers) just posted an article I wrote based on Chapter 5: Design for Attention. You can read the entire article here.