In this post... I ask you to watch a video, think about some gaming for health and put these two systems together to think about what is missing in schooling.
Watching Rosling's video reminded me of the Al Gore being elevated on a forklift to dramatically illustrate the speed at which the climate dimensions are shifting. These displays are very effective at helping us learn. Take a few minutes...watch the video and come back...
Did you see the same optimistic trend as he did--countries coming closer together? Seems to me that they were much closer in the past. But the medium is the message here. What other information could you visualize? What about our personal data, our trends? What effect does rapid feedback have on learning? What if you could see a graph of your learning in real time? Hold that thought while I give you the second data point.
Every morning I look forward to waking up my mind and body with Wii fit and/or Wii Sports. It is my virtual cup of coffee-the surge that propels me forward to face the work of the day. Why do I persist at this--(now almost 2 years of almost daily play)? Even more perplexing to me, why do I enjoy it? I don't really enjoy a workout at the gym in the same way (And while I often manage to visit the gym 4x a week, I can count on one hand the times I have worked out first thing in the morning). I think that biofeedback and advancing levels are responsible for this strangely addictive pattern. I want to get better. I want to see the line graph of my performance go up. I can know I can get faster, more accurate, more agile, more balanced. And I want to see one graph go down...my age. If the Wii tells me I am in my 20's, it makes the day more fun, and it I tells me I am older... well I know I might be younger tomorrow which makes me grin.
So what am I learning? The WiiFit, and sports in general, are a form of mindful exercise. It is not just running or jumping or lifting, it is setting a mental AND physical goal and trying to reach it. And, once you reach it, wanting to advance to the next level.
So now let's put these two displays together for school learning. Suppose there are some virtual, floating bubbles or dynamic graphs in the room and they bounce around as the students do their work. As a student reads, his or her fluency and accuracy lines move and vibrate. When the student responds well to comprehension questions the bubble floats up. This is not an extrinsic reward...
a gold star... that teachers give for compliant behavior or being good at something. It is the visualization of the effort and performance. It is a subtle but important difference. The student, not the teacher, has the power to change the display. It would make learning into a game. You can get mad at the computer (and I sometimes do when the computer doesn't play fair (smile). But ultimately, one comes to accept that that progress is determined by play. And games are designed so you will make it to the next level-- by embedding the skills you need for advancement in the current level. Game designers know that you have to do this or people will stop playing. They understand and exploit the addictive behaviors. Teachers need to become game designers.
We have the technology and we are close to being able to make systems that are smart enough to be able to be use by learners to evaluate themselves. Schools could places where we can see and feel what we learn. Skills can be mastered and students can have some say in when they are ready for the next level of changes. And as they understand the technology, they can make the games and that is when they will really master the content.
Meanwhile... I am moving my hips to select the numbers that when added and subtracted in the right way will add up to exactly 15-- and trying to be quick about it.