Math dice & decoding learning experiences

In Spring 2017, I’m thrilled to be learning from Stacie Rohrbach in Learner Experience Design (LXD), diving into the ways that humans engage in different learning experiences and process information. I’ll be using all the tools in my Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) toolkit along the way, merging these with instructional design philosophy and educational methods to design meaningful (and hopefully fun!) experiences for learners. After every class, I’ll be writing a short reflection about some things I learned or am mulling over.

What makes a learning game fun and effective (funffective?). We took some time playing a game in class, and I came away with some thoughts about what made this game particularly funffective in my case, and think some of the thoughts could be applied to other learning games in general.

Stacie assigned these games to us randomly, so I was a little sad when my group was assigned Math Dice. Why? I kind of hate most math. I was even more sad when Stacie explained that this game was not popular with her children — if kids can’t get into it, how am I supposed to stay engaged?

Fun for the whole family?

We had a hard time getting kicked off — the instructions were not intuitive and it took us a bit to even understand how we were supposed to play the game (if we can’t even understand the instructions, how exactly are kids ages 8+ supposed to?). But once we got started, we actually ended up having a great time. I’ve been thinking of some reasons why that might be, and beyond that, why Stacie’s children might not be into this game.

Competition, but low stakes

  • I found the competitive, time-sensitive aspects of the game “spoke to my elephant.” It caused me to focus on subject matter that, when given the option, I would never willingly focus on (arithmetic).
  • At the same time, there was really nothing at stake if I didn’t have the right answer in time. There was no prize, and rounds were so short that I could just look forward to trying again on the next round.

Revisiting the “right” answers

  • I’m not sure if this was actually part of the game, but it was something that we all ended up doing anyway, which was asking the question “wait — how did you get that answer?” and making the winner show their work. This ended up being great, and I wish the game would have involved it more explicitly. As a group, we talked about this — what if we had little white boards involved?

I still wasn’t “wrong”

  • Dirksen talks a bit about the place between right and wrong being an interesting place to be for learners, and I definitely found this to be the case in this game. In the rounds that I didn’t win, it wasn’t that my answer was bad or wrong, but just that it wasn’t as good as someone else’s (which encouraged me to keep trying)

By why do Stacie’s kids hate this game?

  • I’ve been thinking about this a bit. I used to hate these types of games when we played them in math class when I was younger. In those cases, we weren’t pulling from learning “shelves” we had fully developed, and I found games like these to be stressful and high stakes. I think that might make this ineffective for an audience who is still developing these shelves. I felt free to explore and fail because nothing really was at stake, but I definitely feel like I would have felt like more was on the line when I was still in the process of developing these skills (pride, for instance — I don’t want my peers to think I am stupid).
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