INTERACTIVE nano learning

“Tell me & I forget. Teach me & I may remember. INVOLVE me & I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin

How fun to build AND learn | “A little boy playing with different colored legos” by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Singapore’s Budget 2018 Speech (where the Finance Minister announced the future increase of Goods & Services Tax to 9%) had a small section on “Support for Financial Planning”. Within it was a move to “pilot a new financial education curriculum” at Singapore’s Polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education.

Financial Education (#FinEd) was the origins of Oikonopolis, a SimCity-esque learning game we created — that taught teenagers Economics and Personal Finance. We made mistakes (being business newbies), but Oikonopolis’ product cycle and startup journey was a great learning experience.

I went full-time 3 1/2 years ago, drawing on lessons from the Oikonopolis product journey to build a full-fledged EduTech business. We adopted 3 key principles as we designed and developed our learning product:

1. Learning must be ENGAGING

We need our learners to be engaged in the experience that the product delivers. Otherwise there is no opportunity for any content to be conveyed, meaning there is no learning. A recent IPSOS study revealed that 90% of US employees emphasised the importance of engagement in learning.

2. Learning must be EFFICIENT

With the average human attention span these days under 8 seconds, the learning process in our product can’t be draggy. If not, we lose our learners to distractions like binge-watching movies, or the latest kitten Youtube video.

(More on efficient learning in my next piece: “interactive NANO learning”).

3. Learning must be EFFECTIVE

Most. Critical. Aspect.

The key metrics of learning products are not the number of downloads or active users.

Instead, the most important metric whether learners have learnt what they’re meant to, by design (or even not by design). Otherwise, nothing else matters.
What’s the most effective way to help me learn? | Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

Effective Learning

How do we measure a product’s learning effectiveness? Simply put, it’s to assess whether the learner meets learning outcomes.

Take the field of game-based learning.

One of games’ key benefits is the ability to engage its players; many of us recall childhoods where countless hours were spent playing video games.

For years, educators have tried to leverage the power of games to help students learn.
Will coating the broccoli with chocolate make a difference? | Photo by FOODISM360 on Unsplash

Game-based learning has often been thrown into disrepute by what is termed “chocolate-coated broccoli”.

E.g., some “edu-games” (a misnomer) might make learners do math problem sums to unlock a game “entertainment level”.

Ultimately, learners are still doing problem sums (“eating broccoli”), and the game is totally redundant in the learning process.

Such games do nothing to promote learning through game mechanics. The game has no need to exist.

I advise all educators to avoid adopting such “chocolate-coated broccoli” games unless the educator’s intent is solely to promote “engagement”.

A digital worksheet does nothing to improve learning, if the original pedagogy wasn’t effective in the first place.

We find that the key to making learning effective, is getting students involved in actually doing something interesting that is related to the topic. This should be built into the design mechanics of the learning product — so the learning is intrinsic through participating in the activity.

INTERACTIVE Learning

The learner’s interaction with the learning tool (as opposed to passively listening to a lecture or watching a Youtube “educational” video) — becomes an important part of the pedagogy — for the learner to internalise the lesson or concept taught.

Slice Fractions | UluLab

Take Math: A good example is the learning game “Slice Fractions” (by UluLab), which brings learners through a prehistoric game world. Through clever use of slicing lava and ice (SLICE Fractions, geddit? =), the learning game introduces them to the relatively abstract and cerebral concept of parts of a whole, aka fractions. A truly effective learning game. See the results for yourself!

Arctopia: Bryan Gets FinEd | Innervative

Or Financial Literacy: Arctopia: Bryan Gets FinEd (FINancial EDucation) by Innervative lets the learner make financial decisions while throwing them life’s curve balls. It makes the learning realistic and the lessons immediately contextually applicable to the learner. Yay for financial goal-setting; nay to impulse buying!

These are just 2 examples where well designed pedagogy is applied into an interactive product, and successfully takes the learner through the journey and helps them internalise the learning.

I also need to stress the importance of the EDUCATOR, who takes on the role of facilitator and helps the learners make meaning of what they have just experienced.

These learning games (and more) are available on TeacherGaming Desk, EduTech visionaries from Finland, whom we are pleased to collaborate (and have become friends) with. #SinFin =)

“INVOLVE me & I learn”

We encourage all educators and workplace trainers to think about how best to involve your learners as they go through the learning process, and how to make them learn interactively.

Ultimately, this interactivity concretises the learning for them, helping them to learn better and makes your job easier too.

This is true whether you are an academic teacher, or a workplace educator.

We’ll end with a short story of how Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, learns. Salman believes in “mastery learning”, spending hours to:

(i) observe the subject (and master) in practice,

(ii) read about the subject,

(iii) talk to other experts,

(iv) solve problems on the subject and work on projects

(iv) think and ponder more questions and solutions,

(v) consult experts again.

He repeats these until he “gets it”, and internalises the concept.

This is interactive learning at its core: Act -> Learn -> Think -> Apply

That’s how we (and you) make learning effective.


Stayed tuned for my next piece on “interactive NANO learning”.

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