LEARNING HACK #3: Can gaming ever be a good addiction?

This post is part of a series challenging our assumptions about learning techniques. We’re asking you True or False questions to see what you do and don’t know about how to learn effectively, as well as giving you up to date information from current research into learning. Check out the first and second posts in this series and read the most recent one below.

Gaming is an addiction that has a negative impact on learning.

What do you think?

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Gaming is an addiction that has a negative impact on learning.

THIS IS FALSE.

Wait, what? But my parents are always telling me to get off my computer, stop playing mindless games and do my homework!

While playing hours upon hours of FIFA isn’t going to get you an A*, the ideas behind gaming – like point scoring, competing with others and rewards – genuinely make it more fun and therefore increase the likelihood of us coming back for more learning and successfully improving our grade.

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If you can implement gaming into the way you study, or use tools that have this built in, you might find yourself getting addicted to learning! That’s an addiction with a side-effect of better grades… Count me in.

Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

  1. Gamification and student motivation
  2. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

What is Up Learn? Up Learn uses artificial intelligence and research from cognitive science to help students achieve A* results. Find out more.

We’re releasing a new learning hack every 2 days. Like our Facebook page to be notified!

LEARNING HACK #1: Intelligence – nature or nurture?

A huge amount of research has gone into clarifying how we learn best. How can we make sure that information doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other? How do we get knowledge to stick, rather than slip away over time? The answers that research points to are almost always different to what our intuition leads us to believe.

We want to clear things up for you. We’re guessing that you want to learn as effectively as you possibly can, right? So, over the next few weeks we will be posting a series of blog posts that will challenge your assumptions on learning. Each post will ask you a True or False question that focuses on one aspect of learning, so that by the end of this series you will have gathered all the key principles.

Ready to bust some serious learning myths? Look no further, our first one is just below:

Research has shown that intelligence is fixed at birth. Although studying can go some way in improving our brainpower, it is unlikely that this will have a dramatic effect.

What do you think?

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Select an answer above and then click HERE to reveal whether you were right!

Research has shown that intelligence is fixed at birth. Although studying can go some way in improving our brainpower, it is unlikely that this will have a dramatic effect.

THIS IS FALSE.

While some of us may naturally be better at certain subjects, through deliberate practice our abilities can be drastically increased.

In fact, studies have even shown that just knowing that intelligence is malleable has a positive impact on academic achievement. What this means is that if you’re reading this, you have already increased your likelihood of success!

This idea is what we call the growth mindset: a hunger for learning that sees mistakes as opportunity for improvement, not indication of failure.

Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

  1. Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential 
  2. How To Help Every Child Fulfil Their Potential 
  3. A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality

What is Up Learn? Up Learn uses artificial intelligence and research from cognitive science to help students achieve A* results. Find out more.

We’re releasing a new learning hack every 2 days. Like our Facebook page to be notified!

 

The Generation Game: Why the best learners make the most mistakes

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by failing to attempt.”
– William Shakespeare

The fear of failure and the myth of errorless learning

Why are we so afraid to make mistakes? Part of the answer can be traced to our remote past, when we were more concerned with getting eaten by wild animals or starving than with acquiring new languages or learning algebra. Exclusion from a group in those times would almost inevitably lead to death, so anything that threatened our status would set alarm bells ringing. The legacy of this instinct is that standing out by making mistakes still feels like a huge risk even if it’s actually trivial.

Our natural instinct to avoid social exclusion is accentuated in school, where most questions have right and wrong answers and we’’re praised on achievement rather than effort. The cost of a mistake in this environment often outweighs any potential benefits of suggesting a solution. This leads to the familiar scenario of a teacher’’s questions being met with the sound of crickets, as students sit glued to their chairs in terrified silence. To make things worse, the instructional methods that many teachers still use have been designed to eliminate errors. In the 1960s, the psychologist B.F. Skinner promoted the mass adoption of “errorless learning” methods, which encouraged teachers to spoon feed students material and quiz them while it was still fresh in their short-term memory to eliminate mistakes. These methods are highly counterproductive because they steer students away from the valuable insights that mistakes can bring.

All of this means that most learners continue to view errors as failure and do anything they can to avoid them, only answering questions when they definitely know the answer and keeping silent when they’’re unsure.

Generation and video games

Research in cognitive science has shown that errors are a crucial part of learning and that strategies that are highly likely to result in errors, such as generation, ‘the process of trying to find a solution to a problem before you know the answer’,– produce stronger learning and retention than more passive methods.

For generation to be effective the problem itself must be solvable through a reasonable amount effort. If I give you a Chemistry textbook in Swahili and you don’t know the language, then the problem isn’’t defined as solvable in this context (although of course, you could learn Swahili and study the textbook if you really wanted to). It’’s also important that there’’s corrective feedback given quickly so I can know when I’’ve made a mistake as soon as possible.

The effectiveness of generation is well illustrated by the iterative learning we experience in video games. When playing new games on PlayStation as a teenager I never looked at the instruction manual and would learn the new features of the game by experimenting. Whenever I made mistakes or lost, I redoubled my efforts and this mindset, combined with the continuous process of trial, error and quick feedback meant that I improved rapidly. This rapid progress made me want to spend more time playing, dominating the living room TV for hours at a time to the dismay of my family.

The lesson I’’ve learned from this is that rapid trial and error through generation can lead to the quickest progress and most effective learning.

Free your memory

The fear of failure can have such a negative impact on performance because it takes up space in our working memory (How am I doing? Am I making mistakes?), leaving less capacity to work on the problem itself.

This was proven in an experiment with French school children in the sixth grade, who were tasked with solving difficult anagrams. After struggling with the problems for 10 minutes, half of the children were made aware that mistakes were to be expected, while the other half were asked how they’’d tried to solve the anagrams. In a subsequent test, the first group showed far better use of working memory and better performance than the second. So the students who relaxed into making more mistakes, had more success than those who didn’t.

These results inspired the staging of a “Festival of Errors” by an elite graduate school in France, aiming to teach students that mistakes are a valuable part of learning. The same concept is implemented in a different context at the annual FailCon event, where entrepreneurs meet to share stories of the failures which provided critical insights for their later success.

The Takeaway

We often associate errors with failure, which makes us shy away them. In fact, errors are a critical part of the learning process and should be embraced as they can help to deepen retention and improve understanding. Strategies like generation have proved highly effective as the additional effort of trying to solve a problem before being given the solution makes the mind more receptive to new learning. The mistakes we make by using generation also allow us to immediately eliminate some answers or methods before we’ve even started.

Actions

1) Solve a Real Life Problem

Experiential learning is the ultimate form of generation. To tackle a problem in real life we have to use our creativity and existing knowledge or consult experts, colleagues or the Internet for a solution. This makes the experience deeper and makes us more likely to remember the solution than if we were taught it. So if you want to learn about forces in Physics, try estimating the moment of an elephant and a mouse on a see-saw (you could even go on to calculate the resulting projectile speed of the mouse…).

2) Prediction and Explanation

When reading a chapter of a textbook or notes for the first time, try to explain the key ideas you expect to find beforehand and how you expect them to tie in with what you already know. Then, read the material and see how it differs from your expectations: the less subject knowledge you have initially, the harder generation is but this doesn’’t make it any less beneficial.

3) Take a Pre-Test

The process of testing yourself on a subject before you start it helps you gain an understanding of its structure. For students starting a new course, look through past exam papers first. Even if you don’’t understand much, you’’ll identify the key concepts and how they come up. As you begin to learn the course, you’ll immediately recognise concepts and know how to apply them when it comes to the exam.

Up Learn

At Up Learn, we’ve taken insights from cognitive psychology and neuroscience and implemented them in an accelerated learning system for achieving A* at A Level. We’ve designed generation into our courses to make your learning more effective. Find out more at Up Learn.

This post was written by Nasos Papadopoulos from MetaLearn.net