In “Five Rules of Accelerated Learning” by Willem and Diana Larsen, it is put forth that games support the sense of play, play supports learning, and learning supports life. I would consider myself a life-long learner, as would many in the field of software development. As new technologies emerge, we must make learning an efficient and enjoyable activity.
Rule #1 – Keep it Alive!
Intensify the experience.
Let’s face it – learning is work. New connections are being formed in our brain and our body is consuming energy. Have you ever stopped and realized that you’ve read the same sentence 4 times? Chances are the work was repetitive and you naturally zoned out without even realizing it. You lost energy and enthusiasm for the task. We get tired. The same thing can happen in a classroom or workshop. Aliveness generates the energy we need for learning.
Intensify the experience with things such as: storytelling, jokes/humor, music/singing, games, interaction between people, a change of scene, urgency, or healthy competition. Any of these things can be incorporated into the task of learning. It keeps us present in the moment, maximizing our focus on the content.
Rule #2 – Do It For Real!
We learn to gain fluency. We want to be able to lock away scores of information, ready to be fetched at a moment’s notice.
“Whatever you can do when there is no time to think defines fluent capability, your current highest reliable performance.”
How can this be achieved? It’s important to do something physical and embodied. Use the actual tools of the trade instead of just reading or being told about them. Build something! Achieve observable milestones through tangible practice, practice, practice.
Rule #3 – Setting First!
Choose a setting that comes as close as possible to the environment where you would be using your new skills. We are cooks in the kitchen. Astronauts use pools to simulate zero gravity in early practice. This may border on common sense, but avoid theoretical and imaginative as much as possible. It conflicts directly with tangible practice.
Rule #4 – Start Obvious, Stay Obvious!
This may also border on common sense, but being obvious means “boosting the signal so strong it feels like mind-reading”. When teaching, tricks and obfuscation degrades the signal of the subject matter. While testing has it’s place, doing so during initial instruction may do more harm than good. If we expect tricks, we may second guess ourselves constantly and be hesitant to perform.
Rule #5 – Focus on Flow!
If the step is too large, we risk falling into the chasm, looking up desperately for a way out.
Willem and Diana Larsen explain that learners experience three general states: boredom, flow, and overwhelmed. We’ve all been there: the pace is so slow that we have time to drift. We check our phones or drift into a daydream during a lecture or tutorial. It is not efficient to stay in the boredom state for long. It is a sign that we need a larger “bite-sized piece” to tackle. On the other end of the spectrum, if the step is too large, we risk falling into the chasm, looking up desperately for a way out. Being overwhelmed can sap our energy fast. The flow state is somewhere in the middle, and may need adjustment to be maintained. When learners are in the flow state, natural curiosity intuitively leads to the next “bite-sized piece” and it’s fun!
These are the rules of the game. We are all simultaneously teachers and learners. Leading workshops here at Greater Sum, I learn something new every time. Certain understanding stays in the “proto-thought” stage, sub-conscious and vague, until I am forced to explain it to someone else.
If what I am learning is fun, I absorb more. I expect to create the same experience for others. Adults and children alike benefit from treating learning like play.