As adults, if we are actually purchasing an educational web or iPhone app, it’s likely because we want to learn the subject – not because a parent or teacher is forcing us. Why, then, does most adult-oriented educational software spend so much time trying to motivate us through cheesy animations, games, and quizzes that we can share with our friends? Why don’t curriculum designers create a platform where adults who deeply care about a topic can conveniently learn it on our own schedule, giving us our own ability to control precisely what is learned and how progress is measured? Why isn’t the focus on creating a product that helps us learn faster rather than just help us have fun while learning?
Learn Better-Learn Deliberately
The problem seems to be instructional designers’ lack of respect for the power of adults’ intrinsic motivation. While it is true that younger children with little intrinsic interest in a subject (say, biology) may benefit from “fun” & “engaging” activities, adults who really want to learn a language or score high on a graduate entrance exam do not need such frills. “Score”-oriented quizzes containing multiple choice and matching questions may actually harm performance results.
The good news is that new mobile study applications such as Brainscape have stripped out the bewildering range of settings and features that exist in most other mobile study applications, in order to focus your study time using one simple method – the method that optimizes your learning efficiency. This system of confidence-based repetition allows YOU to be in control, so that you are only learning what you need to learn, in the pattern best suited for your own purposes. As a side benefit, scientifically optimized learning software such as Brainscape can actually improve your learning skills long after you have stopped using it.
Brainscape recommends that you should focus your learning energies on topics where you feel deep intrinsic motivation. Indeed, becoming a true expert requires the frequent and targeted application of deliberate practice (Ericcson et. al, 1993). If you really need a fun game in order to learn something (vocabulary, guitar, Spanish, or whatever), then you probably don’t really want to learn it all that badly.
Ericsson, K. Anders; Krampe, Ralph; and Tesch-Romer, Clemens. The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review, 100 (3), 363-406.
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