How to keep attention flowing

Borrowing from Flow-theory, and easing a somewhat ranty-last-post about people believing tokens and level ups will engage students, I thought I’d add something about the variables involved, and the problem of creativity.

First some variables. Not all kids like video games, not all kids like computers. Most kids don’t like sofware that crashes or tasks that seem unconnected with the software being used. Teachers used to be kids, so it’s no shock they too feel the same way. But there are other factors at play (pun).

Phenomenological factors: including the relevance of instruction and perceived control; meaningful inquiry to solve real life problems that extend beyond the classroom and  positive emotions in the classroom.

Instructional and teacher factors: instructional format and school subject; student-controlled versus teacher-controlled learning activities and that external evaluations that emphasise social comparisons also appear to have negative consequences on students’ interest and engagement.

Demographic factors and learning history: engagement can be mediated by individual factors, for example more girls than boys, the degree to which ontask behavior has been rewarded or praised in the past – although these factors are smaller in comparison with instructional and classroom factors.

What we are dealing with is often described as long term disenagement with school, not an immediate or short-term dislike (often influenced by external factors) of the teacher or lesson, and of course not all kids are disengaged. (looks for the magic pill).

For some kids, the relationship with school has often not been as long term positive as their relationship with games in the same period. For many kids, games are an increabily positive experience – as play is a humanistic behavior that comes naturally. It’s a balance, too much or too little of anything will be a bad thing.

Game space has the ability to increase creativity and to develop better ways to evaluate the impact of new creative ideas. It’s a very powerful feedback loop. Compare this to excessively, narrow specialisations (single subject, single topic regimes) and we reduce the likelihood of making creative contributions and kill off creativity.

There are many ways to kill creativity.

Turning games into game based learning, while a novelty, may not sharpen the focus for problem solving as being Warcraft like (using quests) is not the same as being a character in Warcraft playing the game.

At the heart of killing creativity, engagement and enthusiam are people who are simply not willing to attempt to be remotely creative. Perhaps victims of their own experience. Each person has, potentially, all the psychic energy needed to lead a creative life. But there are many obstacles that prevent many from expressing this potential. If our attention is overly directed to monitoring the self, or threats to the ego or in pursuing selfish goals we become un-creative – and we do this all the time. It’s easier often to accept defeat.

There are ways to think about fostering game-like, creative work flows, regardless of the tools you care to use.

What works are predicatable goals – those we are naturally inclined to persue, and those what stop the exodus to our own virtual-reality which as the lady says, feels less broken.

•    There is immediate feedback to your actions
•    There is a balance between challenges and skills
•    Action and awareness are merged
•    Distractions are excluded
•    There is no worry of failure
•    Self-consciousness disappears
•    The activity becomes autotelic .

When games foster creativity, we enter a whole new zone. (Flow)

Creative people often blend pride in community with pride in work. Many of them are driven by a feeling of responsibility for the common good. They shoulder this as a privilege rather than work. If they don’t get it, then all that creative engery is wasted. This is on reason people play games – as a refuge to keep spikey ideas temporarily at bay. When the game lets you be creative however, as Minecraft does, it teaches us to use our creative energy. To do that we have to learn about so many things that ultimately give us direction.

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