Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Instructional Design, Game Design, User Experience

There are three broadly overlapping disciplines which we need to reconcile as we design our student interactions and activities for our educational software.

1. Instructional design. Our goal is for the students to learn.  We all know that being told something is quite different from learning it.  There are many theories and models on how student learning and instruction works.  Most are, from the point of view that I care about, very flawed. Here are a few articles on the topic:

Why do I say that they are flawed from our point of view?
 The questions that we wrestle with are how best to help build literacy skills in elementary students using technology.  This puts us smack dab in the middle of the ongoing "Reading Wars." (See also the Atlantic Article on Reading Wars).  Simplistically, there are people who stress the fact that as students are given reading experiences, their minds will figure out the patterns and they will learn to read.  There are plenty of students for whom this works.  This is the Whole Word method. There is a another camp that says that if the students are given proper instruction in building phonics skills, they have the tools to learn to decipher text and learn to read.  There are many students for whom the phonics instruction approach works.  In the real world, a blended approach with both memorization of sight words, phonics instruction, and some broad exposure is generally adopted but the wards have raged for decades on what balance and sequence should this blend be built on. Common Core seems to have titled toward phonics but only slightly. Instead, CCSS emphasizes rigor and that the comprehension skills should be far more rigorous than previously expected. This assumes mastery of basic reading skills so it's not so involved in this age-old debate.

None of the educational models are directly applicable to this high stakes intense question of strategies for teaching reading.

2. Game design. Engaging students in education through the use of the techniques of video and computer games is the holy grail of much of edtech. As a former designer of Playstation games (I went Platinum back in teh PSX 1 Days), I am both a huge fan of this  idea and I come at it with some real understanding of the limits and difficulties of this approach.

3. User Experience. UIX. How to streamline and simplify and make navigation and use of a computer program as intuitive and pleasurable as possible. 

An important question underlying all of this is what grade and levels of students are our target audience? Here's the answer

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