It seems a long time ago since I heard Marc Prensky speak at E-Fest in Wellington. My mind was a bit shut off to him because of his work with the Department of Defense, which really isn't my bag, but he talked about "twitch speed" and that clicked for me. Recently I've been thinking about him again, and about the things he does and says.
And I've been observing my daughter and her friends — postgrads and entrepreneurs — and noting how they think and act very fast. They process information very quickly, and make often good decisions without hesitation. When they make bad decisions they generally pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and immediately get back in the fray. They have opinions on political and environmental issues, and they feel they can play an active part on a global scale. They intend to influence the future. They dream of saving the planet.
Now I am just postulating here, I have not yet gathered any evidence, but I think they learned this behaviour playing computer games.
Freaks me how fast my daughter drives the car. Well, not like fast so much as in a smooth progressive keep moving forward towards her goal kind of way. Has she seen that pedestrian? Yes she saw the pedestrian three seconds ago leaving a shop doorway and assessed that particular situation and was planning a lane change before I had even registered the zebra crossing or the opportunity opening up ahead. What she has is heightened situational awareness. I note it as being another example of something she may have acquired from playing first person shooter games.
The lesson here for learning designers — be the learning in the classroom, online, or on mobile devices in the real world — is that we need to run the learning at a blistering pace, and that we need to introduce layer upon layer of complexity. If we fail to do this, if we dumb it down to make it easy, or we tell learners how to do rather than what to do, we're going to lose them out of sheer unadulterated boredom. We also have to give it real purpose, like slowing global warming, defeating terrorism, or relieving world poverty. And we have to do it at twitch speed.
So now when I'm working on my own designs for learning I've started using the language of games designers: economies; the third axis 'z'; the fourth dimension of time; I think in terms of sources, pools, drains, converters, gates, triggers, and randomness.
I'll stick my neck out a bit further and postulate that
Emergent Complexity / Time = Engagement
So, thank you Marc, for telling us that ten years ago. I just hope we were all listening.