This is another online learning tool, which seems to work the way most online learning tools do, and in fact the way most classrooms do; lots and lots of quizzes. I don’t really have time to sign up and search it properly – I have a ridiculous number of sites sending me e-mails about learning now – but looking over it it seems to have a few nice features. The first thing I looked for is the fact that it’ll sort you into an ability-accurate level of learning, which is fantastic – many sites will just force you to start from the basics, which means if you’re switching around all the time trying to find the best deal you’re going to be frustrated fast.

The other thing I really like is the detailed record keeping of progression, where you can plan how much you want to study in advance and see how long you’ve studied each day. I think this is great for short-term goals, long-term goals, and feeling like you’re progressing, which can sometimes feel hard to see.

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Angry Birds

Why was (is?) Angry Birds so successful that it makes millions of dollars and has a mega-huge customer base?

1. Simple yet engaging interaction concept.

A successfully built game will enable users to fully (or near fully) understand its interface and interaction model after only a brief period of contact. Users will often rate this format as ‘simple’, and it makes them more likely to interact with it initially. However, it cannot just be simple; it also has to be engaging. To make it engaging, the users’ understanding of the game needs to be expanded as they progress, with new tools or environments added at the right points as they move along so they do not get bored. Angry Birds does this by adding birds with different techniques and more complex layouts as the user progresses, after its initial simple interaction introduction.

2. Cleverly managed response times

It is often believed by developers that faster is better – and oftentimes this is true. However, it is not always true. The Angry Birds developers decided that instead of making everything happen as fast as possible they’d slow down the birds’ flight across the sky to more of a wander. This allows users a better look at the trajectory they’ve created, and gives them a better chance of fixing their mistakes on their next shot (user error correction). The expiration of pigs is also rather slow (at 3-5 seconds) which gives the benefit of both allowing the user time to construct their next shot in their head if they didn’t shoot perfectly the first time, or a moment of congratulation if they’ve just succeeded at something they thought was impossible.

3. Short-term memory management

When information is stored in short-term memory it is generally wiped as soon as something else comes along that grabs our attention, such as conversation, bright animated colours or an object of interest. It is usually not a good idea to erase someone’s short-term memory, but Angry Birds bends this rule somewhat by given users a brief glimpse of the pigs’ house structure before shifting their attention to the birds they are about to throw. They balance this by allowing the suer to scroll back and see the house, or zoom out so the entirety of the game is visible.

4. Mystery

Mystery is in the little details we question in the back of our mind, thinking ‘why did they do that?’ They’re things that add nothing to the gameplay in terms of mechanics, and are generally little aesthetic details that are pleasing and/or surprising. These are things like certain birds turing in the sling, or the pigs’ house shaking at the start of each level. The way you voluntarily think about these things is what makes the game compelling, and pushes your view of it further than just the game space.

5. Visual design and sound

The two main factors of visual design in game development are for it to be memorable, and for it to convey the desired attributes of the gameplay model. The musical soundtrack in Angry Birds varies slightly over time, negating a cessation of playing due to repetitive music. The sound effects simultaneously give validation of actions taken (the egging on of the birds not being launched, and the taunting of the pigs) as well as giving more personality and attachment to the characters themselves.


REF: Mauro, C. L. (2011). Why Angry Birds is so successful and popular: a cognitive teardown of the user experience. Retrieved from http://www.mauronewmedia.com/blog/why-angry-birds-is-so-successful-a-cognitive-teardown-of-the-user-experience/


From what I can work out Type:Rider is a platformer designed to teach a little (or a lot) about type styles and designers. The visual aesthetic is beautiful, the educational content not so much. Learning is not instigated through gameplay, but rather the player is given a chapter to read after each level explaining the font genre they have just been dealing with. This kind of defeats the purpose of learning being in a game, to be honest. There is a other game that deals with type in what I feel to be a better way, but its purpose is for people to possibly learn poems or prose rather than focus on the type itself (the player plays an “i” which jumps across and over platforms made of the words to a contemporary piece of literature, with the intent to touch all the words but avoid the red ones). It is a gorgeous game though, I must admit.     Screen shot 2014-05-17 at 3.16.08 PM Screen shot 2014-05-17 at 3.16.28 PM



Brazil learns English

…by connecting people, and searching for what they really want.

For eight to twelve-year-olds, their interest is celebrities; so what better way to check their hold of the English language by correcting celebrities bad-grammar riddled tweets? Some commenters were up-in-arms about this being ‘bad netiquette’ but seriously, it’s got to be far less damaging to a celebrity’s self-esteem than some of the ridiculous crap ‘fans’ send them (I’m looking at you, EXO fandom). Also, it’s a great way to get kids excited in their education – with no extra work created for the teacher. If you can’t handle being criticized for what you write, then don’t write on a public forum. Yeah?

Slightly older students are more interested in learning English for the places it’ll allow them to go, many of them expressing interest in traveling to the States. If their English is good, their travel will be a lot easier. So they’ve been matched – in a stroke of brilliance – with a group of seniors in an old folks home in America who just want someone to talk to, to feel energised by communicating with a younger generation. And it works well – the kids get to communicate with native English speakers, and the Oldies get some much needed attention.

However, to get to this stage of learning you need to have a fairly good grasp of the language you’re learning. Lang-8 works in a similar way, where you write diary entries in the language you’re learning and get corrected by native speakers – and perhaps get to know some of them well enough to develop that relationship on Skype. It’s a great give-and-take system.


I cant be bothered proper reffing at the moment, but here’s the links:




Learn Online

Not games, but lesson structures. Something to think about in a wider sense. They all apply gamification techniques with varying levels of successful integration, but none can be called games. They all have a counter for when you should next study particular words/characters/grammar in order not to forget them. Duolingo I’ve found is particularly good, because it teaches you grammar, sentence structure and vocab simultaneously, putting words into context to make them easier to remember.





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Extra Credits

I just power watched through three videos because they’re interesting, and also because I’m putting off my poster design. Anyway, here they are together:

Responsive Learning

In classrooms, teachers have to deal with 30+ students, and it is impossible for them to deal with each student on an individual scale and see where the students are struggling. Education is standardised and run on a tight schedule, so if a student gets left behind it’s incredibly difficult to catch up again.

However, if someone continuously fails at the same place in a game the system will notice it, and can take a note of that easily. If this were a learning game, the teacher could be notified and the student could get extra help with that particular part of study, or the game can just adjust its difficulty on the fly in order to help the student understand and gradually work their way up to the place they’re supposed to be at.

“Games can automatically tailor assignments for us.” For the individual student.

Candy Crush.

Candy Crush is a wildly popular submission game that is assumed to make more money than even the biggest selling console games of the year – I thin it rakes in something like 1 million a day, so mega bucks. I skipped over the part about monetization and how they make money because, while interesting, it’s not what I need to help me. The base design of CC is a copy of Bejeweled, which has been around for a long time and spawned huge numbers of spin-offs. So why is CC in particular so successful? Well, that lies in its dedication to interest level in its players. Lets have a look:

– New style/goal every level

– They change the playspace (i.e. not just a plain rectangle, like is usually used in these games) and reshape it to develop and hold interest while not adding complexity and confusing the players with new concepts/mechanics. This means players get to develop a relationship with the new mechanics as they come and learn how to master them before gaining new tools to play with.

– Randomized boards: because the play is different every time, there is no feeling of “I’m just not smart enough to understand this level.” Candy Crush is not a puzzle game, no matter what people may say, it’s a pattern making game. And if it is different every time, the player may think “Now this is the time I’m going to be successful!”

– The score is actually secondary. The main goals (in order to get to the next level) are either getting specific items to the bottom of the screen, or matching using specific squares on the grid. This is because it’s a lot easier to see just how close you were to winning than if you have an arbitrary score value.

Why students hate homework

Fear of failure. I think I ranted a bit about this when I was contradicting Jane McGonigal, but games suspend this while real life doesn’t. Homework generally involves very little chance for revision or second chance, and you’re basically just given a grade for it.

Games train you to overcome problems rather than fear them – they let you get back up again and start trying immediately with little consequence, and generally no personal judgement. While you are playing – if properly immersed – you are not thinking about how you compare to other people.

Games ask, ‘can you find a way to solve this problem?’ rather than ‘Do you know the solution to this problem?’

“Today we need to prepare students to find innovative solutions.” Learning by route was great for the 1800’s, where factory jobs required this sort of knowledge, but the world has changed. A lot of jobs now require innovative minds.

Games allow iterating through mistakes and learning through failure (without potential embarrassment).



REF: Portnow, J., & Floyd, D. [Extra Credits]. (2014, May 7). Education: Responsive learning – how games help teachers. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzmdx7ZL8OM

REF: Portnow, J., & Floyd, D. [Extra Credits]. (2014, Apr 23). Candy Crush’s success – why people can’t get enough of candy crush. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz4WXVNq7v8

REF: Portnow, J., & Floyd, D. [Extra Credits]. (2014, Apr 30). Education: An end to fear – why students hate homework. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWyPLNi8rD8