Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

“Flow” in Learning Design

by Edwin McRae, Fiction Engine

Jenova Chen has captured one of the most important learning advantages of games in…a game, of course.  ’Flow’ is the name of the game, and a state of mind that all learners need to aspire to.

It goes like this…

• A sense of control;

• A loss of self-consciousness; and

• An altered sense of time.

…and produces nothing short of YOU’RE BEST WORK.  We’ve all experienced ‘flow’.  That feeling when we’re ‘in the zone’, ‘on fire’ and generally ‘kicking ass’.  I was in ‘flow’ when a broke a world record in ‘Defender’ on my Atari 600XL.  I’m in ‘flow’ when I write my best dialogue, create my best characters, and develop my best ideas.

According to psychologist, Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced cheek-SENT-me-high), ‘flow’ is the greatest form of happiness known to humanity.  It’s an intense, optimistic, engagement with the world around us.

And guess what…according to Jane McGonigal, games are the fastest, most effective inducers of ‘flow’ that we have.

So what does this mean for learners?  Simply put, we learn best when we ‘flow’.  And when do we ‘flow’ the best?  When we’re playing games.

For a more in depth understanding of ‘flow’, take look at Jenova Chen’s Viewpoint Summary of Flow in Video Games (And Everything Else).

Of course, you might want to play FLOW as well.  So here it is, online or you can download it from Jenova Chen’s site for your Mac or PC.

We, as teachers, NEED to have ‘flow’ in our classrooms.  That means chunks of uninterrupted time where students are working at Goldilocks Tasks (not too hard, not too easy…just right) and getting immediate feedback from their efforts (not from us, from games or other interactive activities).

If we DON’T have ‘flow’ in our classrooms, then we’re handicapping our kids.  We’re keeping them from the single, best learning state known to humanity.  Dramatic words, I know.  But think about the times that you were learning the most and achieving the most.  Were you in ‘flow’?


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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