(Trying to) Explaining interactive learning

After a long period without posting I’m here to share a little of the stuff that’s going on in my thesis. I think that, even though it’s taking forever to finish it, there a few insights that are worth putting out here. Hope you agree – or that you comment why if you don’t. The first of these insights is the development of what “interactive learning” is made of, what actually is needed for it to happen.

I’ve identified in my thesis that there are 3 components that enable learning by interaction: first is that situation matters; second is that trust matters; and third is that language matters. I’ll try to explain it here not going into many technical issues. In order to do so, I’ll use an example to back up the theory.

Let’s say you play video games and that you like one title in particular. It doesn’t really matter which one, the important thing is that you enjoy it and that you want to know more about that game. You can try to work alone at your home and go through trial and error or read the game manual. Without the help of other people you simply can’t do more than that, can you? But assuming that if you own a video game you probably also own a computer and you have internet connection. Your set of tools changed. You are now able to contact other people, surf the net for tips, reports, forums, blogs, ask friends on MSN, Skype or Gtalk and so on. This is a change in the situation. The introduction of tools and / or people as resources for learning enhances your possibilities of absorbing new knowledge.

So by surfing the net you learn that if you smash the left side of the console with a hammer (just above the power button) you’ll be able to get more points in the game. How do you know you can do it with no harm to your hammer? I know this is a lousy example but it shows how trust matters in the interactive learning process. If you don’t trust your counterparts, how can you put the knowledge they give you to test and use?

Finally, you decide that the knowledge you found on the Internet seems trustworthy enough – it’s the biggest gaming forum on the web! – but it seems you’ve skipped some classes in school because you can’t understand anything people say. Incomprehensible sentences keep coming up like “omg I h8 this part cuz there iz no lulz”, “gimme the cookies plx!”, and “how come you don’t know that the dmg meters only calculate a third of the poison dmg because the math on dot’s is messed up, you nub?”.

Video game language test.

This is where we clearly see why language matters. When coming into a new group people often have to adjust the words they use and learn the expressions and concepts that are characteristic for that group. This is as true for video games as it is for medicine, book clubs, or animal psychology. Until there is a shared language at work, members of that group will find hard to make sense of each others’ practice and experiences.

Therefore in order for people to be able to learn from one another, the group needs to establish tools that allow them to connect; trust each other as sources of knowledge; and create a shared language that enables them to understand the knowledge transferred in that interaction. Any group of people should take that into consideration when developing learning strategies that include interaction.

5 Respostas to “(Trying to) Explaining interactive learning”

  1. Ricardo Says:

    Nice post. But I tend to disagree on the importance of trust, particularly in the context of gaming you described. I think cooperation is more important than trust, and no, one does not preclude the other. To quote Axelrod, the “foundation of cooperation is not trust, but the durability of the relationship”.

    When you go to the web search for tips and share your knowledge about a game, you don’t exactly trust the people there. You probably never met and never will meet them. But you cooperate anyhow (i.e., help others) because you expect them to help you, despite of any trust relation.

  2. Marcelo Says:

    Ricardo, first of all thanks for the post!

    Secondly, I must say I agree with you only to the extent of the example I used. This is because in using information from the web is not a complex matter and the consequences might be limited to it not solving the problem you have. As I said, it’s a lousy example for the importance of trust. Nevertheless, when people participate in a forum, at the very least they trust that there will be reciprocity as you said. But, if you visit a forum very often, even though you may never personally meet the people you interact with, they become part of your social circle. In-game experience with other people may as well count as significant shared experience so gamers consider each other trustworthy. It is not hard to find community of gamers that actually organize real life meetings.

    Furthermore, in more complex learning partnerships – say it be two companies working together in developing new technology, or primary school education – trust is a fundamental part of it. To the degree of spending millions of dollars in contract making and management, or schedulling regular meetings between parents and teachers.

    Anyhow, I agree with you when it comes to low complexity relationships. But trust is increasingly important the more complex the knowledge exchange becomes – and the more critical the consequences are.

  3. Ricardo Says:

    Good points but I still disagree. 🙂

    I am not saying that trust may not be there in the interaction, I am saying that I think it is not necessary. Cooperation might exist with trust but also without.

    I am not expert by any means in ‘gaming’ but I played enough to know that even in in-game roles I can cooperate without trusting. In fact, it was often the case that I played with another player for days and then he or she vanished. Did I trust him or her at any point in the game? Not at all. We cooperated only. I tend to think this is more often the case then any establishment of trust, particularly in MMORPG.

    In the examples you gave outside ‘gaming’, I will be more specific: I am pretty sure IBM and Microsoft never really trusted each other but they cooperated anyhow. Macintosh and Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, Oracle and SAP, etc. I think they don’t necessarily trust each other but cooperate because the payoff for both of them is higher by cooperating instead of defecting (i.e., taking an action that would benefit just one company, letting the other get all the losses). By defecting, the other company will certainly retaliate and this can potentially trigger a ‘war’ between them. ‘Contract making and management’ that you mentioned, to me, are just means to guarantee this cooperation. If they really trusted each other, that wouldn’t really be necessary, right?

    So, in the long run, it pays to cooperate. despite trust relations.

  4. Marcelo Says:

    Again: agreed. But you are looking at “trust” as an absolute concept.The way you put it, if you trust someone, you will tell them all your secrets while the opposite is “not trust”, meaning that you simply don’t relate to the other part.

    The way I see it, “trust” is not a duality like this. I can trust you enough to make a business deal that is regulated by a contract, but I don’t trust you enough to open my business strategy. Also, I’m sure IBM, Apple, Microsoft and everyone else that cooperates trust enough that their partners will provide valuable knowledge to the partnership. Otherwise, why would I open my sources to you if I don’t trust you will open your sources to me?

    My point is that to accomplish true knowledge sharing and interactive learning, SOME DEGREEE of trust is needed.

    About video games: particularly in MMORPG trust is needed. In World of Warcraft for instance, people who steal an item that dropped from a monster or roll on it even though he/she doesnt need it, commonly the guy is called “ninja”, something that other gamers will avoid as untrustworthy players.

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