Long story short: it doesn't sell.
At my company we identified, at least if your target is kids, two ways to sell edu games.
1. Sell them to institutions, like governments, schools, companies, whatever. Thing is, the features they look when choosing a game to buy, are ones most likely to make the game unfun, the end result is often boring stuff noone WANTS to play.
2. Sell them to the public directly, but word of mouth here is often poor, specially if your age range is narrow, for example if your target is kids between 4 and 8, the kids will play the game, love it, but parents won't tell other parents to buy it, most of their friends probably WON'T have kids the same age.
Thus if you are going for fun games, you need path 2, and to do path 2 you need a ton of exposure that is NOT word of mouth, we found out this means or you have massive marketing budget, or you have some kind of connection to media so they advertise you cheaper.
Our biggest competitors all ended being media companies themselves, for example Disney is an obvious one, but another was Toca-Boca, at first they looked like a tiny indie studio, but somehow they ALWAYS get featured in multiple magazines, store front pages and so on, eventually I found out they were created by a multi-billion media empire named Bonnier,
Since then I found that is easier to get money from creating other things, since I don't have the necessary media connections.
Well, even NORMAL games often need media connectios (for example, Jon Blow was a journalist before he made Braid, Nintendo literally printed their own magazine for a while, the indie clique that existed around TIGSource was heavily tied to CMPMedia, many of them being presenters in events, or being friends of their employees, or working for them directly, the whole thing is very "incestuous").
And, let's be honest, games that try to teach you math or science are just not as fun as Fortnite or Minecraft.
Now, you can make the case that some games are educational by mistake. Like Minecraft, Age of Empires, Sim City or Kerbal Space Program. But noone would see them or describe them as "educational" games.
So, what we're trying to make now are creative games. In my opinion, creativity is extremley important and there are fun ways to be creative, that are not eductional in the strict sense. For example, Lego comes to mind.
Alternatively, you could go Minecraft and hack in education through mods and stuff to existing games kids are already engaged in.
But I fully admit as much as I admire Maxis, I don't work in that space and unless I win the lottery I won't be quitting my job to get into educational software any time soon.
As a kid, I picked up a familiarity with history and geography that was miles ahead of my peers due to games like Total War and Close Combat, which aren’t sold as educational at all.
I think people innately want to learn whatever they need to know to accomplish their goals, and it’s way easier to give people goals and tools than it is to teach them about tools in the abstract.
Al Lowe, lead developer of the Larry series, probably also had some influence on my sense of humor (to this day I prefer grammar-level jokes to kicks-in-the-butt). These games were a great, intellectually twisted, multi-layered introduction to the world of adult people as well. :) Thank you, teacher!
Learned English playing games in the early 90's
In any English test they ask me to put a phrase in passive form and I was like: the f* is that?
And most probably for maths/physics It would be funnier to do some angry birds with numbers than calculating the movement of a random body in a parabolic movement.
See this 2012 thread on a truly awesome algebra learning game, and this stays relevant to this day. To the best of my knowledge, it is still the best and fastest way to learn how to solve an equation for x. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4188579
Paper: Zoran Popović. Achieving 96% Mastery at National Scale through Inspired Learning and Generative Adaptivity. Proceedings of the Second (2015) ACM Conference on Learning@ Scale, 2015.
Post-test success as used in the paper you mentioned can be a misleading indicator if transfer to pen and paper was done improperly. As kids solving equations in a game are moving terms around by touch on a screen, they need to transfer that learning to pen and paper before being able to write a line by line solution. Failing to do this transfer would predictably lead to a poor post-test performance, without actually measuring properly how much algebra had been learned and understood.
Bingo. Both my parents are retired teachers, and both focused on high-risk student populations (my father at adolescent correctional facilities, and my mother with "troubled children that had learning disabilities at specialized facilities). Both with the freedom to implement alternative means of education as opposed to standardized public school curriculum.
They both found incredible success in teaching by focusing on a individual child's interests and goals. It's easy to do so in the context of parenting, but much more difficult in a school setting. Implementation of such an idea is beyond my pay grade, but I think there's promise in identifying goals/motivation and personalizing education.
> Bingo. Both my parents are retired teachers, and both focused on high-risk student populations (my father at adolescent correctional facilities, and my mother with "troubled children that had learning disabilities at specialized facilities). Both with the freedom to implement alternative means of education as opposed to standardized public school curriculum.
> They both found incredible success in teaching by focusing on a individual child's interests and goals. It's easy to do so in the context of parenting, but much more difficult in a school setting. Implementation of such an idea is beyond my pay grade, but I think there's promise in identifying goals/motivation and personalizing education.
I used to teach and had many kids tell me on their first day that they hated reading and _hated_ writing (with their parents echoing the same). I hold the notion that reading is almost like an automatic process once learned—put a cereal box on the table during dinner and you almost can't avoid reading it. People _want_ to read. Aligning the material with the kid's interests is the surest way to progress. Couple that with writing prompts that are in the same genre and even the parents wouldn't believe that this child who is suddenly consuming a book a week is their own.
What if I told you that (morpheus.jpg) this has been common knowledge in pedagogical research for over half a century now, and that pretty much all attempts of reforming education in the light of that simple fact have failed :(
We're homeschooling our kids and we track their progress compared to the public school curriculum closely, and we do remarkably little that looks like formal education. The kids are easily on schedule with everything, a year or more ahead of the curriculum benchmarks, but people see what we do, and then ask when we're going to start teaching them stuff.
I rather agree with the quoted statement. I think that, if it is truly that simple fact which has failed, then it is because 'their goals' are in fact put upon them, not innately 'their goals'.* Students will of course not innately want to learn whatever they need to know to pass the exam. But they want to learn whatever they need to know to beat their friends in Fortnite.
I think more generally the problem is that pedagogy, as in _instruction_, is fundamentally at odds with _agency_ (which is what games excel at giving people). (Imagine playing a game that would explain to you how to play it at every step of the way. How fun would that be?) It's comes down to control. Who should have it: the teacher, or the student? No classroom setting would ever allow giving _all control_ over to students. Yet, that is what games do. And the wonders that it creates.. The control gives players a really _empowering_ feeling of agency and self-determination. Pedagogy, and instruction, is often more paternalistic / patronizing in its core, since it assumes "You can't do this, let me show you". Games say: "Let's see if you can do this!"
* - Education is a way of enforcing society's goals upon the individual (to create "citizens", ideally, but to create "workers", practically), and the individual adapts to it to the extent it helps him later in life, to the level he/she has aspirations and manages to forgo instant gratification.
Even Maxis itself actually failed, they went bankrupt and EA bought them and ditched their educational games (what remained of Maxis started to just pump out The Sims series one after the other).
But unless you are aiming at a really, really wide market, and is either lucky or get exposure help, you won't go far.
I noticed for example "Kingdom Come: Deliverance" has a LOT of information about medieval era in the Holy Roman Empire, still they aimed to be a "AAA" game, and the information is tucked inside the in-game manual.
And The Sims simplified, but made me (and probably others) aware of quantified personal needs; you need x amount of sleep per night or you'll accrue 'sleep debt' and distress, you need social contact to fill that meter, etc.
Minecraft has an educational mode / version btw, there was one game our son was playing that basically made him go out into the sea and identify various types of sea life. I mean it's all Minecraftified (?) and abstracted, but they do pick up a lot of things from it.
I'd still like him to read more books though, given that his language skills are pretty bad.
And that's the problem. Because they are educational. And because they are both educational and fun, people are much more engaged to learn from them than from "real" educational games.
People who play Europe Universalis learn way more about early modern history than they ever learned at school. As Randal Munroe pointed out, you learn way more about orbital mechanics from KSP.
If you want to make truly educational games, you shouldn't focus on the educational part, but take the educational part and wrap it in tons of fun.
Of course there are topics where this is going to be hard. I have absolutely no idea how anyone could make a fun game that revolves around German grammar. (Or do I? The best way to learn a language always seems to be to actually use it with a native speaker. Having a friend who speaks the language you're trying to learn would be a great way to do that. There might be something here.)
But something like geology could be part of a simulation where you need to find certain resources, and that's easier once you understand how those resources are formed. And then there needs to be something fun to do with those resources, of course.
That's the problem. I think if you define "educational" as the curriculum taught in school, this is not possible. There's no way around working a ton of math problems to get better at math. You maybe can make it a bit more engaging if you pack it in a video game, but it will never be fun for most people.
Therefore, I think, the educational role of video games must be to spark interest. For example, KSP sparks interest in aerospace engineering, and I bet there's a significant number of people who went on to study rocketry because they played KSP.
Sparking interest is an important function. In fact, I think it becomes increasingly important as a lot of material and courses are now available for little money ubiquitously. Great education starts with a spark of interest.
Let me explain in more detail:
Back in the days, an important part of going to school was having access to knowledge. Now, thanks to the internet and millions of amazing humans, knowledge is accessible all over the place, virtually for no money.
Today, the motivation to learn something is therefore more important. To get motivated, first you need to know that something exists, and second you need to know if you like it or not. Before motivation comes sparking interest. And here, video games have an extremely important role to play - and unlike "educational" video games that are math exercises disguised as video games, video games that can try to achieve the spark can be genuinely fun to play.
About 'German Grammar': check out Heaven's Vault https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven%27s_Vault
But honestly, humans don't learn languages by understand their grammars with the logic part of their brain. Games would be ideal to produce comprehensible input, and test players on their comprehension via actions, instead of making them reply with words.
There's some evidence that trying to produce language to early in your learning just ingrains bad habits. So instead you can just follow increasingly complex instructions to show that you understand. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Input_hypothesis
As a native German speaker, I disagree. For me, the German grammar (in particular the declination system) is what I would consider the type system of the German language. So yes, I do think a lot about German sentences in terms of types/grammar that are/is involved.
EDIT: When I was a pupil at school, the only thing that I loved about the German classes (for native speakers) were the grammatical concepts. At that time, I really couldn't understand why these weren't taught in math classes ...
But you first learn a language intuitively at home, by using it a lot and developing intuition for what sounds right and what doesn't.
I'm a native Polish speaker (which has a "typesystem" much more complicated than the German one nevermind the English one). I've learnt German for 4 years in secondary school. I remember the system to be pretty intuitive and simple (mostly you change the articles not the words, there's just 4 cases, no verb aspects, just 1 kind of plural, just 3 genders, etc.).
So it was definitely easy to remember the rules and I did at one point (not anymore ;) ). But still to speak German you can't pause every 3 seconds to do a table lookup for the correct conjugation and rules, that would be far too slow. You have to use the language and have that "ouch" feeling when you use the wrong case so eventually you know intuitively which word to use.
A game to teach a language should just be a game using that language and giving immediate feedback.
Learning the first language as a baby takes many years - and even after these years, you are still only on a "baby talk level". That is why I don't consider these "natural" approaches for learning a language to be a good idea - they are far too slow to be economical.
WWII is a pretty common setting for games. Making the German protagonists communicating only in German would be a first step to incentive learning the language.
Then mix and match for different languages.
Of course the things they say should be more detailed and diverse than just some standard sound clips.
By giving them the little details, you engage the audience (well, most of them) and make the work more compelling. Medical and Crime procedurals are this in spades. Sherlock Holmes is still idolized.
Educational genres are explicitly against the Kuleshov Effect. The whole point is to get to 4. The audience is not exactly unengaged (video games are engaging by definition), but they aren't drawn in. There are no compelling mysteries or 'flaws' that they help solve with the story of the game. Just a computer holding back an answer.
The McLean was a flop, and four years later it was off the market. What happened? Part of the problem appears to have been that McDonald's rushed the burger to market before many of the production kinks had been worked out. More important, though, was the psychological handicap the burger faced. People liked AU Lean in blind taste tests because they didn't know it was AU Lean; they were fooled into thinking it was regular ground beef. But nobody was fooled when it came to the McLean Deluxe. It was sold as the healthy choice--and who goes to McDonald's for health food?
Speaking of choice and marketing, wonder why McDonald’s in the US still lacks a veggie burger. Is it based on a business decision?
It seems to me that US McDonald's must be scared of diluting their brand by also going after the veggie crowd. Perhaps due to McLean failing or that they just bide their time until they can make a whole new set of restaurants under a different brand name like McDonald's Green or something?
Would be fascinating if they did something like that. Pret a Manger did this recently by adding stores called Veggie Pret. Might be tough for McDonald’s to pull that off, though, since they also cater a lot to kids. By introducing two stores, veggie vs non-veggie, wonder if that would create signaling issues of healthiness with audiences?
But this kind of knowledge acquisition only ever teaches the lowest hanging fruits, it's no substitute for drilling in the basics. Even lifetimes spent passing KSP won't bring you to a point were you could design your own rocket.
Yes. Though it can probably teach you enough that you have enough scaffolding already in your brain that you can get through a textbook without getting lost?
The great value, here, I think, is that you can have a process completely alien to humans and get an intuition of it about as good as what we can get from playing around with a ball. In high school physics, ballistics (and therefore gravity) is taught using a ball being thrown in the air for a reason- most people have this sort of intuition for that process, and find it easier to get from there to the mathematical model.
Before games/simulators like KSP, the only way to get an intuition of orbital mechanics like that would be to simulate it in your head a bunch, arduously.
I think this is a potential great source of value: games/simulator can give you otherwise-very-hard-to-get intuitive knowledge of (models of) subjects. Not a replacement for the maths and the crunch, but would probably make it easier in a revolutionary way.
I wonder if this is already happening? There must be a generation of aerospace engineering students now who have sent rockets to the Mun.
But I wonder if that might also come as a disadvantage in the classroom, where the remaining facts and methods grind has to be enforced: if, for some reason, you felt the need to make pupils knowledgeable in the sequence of popes, that incredibly boring class would naturally be spiced up with anecdotes of dual antipopes, the cadaver synod and so on. Would that last hope of making that class somewhat bearable be lost on someone who already knew those rare fun parts in between all the numbers, e.g. because of playing CK2?
The solution is to work on curriculum and textbook some more.
Only if you try to do it very naively. Most of the time, these "games" are "lets put blinky lights around match equations."
That's definitely not how you turn math and science into games. You turn them into games by making engineering games.
There was a really great paper I ran into a decade ago that looked at the theory making by players of World of Warcraft. Players were coming up with complex mathematical models for how to play the game most efficiently. THAT is how you make math a game.
The goal of the game shouldn't be "let's solve these math problems."
The goal of the game should be anything but that, and then you setup the game so that the best way to reach that goal is to use math.
Science opens the door even further, because hypothesis and experimentation is a fundamental part of playing games.
There was a recent post on here regarding the best ways to learn electricity. One of the top replies was to use some minecraft mod. I don't know anything about that mod, but that fact that it was one of the recommendations really said a lot to me.
And as a "video game"-like free alternative to 'real Lego' there are LeoCAD app + LDraw Parts Library, which are suitable for creating 'digital Lego' models by kids.[0,1,2]
I came to the same conclusion for software that caters to teachers.
Teachers don't buy that, the administration does. They don't feel the pain
the teachers are having.
It also applies to programming lessons. Yes, everybody thinks it's important.
No, it's hard to make a living selling it.
We do. See the success of teacherspayteachers.com or tes.com. As a teacher I have spent hundreds of dollars of my own money to buy resources. Simply because I don't have the time for the admin to claim the expense.
The problem is that most resources are bad, if not terrible. The ones that are good are not adapted to what you need, not customisable, etc. You may have come up with a great resource but it has to tick a lot of boxes. Not because the teachers don't love real learning ... but because our hands are tied.
We have this huge volume of content to cover in a limited amount of time and standardised tests await. If your resource doesn't use the same notation, terminology, depth ... some students may be more confused than helped (of course the very smart ones will make deep connections ... but you have to teach for everybody). It's not an easy problem to solve but more time / money for good teachers is the obvious place to start.
I don’t hold it against them though. Nobody was going to tell me how to teach physics.
Fun fact(?): Back when I was teacher my friend Eddie (math teacher) decided we could teach pretty sophisticated ideas to our community college students if we used this fancy program called “Mathematica.” We wrote a grant and got a good price from Wolfram and after that they introduced a pricing for community colleges. This was way back in the ‘90s- but I don’t remember the year.
The point is, nobody sold me software. I decided what my problem was and set about solving it. I suspect most teachers either (a) do that too or (b) want an accepted solution.
> A video game is just:
> (a) a simulation of reality
> (b) with fast feedback loops.
I’d agree with both of you.
“Educational” games are a hard sell. I’m a parent and the educational mini-games pushed by school is boring to death and won’t stick with my kid. It’s hard to articulate, but the underlying principle of trying to teach a specific thing doesn’t go well. Yet the ones that I found that seemed to work ok had way lower “educational” focus, and it was hard to recommend over any other standard game.
Then simulations stick very well.
Minecraft is a barebone one and “teaches” a ton of true and untrue stuff. Racing simulations stuck, flight simulator stuck, hell even lego simulator stuck. I see animal crossing in the same vein, and am trying to find a serious fishing simulator as a beginner’s guide to fishing. And kids can spend hours on Streetview for the same reason.
The new Spike set looks promising.
Also when I was kind I wasn’t really able to build a good city. I understood years later this is because the game expects cities to be built in the US fashion: big residencial/commercial/industrial zones separated from each other, linked by roads, lot of roads. And square based layouts. That was totally different from where I lived so I’ve always found the cities layout that works in the game where very artificial. So there wasn’t too much to learn about city planning.
It...does not. It uses and underlying low-level simulation model which can be satisfied lots of different ways, but what you describe is not one that works particularly well for it.
In real life, I very much like having shops on the ground floor of residential buildings. Very convenient for me.
I played mostly Sim City 2000.
Also lincity/linticy-ng are great too, even more for a
climate changing world.
Is cram school popular with kids, just because they are in cram school day after day and spend most of their time there? It definitely improves test scores.
Anyway, my point is, your quantitative feedback for fun, it is confounded by being educational ie parents anticipate it will improve test scores or whatever.
Coercion is the placebo not the treatment. That is why this article is sort of bunk. It’s adults literally discussing how to meddle with what their kids are interested in, in the exact same breath as describing how the best and most educational parts of childhood occurred in the absence of adults and their priorities.
I think I didn't so much learn new things so much as I got an applied perspective on things that I had already learned. It's one thing to read about value added in a textbook, it's another thing to actually experience it in person buying reagents and selling potions in WoW. You can read about the benefit of fuel transferring lifting stages (aka "asparagus staging") in an article it's another thing to reach that design in KSP, and understand why SpaceX tried to do it.
Especially for more abstract topics like, why does a market work better at discovering information than central command-and-control?
A game can't help but have some mechanisms. The mechanisms don't necessarily reflect reality, but they have to bear more weight of themselves than eg just a story does.
Game design shows at least some unintended consequences.
Especially the more simulation type games like Sim City where the game world ticks along without your input, as compared to more heavily scripted player focused games like an FPS.
You're making the massive assumption that someone plays a game with the goal of learning something. Learning is something that happens subconsciously during game play and that's why games are so effective. I played KSP for a few months but I would never go out of my way to learn orbital mechanics or rocket design on my own. If you told me I need a 4-5 year degree then I wouldn't even start.
Heck, I wouldn't even start with a short technical book because I have no reason to read one. In KSP you are put into an environment where your learned knowledge is actively useful in completing game objectives. The reality is that people would just skip learning entirely.
I also take issue with the idea of hyper optimizing learning as a beginner. Most people don't know what the most effective method of learning is for a given topic is precisely because they are beginners. Even if someone wants to actively study a topic it can take quite a while to get into the mindset and find the necessary resources. You know what? Finding a good game is hard but finding a good book can be even harder! Usually the fastest way to find good books is to just read a lot of books and eventually you just happen to read a good one. Learning the same thing that the game taught you through books probably takes more time than you think simply because the book would have to be equivalent to the game.
The takeaway should be that playing a game and active studying are so far apart they might as well not even belong in the same comment.
I'm actually still working on something similar but, basically, no longer trying to run a business selling educational games (more, profits from commercial development contracts with actual budgets funding the cooler projects).
I was unable to find anything specific beyond "apps we determine to be outdated" here https://developer.apple.com/support/app-store-improvements/
(note: I am not OP)
Making successful, novel games is very difficult. Most people/groups fail.
Adding an educational component multiplies the unlikely probability of success by a very unhelpful coefficient.
Adrenaline, story, polish -- this aspects now compete with an educational aspect.
I happened to be in the right place at the right time to benefit from the height of the education game boom in the early/mid-90s, so I got to play the fun Math Blasters, ClueFinders, Carmen Sandiegos, Incredible Machines, Dr. Brains, Zoombinis, and also a bunch of adventure games which featured some logical/observation puzzles like the Myst series (never mind others mentioned like Oregon Trail, Civilization, etc). So I'm a strong believer that -someone- could pick up the magic that The Learning Company (and Broderbund) once owned.
Even young generations, with casual gamer parents, can hold positions like "videogames are banned at home until our son is 8".
It's not about "connections." It's about doing business the old-fashioned way: advertising, and hiring a public relations agency.
Advertising is self-explanatory. But for some reason a lot of tech companies don't hire PR firms. They like to cheap out and do PR in-house, or they simply never think of it.
It's the PR firm's job to have the "media connections" you so desperately crave. Tech people are notoriously bad at public relations, so it's perfectly logical to farm this out to people who specialize in just this sort of thing. There are even boutique PR agencies for various industries, including tech. But in your case, you should have hired one of the several hundred that specialize in education.
You could have been the next Oregon Trail!
You have a fundamental misunderstanding about what a PR company does. You're thinking about an advertising agency. They're not the same thing.
It's like asking someone on HN "Tell me how to hire a good person." I can't hand-hold someone through the internet.
Any meaningful connection is going to be too expensive for someone like GP, I am afraid.
> Tech people are notoriously bad at public relations
Please avoid (false) generalizations.
This is a false generalization. You don't have to choose a big-name New York PR agency. There are thousands of other shops that are quite affordable. Some are just one or two people, and can be surprisingly effective if you pick the right one.
In other words, even if the PR firm is small and one of the best and cheap, they cannot really influence much whatever their contacts offer. They may have some leverage, but the price is the price...
#1 Institutions means administrators with budgets.
a) What do they want their budgets to do?
b) These things are presumably on networked computers. Can you aggregate and present data to those purse-string holders to justify their expense on an ongoing basis? Do your stats make their spending look smart?
#2 The public means people who spend money on things for kids. Likely parents.
a) Do you just get parents to buy things to get their children to stop asking for them (unlikely for educational software) or do you figure out what else parents expect as a result?
b) Do you show parents results? On an ongoing basis do you show them progress? Maybe text them in the middle of the afternoon when their kids achieve something meaningful?
If it’s fun, the school will get bombarded with complaints about taxpayers paying for games, the devil inside the computer, etc. Parents tend to not care or think about outcomes if the angry box is ticked.
The best fun things are maker projects. The tangible outcome is understandable to people. The educational content/value varies though.
Yeah, every parent these days seems to have the attitude "god forbid we teach more than one algorithm for addition, but it's unacceptable that you don't have CS in middle school!" And even get outright angry if you try to point out that teaching more than one algorithm that meets the specifications of addition over naturals is CS. But have the kids "build" some kit robot and you're a damn hero.
The most frustrating thing about education is trying to explain to voters why their child has to learn something (at a young age) that the parent doesn't understand.
You see this a lot in parental complaints about Common Core math.
Over-involved stay-at-home moms who still can't add double digit numbers without using their fingers will complain that they don't understand their first grader's math homework. The point of the math homework is to teach mental math strategies for adding numbers together.
Also, parents of fifth grade kids who are frustrated that they can't help their kids understand conditional probabilities, and express that frustration by telling us to "stop teaching their kids about gambling".
It's impossible as a school board member to say "look, it's embarrassing that 10 year old German kids are better than you at math. Sorry we failed you. We're trying to do better by your kid."
When I look at the common core stuff with my young son, he gets what he’s doing in a more fundamental way. In first grade, he basically “discovered” division on his own and was incredibly happy about it. Not something I would have done for sure!
That's funny. Back in school my statistics/probability classes involved lots of examples showing how rigged lotteries and gambling are. Once you do the math it becomes strikingly obvious. If you don't teach people about gambling they will simply gamble because of ignorance.
(I grew up in Germany and now live in extra-nerdy Singapore.)
4 classes per year seems entirely reasonable.
Suggesting upper middle class stay-at-home moms should take night classes because their addition skills are worse than your average second grader sounds like a great way to _spectacularly_ lose a school board election. These people are king makers in local politics.
Someone taught me a cool bit of willful ignorance long ago: After choosing a profession one should try to solve all problems from that domain however poorly it fits. That way one learns relevant stuff rather than lose oneself in a second or 3rd profession. Of course it turns things into impossible challenges but if you get better at what you do the time is always worth it. A gardener should solve all his problems with gardening.
You "win" the elections by teaching (deliberately not doing everything else)
> The most frustrating thing about education is trying to explain to voters why their child has to learn something (at a young age) that the parent doesn't understand.
You mean the most challenging thing is to teach the voter why one has to learn something at a young age.
It has teaching in it twice! I would love to share my thoughts but you have near infinitely more experience doing this. (you have been warned haha!)
The challenge would be to get people to sit themselves down in front of your blackboard. Use youtube if necessary.
Then you simply brag endlessly about what you do, why you do it, what the students though hard work, your effort and good parenting have accomplished and how that will benefit them later on. Use examples!
We have a garden 6 by 12 meter with a shed in it 3 by 3 meters. The tiles are 30 by 30 cm. 72 square meter minus 9 is 63 square meters! How many tiles do we need?
10 by 10 is 100 tiles, the tiles are 30 cm long so 10 of them is 3 meters! 3 times 3 is 9 square meter! One tile is therefore?
Then you point at mum (the camera) and say correct! 9 meter is 900 cm divided by 100 is 9 square cm per tile!
We needed 63 meters which is 6300 cm therefore we need 6300 divided by 9 is 700 tiles!
Thanks to my sophisticated arithmetic I'm able to calculate such things and order my tiles without giving it a second thought.
Your kids can learn this too (point at the audience or camera again) and take on ever greater challenges in life.
I would stand on my desk saying that but you have to give it your own style of course.
Many parents are not going to accept that they had a bad education and could use some catch up. Even fewer are going to accept it if the catch up in question is of elementary school level.
Increase test scores, keep themselves employed and friendly SB members in office, and reform the institution/field in their image (or, for the cynical ones, make them look like leaders in the field). In that order. And lots of other stuff that's not really relevant to software (e.g., maintain the physical plant, retain good teachers, etc.)
> #2 The public means people who spend money on things for kids. Likely parents.
Meh. IME parents have almost no influence in software purchasing decisions (because they mostly just don't care). Even the board doesn't really dive that deep into the administration's budgets unless they're considering a change-of-command. In fact, the superintendent might not even weigh in on software depending on the size of the district. Activist yahoos might gripe about budget items, but can usually be safely ignored. Especially for software, which is often a rounding error even in the IT portion of the budget.
This can often be a problem with education in general, not educational games specifically.
Trying to make money in education is like trying to make money in news: you can’t. Both are vital, and both ultimately no one wants to pay for.
Disclaimer: I used to work at an educational startup, which failed. No, I’m not bitter. (Well, maybe a little.)
Want to make money there? Don't try to find cures or therapies for indications a small percent of people suffer from. Just invent another beauty cream, that's where the money is. No, I’m not bitter either, just maybe a little.
Those games will always exist.
But what the blog author appears to allude to, is a latent category of games, that already exist, but he believes their true market value to be hidden.
Kerbal Space Program appears to be the most overt example of the class of games the author identifies, but I'd argue that most of the EA licensed sports games offer a similar experiential quality (I'd worked at a sports analytics company and know, for example, that FIFA rankings are used as a starting point for some lines of investigation).
I also remember learning more about cars from Gran Turismo, than from any other source of information I had access to. Including the internet.
As a lifelong video-game enthusiast, the article resonated with me, as I've always believed this potentially educational property of great video-games to be one of the most valuable parts of them. Though to date, it feels like successful manifestations have proven to be surreptitious, rather than prevalent, or even recognised at all for such qualities.
I know around London there are a couple of schemes running that teach practical skills using outdated non-sexy software that nevertheless works because of its strong educational underpinnings and excellent practical execution.
The problem here is one of reward. I loved the challenge inherent with Dr. Brain; the puzzles did a great job at teaching basics of chemistry, biology, math, and I was actually accomplishing goals I was interested in. I think that the disconnect it that the people making these purchasing decisions do not remember what motivates children, what goals they are interested in achieving.
For example, I learned the ideas behind "merchanting" (i.e. arbitrage and price discovery) at a young age through Runescape, where some time and patience could leverage capital to buy small amount of coal from casual gamers on less populated servers and sell large amounts on busy servers at a 50% markup.
And it doesn't matter how much of it was sold to institutions. What matters is how many users benefited from this game and similar ones (Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, etc. come to mind).
factoria is another good one that's really really fun and can also be really really educational if you think about the materials and resources and how you combine them. also if you really want to go crazy with it learning some math will help you fully optimize your factory but it's some pretty complicated math, at least for me.
I mean, I would not buy it either unless it is something super special or I am dealing with a problem.
Side note: Bonnier, apart from being a media empire they can destroy your life in seconds also has a schtick where they got a few companies pretending to be startups, like the example you just posted now. Some get acquired others get started by them.
Create some captivating productions, spend real money, because I don't get that assumption that education deserves only cheap boring educational "games" of today.
That's a political program - deep cut of the less effective part of 19-century structures. Kids generally like learning, parents know that, and they see how bad schools are now, so political gains are waiting right there.
Toca Boca was part of their venture arm  until 2016. They invest in companies with growth potential. Sometimes those companies are early stage companies, sometimes they're a bit older.
I've never heard that the Bonnier group goes around destroying lives. Do you have any examples of them doing so?
As someone who’s spent the last 15 years making “serious” or educational games, the larger problem is that while it’s hard enough to design a good game that’s fun, it’s even harder to design one that’s fun and educational. So hard that most designers simply don’t bother, especially since it isn’t that lucrative.
Instead of creating serious games. Teach people to be serious players!
I have learned a ton from the following games:
- Poker (statistics)
- Any game (English)
- Factorio (programming / software design)
- Warcraft 3 (mental arithmetic and resource management)
- World of Warcraft (market manipulation -- I created a temporary monopoly on an item and earned 500 gold within an hour as level 20 player, culture -- I met a South African person who spoke Afrikaans while I spoke Dutch)
- The Werewolves of Millers Hollow / Maffia (politics, lie detection -- or lack of it, the difference between bad actors and ignorant people doing the exact same thing)
- Imperial 2030 (investing)
Let's put aside for a moment the optics of a school teacher having their class play Poker (even though obviously they wouldn't be using money). I can imagine a lesson plan going something like:
1. Have kids play some individual games with each other.
2. Stop the games, and go over some of the actual math concepts behind Poker. At this point, the kids are engaged and will want to learn better strategies.
3. Run through a game as a group, with the teacher asking the class what they should do each turn. Ask students to explain why they think one move is better than another, get brief discussions going where applicable, and write probabilities on the board.
4. Let the students play another round of individual games to apply what they've learned.
"Stop the games", "put the game in context", etc. mostly kills this feeling for many kids. Only the most skilled teachers are able to do this without making the whole thing unfun.
Video games are good at getting through to those who don't respond well to adults stepping in and contextualizing things all the time.
Folklore has it, that Haskell's linter hlint was created so that the author could help his wife's coding without jeopardizing their marriage. The extra indirection step helped.
Sure, if the "kids" at hand are university students, you could use poker. But I find it extremely dangerous to teach kids poker theory, who as theorized by the Dunning-Kruger effect might start believing themselves to be really good at it, and then proceed to spend a lot of time and money on a pursuit that might not lead them to happiness. You can teach statistics without making any new gambling addicts in this world.
I know the majority of the students wouldn't be affected and the effect could be even positive, but for some the drive to gamble is so strong that they really go off if that predisposition is nurtured. Although perhaps they are ticking time bombs either way, so no amount of protection will save them. But yeah, you got to be careful teaching kids positive feedback loops on things that might have serious drawbacks.
Btw, the kids who are worse at it would probably get their ass handed to them in the class games already anyway. Even after some training. So that's a good corrective and immediate feedback.
There are some decent puzzle video games out there. I grew up playing The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, which was essentially a series of puzzles where you had to figure out the rules (Mastermind style) or your blue fellas wouldn't make it to the promised land. Some of the puzzles were genuinely hard and it was one of the few standout educational games I remember. I like this Steam review:
> This game is exactly how I remember it. And that's a good thing. Zoombinis is about a group of refugees who look for home on a new land. You get to meet many racist locals who discriminate you based on your appearance and you can work as a slave by making countless pizzas for an insufferable anthropomorphic tree stump. 10/10. Highly recommended.
I wondered about general RPGs or adventure games, but while those are fun (and good for language), the puzzles tend not to be that educational IMO. A lot of the time your performance depends on how well you can guess what the developer intended - these are not perfect worlds, but you play as if they are, so actions you might expect to perform often don't work. I definitely used GameFAQs a lot growing up.
That said - I did learn about the concept of reliably seeding PRNGs to make enemies drop the best loot in Golden Sun.
It's fun learning by yourself, though a little of hand-holding could get you up to speed faster.
I believe "Besiege" could be a great way to teach mechanics and physics as well :)
Certainly, Human Resource Machine does teach programming.
Doing some pre-planning of your factory's eventual layout will have you advancing through the tech tree much, much faster (and without rebuilding critical sections all the time!)
I totally know what you mean a spaghetti factory is just as hard to deal with as spaghetti code...
until you have bots and you can actually copy paste your factory around to cut and paste your factory it's super hard to fix the problem.
In KiCad you start by designing a circuit schematic first. In Factorio you start building whatever you want.
You have potentially have to create your own custom parts including their physical footprint based on existing chips. In Factorio every part is already included in the "part library".
The PCB design phase automatically connects parts with traces correctly. The human designer is just responsible for the layout. In Factorio you keep the design in your head and place each conveyor tile one by one.
PCBs usually have multiple layers and it's common to have dedicated VCC and GND planes just for power transmission. Although the electric grid in Factorio is technically a separate layer, you have to extend the grid by placing transmission lines.
I will accept that the idea of non overlapping traces/conveyor belts is similar but overall the workflow just isn't the same. To be fair I haven't actually done anything beyond following a bunch of tutorials on making PCBs. I have yet to send a design to a manufacturer. It's possible that Eagle and Altium are significantly different to KiCad but I personally stick with opensource tools and even if they may have significantly worse UX I actually love the extra challenge. Just shows that other than paying bills to stay alive nothing on this planet should prevent you from learning electronic design, mechanical design and software development on your own.
Zachtronics does some very good abstract ones. Quite a few of his games are even outright gamifying assembly programming. Things like factorio are on the more 'applied' or concrete end of the spectrum.
My friend went to school for statistics because of it.
I expect you'll find that investing for real is very different from investing in a game. Investing for real means trying to control your irrational impulses such as greed vs fear of loss.
While I do think student-driven activities within game-like feedback systems have a lot of promise for education, the educational system today could not use them effectively, and developer incentives today are not aligned with the outcome. However, you don't necessarily need actual software to come up with these systems. Consider Rafe Esquith's classroom economy, where students paid rent for their desks, could get income for different extra credit activities, and could buy other students' desks so they collected the rent instead of the teacher. Not a bad way to teach a whole host of complex economic issues without any software, and he did it for fifth graders. https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2012/05/22/teachers-charge-stud...
Imagine if all teachers were incentivized to experiment with these kinds of systems, and if they had the support to design and implement them, software or not.
A. Games mostly fail because of non-transferrable skills is not an interesting point. Most books, most paintings, most music follows a uniform distribution of mediocrity. This is the role of curation and recommendation networks. Skills of discernment, reactivity, and higher cognition can be gleaned from games at a very young age.
B. Designing educational games can be a layer cake of complexity with the veneer of entertainment. I may be an outlier, but calculating expense sheets in Total War and following traffic laws in GTA were very formative experiences for me. They aren't the primary goals, but effective systems around the primary goals.
There is a glut of puzzle and puzzling games for people of all ages to enjoy, now more than ever. I don't buy the argument that developers aren't trying. I think people are walking in with biases and summarizing games as a whole.
I'd argue that this will change because the "real world" will begin to more and more resemble games. Sports are a good analogy for this. There are entire cultures and subcultures, people's entire lives based around sports.
I guess as a non-gamer I would appreciate less of life looking like a game? I am also very concerned about the lack of socialization in learning from games. Ultimately, for most people, getting along with others is by far their most important skill.
Especially as the kids whose brains grew up on videogames are already becoming decision makers and shaping society in their own image. Not saying that's a bad thing, either - the world is probably better off resembling a video game than a bad trip.
Minecraft is a bad game for learning to how to craft in real life because there is this work bench thing that does everything from basic wood working to building industrial machines. You don't need a hammer, screwdriver, drill, bench vice, manual saw, etc. There are some mods that force you to use basic chemistry to do things like create sulfuric acid or electrolysis to separate hydrogen and oxen in a long chain  to finally get a 4x multiplier on your ore. Those were a learning opportunity but the rest of the game just isn't like that.
There are games like cataclysm dda that at least require you to have the right tools to craft something but that game is already hard enough as it is even though its crafting menu is a huge oversimplification.
The closer these games get to reality the better they teach you about the real world.
Everything that exists in either the natural or human world exists because it's part of some sort of game. So yeah it might be hard, but almost by definition it should be possible.
I would have way more tolerance for these articles if they started with "I have never studied education, I have not taught children, I haven't done the homework or any reading on pedagogy, but I would like to do some thought experiments on hacking education...".
Brainstorming can be useful and bad ideas should be welcome during brainstorming. I understand why it is embraced on HN. But it has to be closer to the end of the spectrum of experts brainstorming than it is closer to the end of the spectrum of monkeys randomly typing a work of Shakespeare.
Imagine junior programmers brainstorming the future of cryptography. It's just going to be cringe. Nothing significant is going to come out of it. Of course they should do it between themselves. And that's where it should end.
As far as why video games are not the future of education, there are many things worth learning that are best learned by doing them, not by taking part in a simulation. Speaking and understanding a language, playing a musical instrument, painting, public speaking, tying knots, soldering electronics, using shop tools, and many more. All things I learned in public school and many of which I still use. My public school wasn't amazing. I could point out many flaws. But the good teachers I had were pretty amazing. Take that human out of the picture and replace it with a video game and I would have learned far less.
If you want to know the things that could immediately be improved about public education and have a measurable positive outcome, talk to teachers and get ready for some pretty obvious answers that are generally going to require more money.
Does that mean video games don't have any future in education? Of course not. But they are nothing near the silver bullet promised by the author.
That's because they don't care, not because they are more humble. Similarly, I don't see many programmers opining about surgerical techniques or scalpels or whatever the medical equivalent to PL design might be.
There are lots of doctors and lawyers who opine about education. And not just opine, but also shape policy. Go check the professions of the SB members in the closest wealthy suburb. I guarantee there will be at least one doctor/lawyer/business owner with zero education experience. Not just stating opinions, but spending considerable resources to win an elected office and shape local education policy. SB members with some prior experience in education are much more likely to humbly defer to the administration than lawyers/doctors/etc. IME.
And there are lots of teachers posting hot takes about covid or policing.
I don't think hubris is unique to programmers. You just see it more often because you hang around programmers.
OP is saying that we are trying to integrate or otherwise assimilate other fields. you know, the software is eating the world thing.
now doctors you just gave as example aren't trying to do that, are they?
This is definitely true about developers, and this is one of the biggest problems with HN.
That said, I think this particular article is spot on. Not everything is best taught through games, but right now 99% of stuff isn't taught at all, and a lot of the stuff that isn't taught could be taught through games.
FWIW the specific mistake you're making is thinking about this in a way that overemphasizes the context of the school system.
There’s also no contradiction between learning through games and learning by doing. Everything we do in real life has game-like properties, you just have to find them.
I am? I have spent literally thousands of hours volunteering for a free online education platform that operates entirely independently from school systems. Although some schools do use it. Some of my family was home schooled. Along with that I have actual teaching experience outside the public school system. I still don't consider myself an expert because I know far less about teaching than I do about my main gig: programming and technology. But claiming I am thinking about this in a specific way is a wrong assumption on your part.
> There’s also no contradiction between learning through games and learning by doing. Everything we do in real life has game-like properties, you just have to find them.
The article is about video games, not games. For some things there is a contradiction. If you want to learn to ride a horse or play guitar then a guitar or a real horse is the game. A video game will never come anywhere close to just picking up a real guitar or riding a real horse.
It's a useful point to consider just how little or how much video games can cover. If video games can only ever be the most effective route to learn 10% of what we need to learn, then that's less interesting to spend time and energy on compared to if the number is 50% or 80%.
I totally agree with you. I think especially teachers face such know-it-alls much more than other occupations.
Not that I know it better, but thinking video games can replace human interaction is so silly. Probably all teachers knew it long before Hattie's meta study, the teacher is the key to good learning....
There is a lot of really short sighted thinking in this thread. AI will be better than us at everything within the next few hundred years.
It's kind of a flippant remark, and not very useful, but its true.
AI will be better than a human at making me happy, and it will be better at comforting me when I'm sad. It will be better at motivating me and it will be better at teaching me and my kids things.
Also worth mentioning that everyone is the best armchair quarterback in the world. If you've got new perspectives that are so effective, start your own school and show the experts how wrong they are. Get rich by offering such a better product. It should be child's play to do measurably better than an abject failure.
Wrong and by a huge factor which is why I asked for sources. This source  says 3% of children in the US are home schooled. This source  says about 3.5%. Even you could give a source that triples those number to 10%, you are are still completely wrong about "most".
> many people on this site went through the US educational system and would cite it as not preparing them for their adult lives
How many? Not only are you speaking for other people, but this is anecdote, not evidence. So far you have a sample size of one: yourself.
> not preparing them for their adult lives
That's partially a failure on the part of parents, not schools. Schools can only do so much. Their job is basic English and math literacy along with some exposure to STEM, perhaps a foreign language and other electives. A high school education will no longer prepare you for adult life, which is why so many countries offer affordable university education. So at the best you might be able to claim that the job of public schools is to prepare you for university. Which loads of public schools in the US are capable of doing. If you work hard in most high schools you can get into a good university.
Are there underperforming schools and especially in some states? For sure. And especially in poor areas. I agree that needs to be fixed. Unfortunately that's not unique to the US.
But if all of US public education is an abject failure like you claim, then you should be able to show how much better either home schooled kids do in life (adjusting for income of parents as causation) or how much better in life kids from other countries do. Lacking either of those, then public schools are doing a pretty good job at least relatively to all available options.
I repeat again: if it were so easy to beat public schools and provide a better service, everyone would already be doing it. It's not that easy. Just as one example, after accounting for the socioeconomic background of students, public school students scored higher than their private school peers on a federal math test . Abject failure?
You’re really digging in here, and seem to be taking personally something which seems plainly obvious to many successful people: school failed to prepare them for their professional lives, and in many cases school was a physiologically damaging, stifling experience. You keep trying to turn this into a relativistic argument, or think I am saying schools are an abject failure based upon data. This isn’t an argument based upon data, it’s an argument based upon a constellation of anecdotal data. The reason you see a lot of software engineers talking about this is because they see this as a problem, and many see it as a problem not because of data, but because they feel based on their own experiences of them and their children that something is very wrong with the way we educate the young.
Edit: also, you keep implying that I said fixing these problems would be easy. Where did I say that? My original post was literally a few words - I am generally disgusted when elitism enters threads on “hacker” news. Credentialism is stupid, and good ideas can come from anywhere, and often do come from people who have a deep talent stack beyond a narrow domain. Chastising people for having opinions on subjects they are under informed about is dumb - at worst, that’s an opportunity to (ironically) educate them. At best, their beginners mind may offer a chance to think differently.
Sure, I'll go with that. So we've got some percentage of 3% who see the school system as a failure. That's a tiny percentage. This is why data is important. I'll even agree that the real percentage of parents or graduates who think the school system is a failure is much higher. But how much higher?
> You’re really digging in here, and seem to be taking personally
Not at all. I'm interested in learning and I don't trust anecdote. I trust data. So I was hoping you have data but it seems like you won't ever have data because you're convinced that anecdote is enough. For some of us, it's not enough. We like data because we've seen anecdote paint a false reality far too many times.
> something which seems plainly obvious to many successful people: school failed to prepare them for their professional lives,
I'll make the opposite claim: it's not obvious to most successful people. It's also not obvious to the companies hiring people. Yes new employees need some training. But they do not need years of retraining to compensate for an "abject failure" of a school system that trained them for twelve years. Most employees start adding value pretty quickly. I've run my own companies. I was happy with how quickly employees started adding value.
So this is another example of why anecdote fails to help us understand a situation. My anecdote is different from your anecdote is different from someone else's anecdote.
> in many cases school was a physiologically damaging, stifling experience.
School or being around other kids? Kids are brutal. Work is also too often a physiologically damaging, stifling experience. But usually not as brutal as children can be to each other. What might prepare you for success in that kind of work environment?
> This isn’t an argument based upon data, it’s an argument based upon a constellation of anecdotal data.
Perhaps there is a constellation out there, but I don't see it and you're not willing to show it other than saying "trust me, it's obvious a lot of people feel this way".
What 's obvious to me is that Americans have one of highest standards of living in the world and the largest and most important economy in the world, along with a very high median wage. So what's hard to believe is that this has been the case for so long when 90% of the children who will go on to contribute to that economy as adults were educated in a system that is an "abject failure" when it comes to preparing them for their professional lives. That the twelve years of public education they went through needs to be thrown out, and companies have to start from the beginning in teaching all of the basic skills the schools failed to teach them.
I would also extend this to all developed countries. They all offer a high standard of living, even to lower middle class people. Most often healthcare is considered a human right. How does all this progress manage to happen when the first twelve years of education are an "abject failure"?
With all of that said, I don't want to silence or dismiss you or anyone who had a horrible time at school. For sure I had some less than ideal experiences myself. There is a lot that can be improved. But if we are going to improve, it has to start with moving from anecdote to data. We need to understand causation and what can be fixed and what is outside the responsibility of the school system and should be the responsibility of parents and society at large.
We are not going to get there thanks to articles that promise video games are a silver bullet. If many developers truly do see education as an "abject failure", then they are going to have to do what I have done: teach, write educational software, and in short get deeply involved in the industry you are trying to improve. By which point you will have a far more nuanced understanding of what does and does not work and you'll firmly be out of "it's all an abject failure" territory.
We can compare across cultures, though, and say that more educated ones tend to be more prosperous along nearly every dimension than less educated ones.
Richer countries buy more of everything they want. The most obvious example of economic growth not being associated with education is post Deng Xiaoping China. The huge majority had primary school education at best and the economy just kept growing and growing. On the other side look at any of the Arab petrostates, many university graduates, no real economy except pumping oil.
Source please? I have been working in Brazil for the past few years and the education level here is nowhere near 1970s Europe. Not even close. The public primary school system is so bad that any family who can afford it - even poor people - pay for private school. Sometimes only a $100 a month for the cheapest private schools. They are not very good, but they are better than the public schools and so there are an estimated 40,000 private schools in Brazil. About 40% of the primary and secondary schools. So about 60% of Brazilians get a very substandard primary and secondary school education.
At least 26% of the population earns below $56 USD a month and as a result the government gives them $13 a month but only if their children are vaccinated and stay in school. That should give you an idea of the level of poverty and the tax base upon which the public schools in those areas have to operate on.
Conversely, the free government run universities are excellent and hard to get into. Ironically, the vast majority of students accepted are from elite and expensive private primary and secondary schools. So the free public universities are mostly a service for wealthy or at least upper middle class kids.
Your claim that almost all of Latin America is more highly educated now than 1970s Europe is highly suspect unless you can provide something to back that up.
Your claim also included a question about why these countries are still poor. Brazil is not competing with the France of the 1970s.
I made no such claim. I said that education was a consequence of economic growth, not vice versa. That is all. If you do a regression of changes in education over time versus changes in economic growth there is no trend. Changes in education do not cause changes in economic growth.
That Brazil is not competing with 1970s France is irrelevant to my claim. Education is a consequence rather than a cause of growth.
> Large parts of Africa and almost all of Latin America are more highly educated now than 1970s Europe and poorer than it.
Brazil's economic growth has been between 5% and 10% since the 1970s. That's pretty respectable. So how can you claim which is the causation?
> I said that education was a consequence of economic growth, not vice versa.
> The most obvious example of economic growth not being associated with education is post Deng Xiaoping China. The huge majority had primary school education at best and the economy just kept growing and growing.
From your own source, China also has a greater proportion of the populace in third level education than France did in 1970. In fact, the chart for China looks very similar to Brazil. And with both countries "the economy just kept growing and growing."
> If you do a regression of changes in education over time versus changes in economic growth there is no trend.
Source? Where can we find that analysis?
> That Brazil is not competing with 1970s France is irrelevant to my claim. Education is a consequence rather than a cause of growth.
You don't have to look at relative education levels to understand if a competitive advantage in education leads to growth? It would be naive to claim any change in education will result in economic growth. So hopefully what we are talking about here is changes in education that lead to one country being ahead in education in some qualitative measures. At which point you would be able to understand whether or not being ahead of another country in education results in growth.
Yes, China got rich so it started spending money on education. That’s my point. An educated populace is a consequence of a rich one, not a cause.
> Does Schooling Cause Growth or the Other Way Around?
> Barro (1991) and others find that growth and schooling are highly correlated across countries, with each additional year of 1960 enrollment associated with about .6% per year faster growth in per capita GDP from 1960 to 1990. In a model with finite-lived individuals who choose schooling, schooling can influence growth, but also faster technology-driven growth can induce more schooling by raising the effective rate of return on investment in schooling. We consider a variety of evidence to determine the strength of these channels, with two main findings. First, faster-growing countries have at most modestly flatter cross-sectional experience-earnings profiles, consistent with a minority role for the channel from schooling to growth. Second, we calibrate the model using evidence from the labor literature and employ UNESCO attainment data to construct schooling going back well before 1960.
> We find the channel from schooling to growth to be too weak to generate even half of Barro's coefficient under a range of plausible parameter values. The reverse channel from expected growth to schooling, in contrast, is capable of explaining the empirical relationship. We conclude that the evidence favors a dominant role for the reverse channel from growth to schooling.
Even their conclusion "the evidence favors..." is far less strong than your insistence that growth is definitely the causation. This is exactly why I always ask for sources.
From a more recent study that includes some meta-analysis:
> The relationship between cognitive skills and economic growth has now been demonstrated in a range of studies. As reviewed in Hanushek and Woessmann (2008), these studies employ measures of cognitive skills that draw upon the international testing of PISA and of TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) (along with earlier versions of these). The uniform result is that the international achievement measures provide an accurate measure of the skills of the labour force in different countries and that these skills are closely tied to economic outcomes. 
> Second, to tackle the most obvious reverse-causality issues, Hanushek and Woessmann (2009) separate the timing of the analysis by estimating the effect of scores on tests conducted until the early 1980s on economic growth in 1980-2000. In this analysis, available for a smaller sample of countries only, test scores pre-date the growth period. The estimate shows a significant positive effect that is about twice as large as the coefficient used in the simulations here. In addition, reverse causality from growth to test scores is also unlikely because additional resource in the school system (which might become affordable with increased growth) do not relate systematically to improved test scores (e.g. Hanushek, 2002). 
Before you get too excited that the study focuses on test scores, rather than education, I recommend you read the study.
By now it's clear to me that you're operating on confirmation bias for a personal theory you favor rather than having evaluated all of the available and most recent studies. You're working only to prove yourself right and not putting effort into proving yourself wrong. So I'm going to stop here.
Let parents have vouchers to attend my school and I will.
The gap in education is at the bottom, not at the top
Obviously the idea of a silver bullet doesn't work. The term "media mix" exists for a reason. Popular franchises are conveyed through lots of different media and the same is also happening in education. Video games are just adding to the "media mix" not replacing it.
I think it's worth clarifying that I did not compare video games to cryptography. I compared programmers brainstorming about education to junior programmers brainstorming about cryptography.
I think you've missed one big point of the article. Videogames will become the reality of education when they become easy to make, so that it doesn't require an army of programmers to implement.
We want to build tools that will help teachers do their best.
(Also sometimes you need to just burn down the establishment and start over because everything we know is wrong. )
I can’t imagine anyone dealing with kids learning from home this lockdown and thinking education should be more technologically driven.
However, it’s worth recognizing that the wealthy are not necessarily optimizing educational value. A cynical way to look at it might be to say that they are really ensuring the scarcity of graduates and limiting internal competition to make their kids look better.
Real education, understanding the beauty of nature and mathematics, you need to teach yourself. Sometimes you will find inspiration in school, but mostly you are learning how good attitudes like keeping organised and doing your preparation.
With the possible exception of the social aspects, lockdown distance learning seems like a waste of time vs. self-directed learning. Which could be as simple as letting kids do things outside and around the house. Or maybe providing bookmobiles and mobile libraries, maybe even a small budget to allow each kid to buy some affordable paperback books from an educational publisher like Scholastic, or cheap used books.
Perhaps schools could focus on providing resources and support for whatever students might actually want to learn (perhaps from a broad list of options) at their own pace, rather than forcing a particular curriculum at a pace dictated by the school.
Technology-wise I am not sure that the current lockdown remote classes are more beneficial than, say, playing video games (or other games) for a couple of hours a day, which would also probably be more fun and social (though single player games are also fine) and more enjoyable for parents as well (especially if they get to play a bit too.)
Kids don't want to read and read less then they used to.
My kids did learned more from lockdown online classes then from games. I can tell this one with certainty. It was less then they are normally learning in school.
The biggest failure of education today is that its oriented towards an outcome (tests / uni) that is dubious at best, detrimental at worst
OP is correct to identify dev cost as holding the key to software-based education. Here is why:
Education today is the remnant of the industrial assembly line model. That worked out great...for fridges and cars.
Children are not fridges. Children are not cars.
This education where 1-size-fits all produces the worst outcomes. It holds back brilliant students and leaves the challenging cases behind.
Software will solve all that due to (eventual) low cost customization.
In order for this to work, many planets have to align. In particular, some idealists have to let go of the model where all students should learn x topic. The entire curricula must be on the table
In other words, society must come to accept that
1) learning will not be uniform ie some students will get more out of school than others and
2) students will pass on topics we take for granted. Biology , civics, algebra etc....all gone, provided that students can explore AND dive deep into an alternative topics they care about, whether that is mechanics, geology, philosophy etc.
In short. Kids today are going to school memorizing some info, yet learning nothing. Thet should instead be able come out masters of topics they are interested in, if indeed that's all they care about.
This would be prohibitively expensive to do with teachers as it would require a 1:1 ratio.
Software can guide that journey.
I know my kids got better at quick multiplication from number crunchers. Pretty sure I got better at math from as seemingly non math based games as old RPGs.
I discovered where “New York” is, what “Nuclear War” is and what a “Crime Syndicate” is, all from the story cutscenes.
I also later learnt that, in real life, big bosses don’t just disentegrate after being defeated.
1. I think we'll eventually have software manage the progress of our children as they learn. It will present new ideas when they are ready for them, and test that old ideas stay fresh in memory. Software can do a better job than a teacher can, because the lessons can be tailored to the student. (rather than the whole class at once)
2. The software can do a better job at encouraging a student to "want" to do the tasks. Teachers can use praise, rewards, and sometimes punishments, but software can open up a whole world of other things. What happens next in a story? Leveling up characters or objects you care about? Competition? Mystery Boxes?
It was never fun to grind through killing 100 Goblins, but you did it so that you could get the magic sword at the end.
The hard part is not software development. The hard part is finding things that students want to work towards, then give them so much of it that they want to do it all day long for 13 years.
I think you're taking exactly the wrong lesson from that. It wasn't fun to grind through the goblins, but it wasn't challenging either. You did it because you could turn your brain off. I opine that if it did require thinking then the world would now be overrun with goblins...
On the contrary, games usually inspire work by precisely _being challenging_. That's what normally keeps people coming back to play them for their own sake (the autotelicity of games).
2. There's a lot of research on extrinsic motivation in K-12 education. I'm skeptical, to say the least.
Firstly, there are a lot of other countries than America.
Secondly, re grade progression system, the issue is not what broken system you have now, we should strive to improve the education of our children.
There are clearly a million was that software can make assessment better. Software will eventually be able to read an essay and provide feedback on how well the argument was made, as well as the nuts and bolts of how sentences are put together. Software never gets tired after reading 30 other essays. Never grumpy, never phones it in. Teachers are human.
We study intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation in the games industry as well, but to be clear, _almost all_ motivation in education is extrinsic now. Nobody is doing their math homework because its fun. They do it so they won't "fail".
But I agree that just bolting some lame point system on top of exiting work is mostly a waist of time. The work and rewards need to be tightly coupled and the hard part is to blur the line between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.
Imagine for example the task is to convince an AI to buy you a pony. You have to write a persuasive essay as to why you should have a pony. The AI can respond to your essay with their own arguments. You can then respond to their augments and pushing the discussion forward. You could do it every day in 10th grade. How good would you be at persuasive writing?
> Software will eventually be able to read an essay and provide feedback on how well the argument was made, as well as the nuts and bolts of how sentences are put together... Imagine for example the task is to convince an AI to buy you a pony. You have to write a persuasive essay as to why you should have a pony. The AI can...
No, it can't.
Giving good feedback on essays in high school English or History courses is AI-complete.
"Some type of feedback" is already possible (you can go buy essay graders today -- go try one), but if we go that route we'll mostly just be teaching people how to optimize for a (very broken) grading algorithm.
"'The AI' will then <do thing that we spend years teaching people how to do well>" is exactly how you end up with horribly shitty ML code destroying people's lives.
TBH we're not even there with high school math yet, which is a lot easier than high school essays.
I have a CS PhD, publish in AI conferences, and have taught high school. I am fundamentally absolutely certain that high-quality grading of high school English/History essays is not possible. I'm also certain that we could build "something" that "grades essays" and will have catastrophic negative outcomes for a generation of students if adopted. Students will learn how to write for one really dumb algorithm, and then there will be years of cleanup at universities and workplaces afterward teaching them how to actually write for humans.
> but to be clear, _almost all_ motivation in education is extrinsic now. Nobody is doing their math homework because its fun. They do it so they won't "fail".
My classroom experience suggests that a) this isn't true, and b) there are lots of different types of extrinsic motivation; grades are actually not the most important motivator for most students. People are really complex, and everyone has different motivators.
Some aspects of the grading might be offloaded from humans, as the range of tasks and cases is often diverse. Or multiple less skilled humans substituted for more expensive ones.
In math for instance, there's no need for a human to see a blank answer, or a clearly correct one.
A system can assess graders as well as students. Might suggest to a professor which subset of gradings by graduate students could use a quality check. Using non-AI-complete statistics like "when this person grades late at night, and takes a long time on an answer, but doesn't write much, and the student is someone flagged as being at risk, then the odds increase that the professor will want to have seen it". Or perhaps particular cases are best handled by a particular grader. Or should always get an independent cross check of two graders, to reduce grading variance and bias.
That a hybrid system might hypothetically support good grading, does not imply that that's the direction which often-unfortunate incentives will drive the tech. Years ago I saw a paper, about the post-WWII defense industry investment in CNC tech. One argument was there were other options, like recording and playing back a skilled machinist, which might have been widely deployed decades earlier. But getting rid of the dependency on skilled workmen was a management objective. Creating cheap automated grading may be far more incentivized that attempting harder and less cheap good grading.
“Taylorism for education but with ‘The AI’” will end the same as the factory model for k12 that gave rise to the pathologies that critics like pg are so quick to point out. ‘The AI’ is just the 2020 version of the control theory metaphors that resulted in disasters in the mid 20th century. Ironic.
I didn't mean to imply we could do it now, but somebody will eventually spends hundred of millions of dollars on this and we'll get there.
Machine Learning is not what I mean when I say AI. We need AI's that actually understand text in the same way we do.
All jobs will go to machines eventually.
IMO this claim is mostly indistinguishable from claims like "God exists".
Better assessments won't magically lead to better education if the system continues to ignore the results of those assessments. The US education system doesn't need better assessments, it needs to start actually using the assessment results that it already has.
I'm most hopeful we will see this in maths. I know this has been talked about for 40 years with computers, since Papert's Mindstorms (highly recommended if you haven't read it). But the potential to teach math through immersion as you would a native language IMO = the potential to leap society forward exponentially.
Why hasn't it been built yet? Lots of comments in this thread already about the blocking incentive model and education system. 100%. I'd look instead outside the system, to something like Minecraft. Obviously, we don't want to privatize education into the hands of some monocultured tech platform. But a diversity of games that teach different things to people at different levels? That supplement social education? That are fun first? eg. Here's a basic word game I built that everyone seems to enjoy, and is also a great vocab lesson: (https://apps.apple.com/app/esoterica/id1505210583).
If we can find the right models to support such a diversity (we're certainly not there yet), I see great promise in that future.
Poland’s government will add the computer game This War Of Mine to the official reading list for children in schools, the prime minister has announced during a visit to the developer of the game, Warsaw-based 11 bit studios.
“Poland will be the first country in the world that puts its own computer game into the education ministry’s reading list,” said Mateusz Morawiecki, quoted by Polsat News. “Young people use games to imagine certain situations [in a way] no worse than reading books.”
Games should supplement traditional education, not attempt to replace it. They should fill in the gaps and extend what can be taught. Teach the scientific method through a mystery game where you have to compound evidence to validate a theory (or better yet, invalidate it - equally valuable). Instead of math word problems have characters with problems you can solve using various methods - don't make the player do the math, train them to identify the right tool to use (a geometry problem, an algebra problem, a calculus problem).
Fill in those educational gaps that people only improve by stumbling in the dark.
Where I think video games can excel is in more niche applications like Kerbal Space Program, not teaching something like European Literature.
Engagement and enjoyment are tricky metrics because they often report positive numbers; however, when compared to less engaging or less enjoyable methods they can perform worse for the end goal of learning. They can create motivation to learn the topic, which I support, but at some point that benefit has a ceiling effect.
For the MOOC example, what I meant by engagement was, "Week over week, does the student return?" or Weekly Active Users as a percentage of total students at the start of the course. For a MOOCs, the number of students disengaging is so high, that there is obviously a problem, and this is what I meant to communicate. Thanks for the article!
This is one of the reasons I don't particularly care for motivation studies, as I believe it's only a temporary method to generate traction. Once learning becomes difficult, it requires a higher order of motivation I call "discipline" to maintain.
But back to MOOCs, there is work on MOOC forum analysis. In short, forum activity and the people you associate with in an educational forum can have a significant impact on your grade. Note this study was post-hoc analysis, but students that primarily discussed non-course relevant topics were more likely to fail the course.
There is also the fact that MOOC students come from a variety of life experiences. Students of different countries have different cultures and as a result, will behave differently . France, for example, only wanted to view the course in , not engage.
I think the beauty of a MOOC is the accessibility and automated feedback feature that from their design. Beyond that they suffer from a lot of human conditions that can't really be controlled without removing or reducing those features. Plus, as I mention, there isn't a lot of cog psych research on "discipline" yet to identify the qualities that encourage its development besides Duckworth's "grit" (if I'm wrong I'd love to be pointed towards them).
That's the problem with the MOOC industry. Those guys produced content at the production level of the average high school or college class, endless talking head video. They thought that all the advantages of scale accrued to them - they got to make cheap content and sell it in huge quantity. Didn't work.