Why Angry Birds is so successful and popular: A cognitive teardown of the user experience — from Pulse > UX by Charles L. Mauro


Simple yet engaging interaction concept: This seems an obvious point, but few realize that a simple interaction model need not be, and rarely is, procedurally simple. Simplification means once users have a relatively brief period of experience with the software, their mental model of how the interface behaves is well formed and fully embedded. This is known technically as schema formation. In truly great user interfaces, this critical bit of skill acquisition takes place during a specific use cycle known as the First User Experience or FUE. When users are able to construct a robust schema quickly, they routinely rate the user interface as “simple”. However, simple does not equal engaging. It is possible to create a user interface solution that is initially perceived by users as simple. However, the challenge is to create a desire by users to continue interaction with a system over time, what we call user “engagement”.

What makes a user interface engaging is adding more detail to the user’s mental model at just the right time. Angry Birds’ simple interaction model is easy to learn because it allows the user to quickly develop a mental model of the game’s interaction methodology, core strategy and scoring processes. It is engaging, in fact addictive, due to the carefully scripted expansion of the user’s mental model of the strategy component and incremental increases in problem/solution methodology. These little birds are packed with clever behaviors that expand the user’s mental model at just the point when game-level complexity is increased. The process of creating simple, engaging interaction models turns out to be exceedingly complex. Most groups developing software today think expansion of the user’s mental model is for the birds. Not necessarily so.

Other key items discussed:

  • Simple yet engaging interaction concept
  • Cleverly managed response time
  • Short-term memory management
  • Mystery
  • How things sound
  • How things look
  • Measuring that which some say cannot be measured


From DSC:
What Apple is able to do with many of their hardware and software products, what Charles describes here with Angry Birds, what Steelcase did with their Media:Scape product’s puck — and other examples — point out that creating something that is “easy” is actually quite hard.


The test has been canceled — from Boston.com by Keith O’Brien
Final exams are quietly vanishing from college

The change, which was first reported in Harvard Magazine, is not a statement on the value of final exams one way or the other, Harris said. But the shrinking role of big, blockbuster tests at Harvard and colleges elsewhere is raising serious pedagogical questions about 21st century education: How best do students learn? And what’s the best way to assess that? Is the disappearance of high-stakes, high-pressure final exams a sign that universities are failing to challenge today’s students, or is it just a long overdue acknowledgment that such tests aren’t always the best indicator of actual knowledge?

From DSC:
Perhaps like many others, I don’t remember a lot from the final exams taken during my college days. My hope is that whatever methods we use, we can foster deeper, longer-lasting ROI’s from students’ studying time. We can create more “hooks” on which to hang things 5-10 years down the line (if that’s possible these days!). One thought along these lines, is to use the ideas of story, play, and promoting the creativity of our students.

The greatest teacher of all time used story — in the form of parables — all the time. I’ll bet that many of us can still recall to this day the parable of the sower, or the prodigal son…the good Samaritan or the lost coin. With enough repetition, we remember these stories and the deeper meaning behind them. They provide hooks to hang other things upon (i.e. scaffolding).

Forget what you know about good study habits — from the NY Times by Benedict Carey

Take the notion that children have specific learning styles, that some are “visual learners” and others are auditory; some are “left-brain” students, others “right-brain.” In a recent review of the relevant research, published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for such ideas. “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing,” the researchers concluded.

Cognitive scientists do not deny that honest-to-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam. But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out.

“With many students, it’s not like they can’t remember the material” when they move to a more advanced class, said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before.”

When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, it holds its contents for far, far longer. An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.

No one knows for sure why. It may be that the brain, when it revisits material at a later time, has to relearn some of what it has absorbed before adding new stuff — and that that process is itself self-reinforcing.

From DSC:

Re: research on learning styles…I would really like to know if these students were interviewed/reviewed in terms of which methods they preferred to learn by…which methods made learning more interesting…more fun..more efficient.

I’ll bet you “good students” can learn in spite of a variety of obstacles, issues, and/or teaching methods…they’ll learn what they need to in order to get the grade.

  • But which method(s) do they — as well as less “successful” students — prefer?
  • Which methods produce a longer-term ROI (besides just making it past the mid-term or final exam)?
  • Which method(s) are more engaging to them?
  • Which method(s) take less time for them to absorb the material?

We want students to love learning…but if you don’t like something, you surely won’t love it.

2minuteMoodle: What is it and how to do it? — from Nona Muldoon (back from 8/1/09)

The 2minuteMoodle motto
“Where before there was a spectator, let there now be a participant.” ~ Jerome Bruner

Scaffolding can be characterised as acting on this motto (Bransford et al, 2000), and the aim of the 2minuteMoodle is to provide students additional scaffolding in the learning and teaching process at CQUniversity.

What is scaffolding?
In educational setting, scaffolding is a metaphor used to describe learner support mechanisms, which may be delivered by human and/or embedded in computer-based technological tools. Proponents such as Shaphiro suggest that scaffolding provides learners with a “support structure that aids them in attaining a higher level of achievement” (2008, p. 29).


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