How Frog changed

The company Frog Trade changed its name to  Frog Education in 2014. This change marked a shift in company thinking from being technology driven to being focused on learning and learners. Its reflected in how Frog design product. We start from an understanding of motivation and engagement drawn in part from the world of gaming and we add to this a secure knowledge of the principles of learning. We ask – what motivates a student to stay involved and how can we help them learn?

Technologies such as smart phones are changing the way we communicate, share ideas and information, organise our lives, record experience and network with others. The ‘addictive’ nature of smart phone usage gives us clues about the ‘how’ of learning experiences.

The world of on-line gaming has been a really rich source for educationalists prepared to explore what engages players to sustain focused attention on challenging tasks sometimes for hours on end. The principles upon which games are built are tested in a way which can never be replicated in a classroom. Every moment a player stays with the game is evidence of the worth of the design.

Research by neuroscientists can tell us about human attention and arousal – what switches it on and off. It now provides insights about the release of chemicals when we are motivated by challenge. We can see the brain ‘light up’ when pleasure centres are stimulated by reward. We know more about the fallibilities of human memory and the physical processes of retrieval. Brain science guides us to what motivates and engages learners.

Through large scale meta-studies we can compare interventions in education and ask which give most learning return for the time invested. Through these sorts of studies we confirm what we could only surmise earlier.  We know which learning strategies have high effect sizes and which do not.

So if we take what we know about the habits of smart phone users, what secures the attention of adolescents in on-line gaming then add the validation brought by brain and learning research we are in a better, more insightful and confident space when it comes to designing Frog learning systems.

Taken together, the Principles of Gamification provide the strongest clues about the experience of engaging with a world class learning system whilst the Principles of Learning give us its features. We can test the quality of what we provide by checking against both sets of principles. I’ve written about the principles of gamification here

So we ask does the user experience of a student meet our Principles of Learning 1 – 8 below? If so, does it apply to all users?

  1. Uses the prior knowledge, understanding and achievements– does the system utilise the prior achievements and user history of the learner? Does it record the achievements and give them significance? Does the rewards system reinforce the desired behaviours?
  2. Actively engages the learner through authentic challenge –Is there a feeling of value? Is there an audience for any product? Does the experience connect to real life?
  3. Provides a strong sense of purpose with clear outcomes – is progress landmarked along the way? Are targets used or utilised?
  4. Asks compelling questions and encourages original solutions – is the user invited to search, to test for validity, to originate their own answers?
  5. Scaffolds challenge, assesses, and tracks individual progress – are the challenges differentiated and personalised?
  6. Individualises loops of improvement feedback with opportunities to act upon the feedback – does the system encourage giving and receiving feedback? Is there space to act on and respond to feedback? Is the feedback recorded? Analysed?
  7. Provides a highly personalised learning experience with lots of choice – are there optional learning activities? Does the system encourage choice? If so how is that choice framed?
  8. Encourages collaborative enquiry – can users collaborate? Is collaboration purposeful? How is collaboration encouraged?

For Frog the ‘big’ strategic learning interventions which impact on students are: assessment and feedback, authentic engagement and collaborative enquiry. These emerge from the principles of learning which underpin the design of all our new products: Frog Learn, Frog Play, Frog Progress.

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