Guest Post by Kellian Adams
I met Kellian at the Museum Computer Network conference in Montreal this past fall where I was blown away by her presentation on games. Her energy, enthusiasm and pure unadulterated passion is positively contagious. As the co-founder of Green Door Labs, Kellian has worked on games such as Murder at the Met and Agents of Change. Erin and I were thrilled when Kellian agreed to share some of her game design experience and advice on Edgital. Enjoy!
From grad school, one of my favorite stories was about a teacher who had her first graders make the infamous paper “hand turkeys” as part of a class. The class struggled, there were tears and glue and paper cuts and they survived but it wasn’t stellar. Afterwards, the teacher advisor asked the teacher.
“What do you want the kids to learn here?”
“I wanted them to learn about Thanksgiving.”
“Did they learn what you wanted them to?”
“Well mostly I wanted them to have a fun holiday craft to take home.”
“OK. Could that have been done in a simpler way without complicated scissor tasks?”
“Can’t we just let the kids have some fun?!”
“If it’s fun we’re after, let them play in the playground for an extra 45 mins.”
This story really struck me because it begs two really important questions: what are we really after and how do we know we got it? As a gamebuilder, this is near and dear to my heart. It’s work to build lesson plans and programming. It’s work for people to experience it. People will mostly do what you ask them to do in education and games so we’d better not waste their time with unclear goals.
So what do we want? Of course we want people to experience the museum and enjoy it. Of course we’d like them to learn. We all have more lofty goals as well. We want them to have one of those museum “moments” where things become more important. We want to increase creativity, empathy and curiosity. But those won’t work as goals. Why? They’re “turkey hand” goals. We’ll never know if we got them. You have to take all of those lofty intangibles and make them boring, unromantic tangibles. We need goals that can be measured.
goal: we’d like people to make a personal connection with the portraits at the museum.
(Okay that is great but how do we know when we did that? How do we make that assessable?)
Assessable goal: we want people to take pictures of their “portrait doppelgänger”. Find someone who kinda sorta looks like you. Take a photo of you and your art doppelganger.
Measure: Were pictures taken? Did people do the task you asked them to do?
Check out the Flickr set.
Did the achievable goal of collecting these photos also hit the intangible goal of having people make a personal connection with the art? Take a look at these pictures and tell me it doesn’t. #Nailedit! For me this is an example of taking an ephemeral goal and tying it to a measurable goal that can be assessed.
Maybe the trouble with non-assessable programming might be that we’re confusing goals with throughlines. Throughlines are the BIG ideas. The ephemeral things that you’d like people to take away- hopefully. But goals are the measurable little things that when added up, will hit those through lines. You don’t want people just doing little tasks, you want to change lives. But how can you know if you’re changing lives without little tasks that measure it? You can’t have goals without throughlines. You can’t have throughlines without goals. New technologies (and games especially) offer tools that make assessment easier than ever. The trick is to know what you’re assessing and why.
When I work with people to build games and responsive programming, often the goals are something unmeasurable to start:
- We want to engage the 18-35 crowd
- We want to use 21st century learning tools to engage a new generation
- We want them to have fun
These are good throughlines, but terrible goals. To make those into goals and measure them, you might say:
- We want to attract 100 new people between the ages of 18-35 to the museum within three months
- We want to be tweeted about, facebooked about and blogged about by 18-35 yr olds
- We want pictures of happy, engaged people in our museum
- We want spoken or written feedback from people saying that they enjoyed the program
These are goals that we could actually measure. And when you can measure, you know when you’ve won. As a gamebuilder, I’m especially conscious of measurement in activity. Often people want to win a game, earn points or level up. One thing to remember is that humans are measurement MONSTERS. They’re assessing themselves while they’re in your program: Did I look at the right art? Did I learn something? Did my kids learn a thing? Did I look smart? Help them out by making your assessment clear.
So don’t be wimpy. Create measurement metrics. Don’t say learning can’t be measured. You’re a talented museum educator and you can create programs that without a doubt show you, your administration, your guests and the rest of the world that you #Nailedit! And if not, you’ll know so you can fix it- and that’s good too.