Learning to be a granny

Last week I got an email from a coworker asking me if I would be interested in some jalapeno peppers because her garden was exploding with peppers. Well, heck yeah. Um. I mean, sure. Hmmm. Now what am I going to do with all of these beautiful peppers. Several options came to mind, but for some reason I felt that I was going to make pepper jelly.

But there was one small hitch. I had no idea how to make jelly. Well, I had a little idea, but I had never done it before. But from what I knew, the process hadn't really changed since my grandmother had canned all sorts of things back before I was even a glimmer in someone's eye. Unfortunately, I hadn't gotten a chance to learn from her. But, there were lots of other grannies and people of all ages, who have gone through the process of learning and perfecting the art and science of creating jelly and they had shared their recipes and tips and tricks on various places in the cyberworld.

So I set out on some surfing and read a bunch of blogs on processes and recipes and I watched videos on YouTube and such and I got all my supplies and then I dove in and starting doing it. At first I followed the steps to the letter. Then in later attempts I started to feel a little confidence and I started experimenting a bit. And in the end ... viola ... jelly!! It might not be the best jelly ever, but I feel really good about my first attempts.


So why am I telling you all of this about me making jelly? Because it reminded me of something that sometimes gets lost when we are designing learning and gameful experiences. Learning hasn't changed. My grandmother didn't teach me, but I took essentially the same approach to learning, as if she had. Learning is social. We learn from one another whether it is a formal teacher-student relationship or students learning from one another or students learning with and from technology and so on. Technology doesn't make learning different, it can make it easier to connect people with content and experts and such but babies still learn to walk by trying to walk and falling down and getting up again.

This too is a fact that sometimes gets overlooked. It is in the trying and doing ... and often failing, that the learning really happens. As I was going through this whole process I got a call from my mom asking how it was going and she said something like "I would have no idea how to do this." And my response was "neither do I ... that's why I'm doing it." The only way to learn was to do it. The reading and watching would only get me so far.

Too often instructional designs don't have enough of this doing part. Just making people click on things doesn't make it meaningfully interactive. Just giving people a discussion board doesn't leverage the social capabilities of learning. People have to use the content. Reflect on the content. Return to the content. This is one of the powers of good gamification in learning. It can help to keep people doing and returning.

Just like the jelly. You have to make the experiences tasty. So tasty that people will return again and again. And they have to want to consume it. OK, now I'm hungry. But I have jelly, so I guess it's time for lunch. 

Let me know, what you think. Or what's your favorite flavor. Maybe I'll make that next time.