Cool Site of the Week: The Brilliant Report

brilliantWay back on August 13 of this year, we featured a post by Annie Murphy Paul, whose website describes her as “author, magazine journalist, consultant, and speaker who helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better.”  Ms. Paul graciously offered us the opportunity to re-blog a post of hers, and we have been true fans ever since.

A recent edition of The Brilliant Report, an email newsletter about the science of learning,  features a brilliant piece entitled “How to Make Anything Interesting” that should be required reading for teachers and students alike. Ms. Paul notes that almost anything can be made “interesting by arranging the work involved to be just challenging enough, and by keeping the edge of the challenge sharp.”

She continues by describing hard fun:

“When we’re learning, whether at school or at the office or on our own time, it should feel like “hard fun”—an enjoyable activity that requires effort. That means constantly adjusting the difficulty of the task so it is just at the edge of your ability. Young children do this naturally. Good teachers and managers have always done it. Increasingly, computers are able to do it. But it’s essential to learn how to calibrate challenges for yourself if you want to keep yourself motivated.” video gamer

Hard fun!  I think I have a new favorite term.  Her take on this concept certainly reminds me of yesterday’s post at brianwriting.

The author of that post describes something like hard fun when he says:

“Making failure fun is a high achievement of gaming, and maybe the least noticeable. No player begins a game and immediately soars through every mission or level without repeatedly failing; each failure is usually followed by laughter and pressing ‘continue.’”

I do have a few questions about implementing hard fun as a strategy in my classes, though.

  • How do I accommodate students of differing abilities?
  • How do I encourage students who want to quit before they “get to the next level”?
  • How do I help students laugh at failure rather than shut down or berate themselves?
  • How do I find the sweet spot between achievable challenge and overwhelming demoralization?

Does anyone have some ideas that they can offer?

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3 comments on “Cool Site of the Week: The Brilliant Report

  1. howellb1 says:

    I just came across an interesting website that helps gamify mundane daily tasks and todos — https://habitrpg.com/ It looks like for now it’s just a web app, and they are seeking funding for a mobile application on kickstarter. The concept is creating to-do lists, and as you check things off, earning points which then buy you guilty pleasure activities. Could be used in a classroom setting – completing an article earns 10 points, 50 points is worth a beer at happy hour, something like that.

    • Thanks, Brian! As I have written in an earlier post, just using the built-in list apps on my iPhone is very motivating to me….I love to see “X tasks completed”! I also use the timer for particularly odious tasks….if I work on (fill in yukky job of choice here) for 20 minutes, I can look at a magazine for 5 minutes. Works like a charm for me….I usually go past the scheduled stopping point once I’m engaged in the task.

  2. Brian says:

    I really like that “hard fun” way of putting it, and it reminds me too of a sentence in one of my English class rubrics: “The writing assignment takes even boring subject matter and infuses wit, energy, and perception.” B

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