This is the story of a friend of mine, whom we’ll call Jane, discovering Bogglific and getting better at it.
Bogglific and How It Is Played
What’s Bogglific? It is an on line version of Boggle on the social networking site Facebook. It is a 4X4 or 5X5 grid in which random letters of the alphabet are displayed. The game is make words from the letters. To form a word the letters have to be next to each other. The player enters the word they see in a box and hits return after each word is entered. Players can elect to play with penalties for incorrect words or without. The players receive points for words which other players don’t get. There are two lengths of game – forty-five seconds or three minutes.
This is a case study of how learning occurs in a very simple situation. I think it shows some important things about how learning occurs – which I’ll talk about after I’ve told you the story of Jane learning Bogglific. She has become quite proficient by now. She has a large vocabulary and is a quick learner. She is also quite analytical: her changes in perception (which I set out below) came from analyzing what better players did. From a couple of months ago as a complete beginner she now rates in the top 200 of over 5,000 players.
How Jane Learned to Play Bogglific
At first Jane approached Bogglific by looking at a letter and seeing what other letters were around it and if they formed words. In this way it was easy to find three and four letter words. As she got better at this she was able to find longer words.
Thirdly it helps to have a place where there is less pressure to compete where it is possible to try out ideas and see the results.
Fourthly, it is possible to learn from others. Jane could see that other players were doing something she didn’t understand – she then set about watching what they did.
Applying this to learning.
Education is the learning of patterns. Drill has its uses – to speed up the routine, once the patterns are perceived. But without this perception of the patterns drill is literally meaningless.
In whatever you are learning look for the patterns.
In whatever you are teaching help the students perceive the patterns (not necessarily by telling what they are, but by assisting them to see them for themselves).
It will be helpful to have ways that the performance of the better practitioners can be analyzed. So that students have a way of learning and aren’t just told to ‘hang around’ in the hopes that excellence will somehow ‘rub off on them’. This is a problem with many a mentoring program.
It is good to have a place to try out different ideas. At this point pressure to perform will be counterproductive. The fad for frequent testing in education is very dangerous. People need the space just to play and tinker – to see what happens when they do something and if that doesn’t happen then to try something else.