Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On Learning

Learning styles vary between people. While I think many can learn from multiple methods and there is cross-over, it's good to understand the three primary learning styles (visual, auditory, tactile) and realize which you prefer and learn best with, as well as understand that not everyone else will learn from the same methods that you prefer. Myself, for example, I categorize as primarily visual, secondarily tactile. Others prefer auditory learning and discussion, and still others may find they have no problems learning by any of these.

Why is this important for gaming? Encounter strategies, learning your class, learning how to play: how information is presented to you will impact how well you understand the material, which in turn impacts performance. If you know you won't learn as well with one method, seek out material that is presented in a way that is easier for you to understand.

As a side benefit, understanding these learning methods impacts other areas of your life, including schooling and career. I'm a firm believer in "never stop learning," and even when a friend tries to explain something or you're trying to troubleshoot a piece of tech/equipment, knowing your own preferred learning methods can help you to overcome a frustration you may have in not understanding it.

You need to see it to understand it. Someone telling you verbally what to do--like those raid leaders who just ramble on in voice chat before a pull--don't help you. For some, even reading it in text isn't enough. You need visuals. Visual details also tend to stand out for you.
  • Diagrams, charts, videos with written instruction and visual pointers
  • Highlight, font changes, visual IMPACT
  • Illustrations, pictures, comic strats!
  • Symbols, icons
I am primarily a visual learner, myself. That's why I make comic strats and illustrate my points where I can: I want to see it, I want to show it. I need screenshots and stick figures. I need an idea of what something looks like in order for me to fully comprehend it. Space, distance, layout, positioning... all are important to me.

You prefer to hear it spoken to you. The words, vocalized, make everything make sense. Lectures and speeches can keep your interest (assuming the topic itself isn't boring), and verbal discussions are no problem for you. Reading something out loud often helps with comprehension. Conversations about the topic help cement things in your mind, and you are good at picking up sound effects.
  • Reading aloud
  • Discussions, conversations
  • Lectures, or podcasts, or videos with detailed verbal instructions
  • Songs!
For me, I tend to start zoning out and misunderstand when all I'm getting is verbal words (much to Scythe's dismay!). I also have trouble focusing on one voice over others: when multiple people are speaking at once, it can just become a wall of noise. You can pick out some of your visual learners based on their preference to type rather than speak aloud in ventrilo/team speak.

Learn by doing. Hands-on is a great way to learn from your own mistakes. Truly tactile learners need to participate. They can often see why something is the way it is only when they have it right in front of them: they need to play with it and experience it, manipulate it and see what happens.
  • Test Runs
  • Models: mock up a situation with your action figures or by positioning in-game, build it!
  • Labs, field trips
  • Experimentation
The problem is that you have to go and make those mistakes to learn anything, sometimes at the expense of others who already know not to make those mistakes, if it's a team environment like a raid. Games like the old BT Teron Gorefiend simulator game help these players immensely, as do periodic breaks to get up and stretch. Spending time at a test dummy will often help these players learn, as with soloing content and general practice at playing their class and using a particular ability. If worse comes to worse, drop them into large-scale pvp where it's sink or swim!

Raiding with them All
The take-home lesson for raid leaders/officers: your raiders won't always learn the same way that you do. Provide or direct your raiders towards different types of resources, and don't expect everyone to all understand just by watching the same video that magically made everything make sense for you. There are a lot of resources out there, and while it will take some research on your raiders' part, they can often find something right for them to understand whatever they're struggling with.

A note on Videos:
You might expect these to be an excellent resource for visual learners. They are, in terms of watching the playing field and seeing what the players do... but in terms of spoken instructions voiced over the video, they are better for auditory learners. A more visual learner may benefit more from a written strategy + a diagram than they will from an instructional video, while an audio learner will prefer a video with a recorded set of instructions. Some videos may have written instructions included, or arrows added to point out things: those are of benefit to visual learners.

So: beware labeling all videos as "good for visual" vs "good for auditory" learners. Each video is different.

The most difficult type to work with as a raider is the purely tactile, as they need actual raid time to understand a concept, at the expense of others' time. For them, patient preparation and review of mistakes is key. What did they learn from that wipe? Pre-emptive mockups of a room for positioning and use of flares can help these players understand, just as much as for the visual learners. Telling them to all physically get up and stretch during a mid-raid break can also have good results, rather than having them all just tab out to browse the web: physical activity is a great way for many to re-focus themselves, after a long session at the computer. If it's a class mechanic they need work on, practice practice practice!


Mark said...

I'd consider myself more of a hybrid visual/tactile learner. Videos (to me) are mostly worthless as a teaching tool due to the lack of context. The only way they'd be worthwhile at all is if they took the time to pause the video during important spell effects and said something like "See that green stuff on the ground? That's X. It does Y. Don't stand in it." Otherwise, it ends up being more productive just reading the tooltips of the spell abilities and seeing the fight "in person". After seeing the fight once though, I tend to be pretty capable of just abstracting it out to diagrams (which is why I've always been such a big proponent of using strict positioning on fights that would benefit from it). Videos become useful there just to see what strategies other guilds have had success using for positioning.

Alyae said...

I am Tactile first, Visual Second.

Reading me a strat does almost nothing unless i turn it into... "Don't stand in fire".

Watching A video only works after I have seen the encounter.

Once i see it, I get it. It doesn't take much for me to understand a fight after that.

Execution after grasping a concept though is another thing entirely. That can only be gained by trial and error and what works best for your group.

Theladas said...

But I don't wanna learn! Hand me epix!

I'm a very audio-oriented person myself. Due to years of work in theater, I've gotten extremely practiced at the cue & response method of association learning. This extends most often to question prompts as cues, with appropriate formulas as responses.

In WoW, I try to talk out what's going on in an encounter as I'm in it. I may not talk over Vent or anything, but there's usually an audible train of thought about "okay, shit hits the fan in 10seconds, adds spawn in 25... I've never seen that AoE effect before and... yep, it hurts." The whole process helps me internalize the events of the encounter for future reference very quickly.

By attempt 581248964 on HLK, I was probably silent. But the first few dozen (and then those that reached into new phases) were times that I was glad I live alone - no one to bother!

Keeva said...

Great post.

I have trouble getting it through to people that I simply cannot learn by reading strats and watching someone else's videos. My eyes glaze over and nothing sticks. It's not that I'm lazy and I don't want to read or watch videos in preparation - they just do not work for me.

I have to see the space. This is key.

I can't visualise the fight and understand any of it until I have had a chance to stand in the space.

To a lesser extent I can use diagrams (and I often make them).. but they need to have landmarks in them or I don't understand. Eg floor markings/patterns, labels like "door" "left pillar" etc. If it's just a blank page with bosses and bodies marked, it won't sink in at all, just like the videos and written strategies.

TheGrumpyElf said...

I find I need to experience something to learn it. I can read it over and over 100 times and watch the videos until my eyes bleed but until I actually get to experience it I will not "get it".

I find that the reason neither reading or watching helps me is that they are all filled with clutter.

If you keep it simple by saying "move when the ground under you rumbles" I will remember it but if you say "so and so has an ability that causes xxx amount of damage and will shoot you up in the air adding fall damage after if you do not move from it" means absolutely nothing to me.

Sound is usually the prominent thing I remember and use as a learning trigger. Effects/Abilities without sound take me longer to learn it seems.

Ophelie said...

The other tactile learners come out of the woodwork ^_^

I've always been one who doesn't get much from reading boss strats or watching videos or listening to the RL ramble until I've tried the fight. I find that all strats do is spoil the boss.

Being a tactile learner tends to be looked down upon, in game as much as in real life, but on the bright side, when we get to the execution part, we tend to learn real fast. I read boss strats because I have to, but I'll still die to every boss mechanic on the first try. But once I've died to something once, I'll rarely die to it again. I also internalize fight rhythms easily, to where timers and people calling out stuff on vent is just annoying. If I know a fight, I KNOW when the boss is going to do his trick, I don't need silly numbers counting down on my screen!

So yeah, it's harder for a tactile learner to prepare for a fight, and a raids' first few wipes are usually due to us tactile types, but on the upside, once we experience a fight, we learn fast and we learn well.

Tsuds said...

What a brilliant post.

When I first started playing and was looking at raiding I kept being told 'no vent no play' on the theory that they couldn't teach me the fight.

Vent still gives me the absolute pip being little more than white noise to my brain and videos, as Rul said, are only useful if we've been there before. I remember swotting on HoS when my healer was small enough for it to be intimidating, watching a video and then not actually recognising a single thing until on the way out when I went 'ohhhhhh that is what they meant by ....'.

Give me a good flow chart, diagram or better still let me go and bang my head in the run a few times, I read other players gaming pretty well and I learn much faster than rattling off a mob of vent instructions.