Synapse-building: for decision-making and action … not rote memorization

Synapse-building: for decision-making and action … not rote memorization

August 13, 2018

Our educational institutions are terrible at making knowledge useful; and if we cannot use knowledge, where is the value? But we graduate millions of young people a year who have memorized knowledge (long enough to take a test, anyway) with no ability to use it; surprisingly few synapses have been formed.

Interactive Learning eXperiences (I-L-X) are specifically designed to help build connections in the brain that are not just for “information regurgitation” (test taking), but that store knowledge in such a way that it is easily accessible for actual decision-making and behavior. 

Players are constantly making choices in I-L-Xs … and experiencing the consequences of those decisions.  They are basing these behaviors on the new knowledge and unfamiliar concepts built in to the games.  These bits of information are embedded into player’s brains through a deluge of information, most of which is correct, but which may not be correct in a given situation.  Brains thus exposed to “correct” information over and over again create tenuous synapses. Then when those synapses fire in “real” and emotionally charged situations, they strengthen and become more permanent.

In the graphic above, you see a screen from our I-L-X known as “OneDay.”  Here a player has just finished an interaction and must report what they learned.  Three of these items (with checkmarks) are true about the interaction.  Two (in pink) are false information – fake news; these will never be true at any time in the game.  But all the rest are “facts” that will (or have) come to light as true at some point in the experience.  Seeing these again and again and again, cements the information in place. Then using these pieces of knowledge in action (or convincing others to act), player’s brains move this information into longer-term memory and forms synapses related to behavior and decision-making. The next time the player is called upon to act or decide, these synapses are at the ready.

Very few parts of our current educational system are designed with our current understanding of brain science in mind. Rather, our tenure-based systems of education encourage outmoded, traditional classroom and online systems that rarely serve students well.