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Intellectual Productions in Active Learning

My name is Adrian Granchelli and I am a student of the Master of Educational Technology program at the University of British Columbia

IP #1 – Grounding in Active Learning

The goal for this assignment is to get grounded in the pedagogy of active learning. Of the initial three readings that were first proposed, only one was ‘enough’ in my opinion and I read ahead into the following readings. Rough notes of the two omitted articles are below the 3-2-1 analysis that follows.

Prince, M. (2004). Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research. J. Engr. Education, 93(3); 223-231.

—- 3 descriptive sentences that overview the reading —-

Active learning is “any instructional method that engages students in the learning process” (Prince, 2004), such as cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and problem-based learning. It is difficult to compare research and gauge the effectiveness of active learning due to the vast differences in implementations of active learning and the problems of how and what to assess its success on (Prince, 2004). Some interventions in Prince’s (2004) review of the research were in Agreement such as allowing pauses in lectures (“attention span during lecture is roughly fifteen minutes” ), and that problem-based learning “produces positive student attitudes” (Prince, 2004).

—- 2 analytic sentences that analyze the reading as opposed to describes it —-

Prince (2004) approached the review of this research with engineering faculty in mind by catering to a post-secondary classroom based approach, thus omitting a large subsect of active learning. The review tends to take a broad approach (a focus on cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and problem-based learning as opposed to digging into the elements of these interventions) and with a focus on measurable cause-and-effect instead of commentary or contribution to the classroom’s media ecology.

—- 1 burning question that the reading catalyzes —-

Do ‘building blocks’ or components of active learning exist within the three approaches (cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and problem-based learning) explored and how can their success be measured?

Saljo, R. (2010). Digital Tools and Challenges to Institutional Traditions of Learning: Technologies, Social Memory and the Performative Nature of Learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1); 53-64.

—- 3 descriptive sentences that overview the reading —-

Technology has shaped how and what we learn in part due to its ability to store and share social memory and its capacity to perform cognitive-like operations (Saljo, 2010). In the advent of books, reading was an activity for rote knowledge acquisition, and now there is an emphasis on reading as interpretation to “go beyond giving back what is already there.” (Saljo, 2010). This interpretation, or transformation from information held in social memory into something else, is an emerging act of learning, increasingly inseparable from technological tools (Saljo, 2010).

—- 2 analytic sentences that analyze the reading as opposed to describes it —-

Saljo cautiously builds his argument with examples from history that highlight interdependencies between technology and learning, such as books and writing. Saljo (2010) bases their argument that learning is becoming a performative action since modern technologies (such as the computer or the internet) increasingly replace the cognitive functions performed by humans (such as the memory of facts and mathematical calculations).

—- 1 burning question that the reading catalyzes —-

Does educational technology need to follow this trend – to promote ease of access to social memory and/or to take over the cognitive-like operations from people – in order to be successful? And what may be needed for technology in the future?


What and how it means to learn is constantly in a state of change (Saljo, 2010) as can be found in the difficulty of measuring student success (Prince, 2004). Prince (2004) identifies an increased interest for active learning in education, which integrates well with Saljo’s (2010) argument of a long spanning societal shift towards learning becoming an act of transforming information. 

about the omitted articles

Pasci, D. & Szabo, Z. (2018). Experiential Marketing, Interactivity And Gamification — Differences And Similarities Among The World-Trends. Marketing of Scientific and Research Organizations, 30(4); 115-136.

Pasci & Szabo (2018) wandered through many ideas offering a nice lay of the land but remained surface level. Some notable ideas

  • “events which attached to intensive emotions are way more memorable”
  • “basic operation of memory requires 3 stages: the ability of encoding, storage and recall”
  • “In the state of recall people “live the event again”
  • Sousa thought of interaction in terms of extrinsic (something that motivates the group) versus intrinsic (am activity that is “strongly attached to the target group’s necessities, interests, values and attitude”)
  • “The Four Realms of an experience” by Pini i Gilmore (1998), offers interesting dichotomies

England, B., Brigati J., & Schussler, E. (2017). Student anxiety in introductory biology classrooms: Perceptions about active learning and persistence in the major. PLoS ONE 12(8): e0182506.

England, Brigati, & Schussler (2017) studied the effect of active learning interventions on student anxiety. They shared a passage by Bledsoe & Baskin (2014) “that called student fear the ‘elephant in the classroom.'” England, Brigati, & Schussler (2017) found that “student anxiety seemed to align with communication apprehension, social anxiety, and test anxiety.” Their results found that student anxiety strongly correlated with their self-reported letter grade. Though they did acknowledge that “there is no way for us to know—from this study—the actual effects of anxiety on students’ learning; the anxiety may have been beneficial despite students’ self-reported grades”, they did not attempt to understand anxiety in this context deeper.

Fig 5 – General class anxiety compared among self-reported letter grade (England, Brigati, & Schussler, 2017)

IP #2 – Engagement with Experience

This IP is a dive into what holds people back from an experience that they themselves want to do. It explores moments of when it happens, then with a lens of neuroscience, and ultimately extends these ideas into how educators can help people overcome their hesitations.

This exploration was developed into a podcast but if you would prefer, the full transcript is below.


Today we are going to look into engagement with experience and in particular why people don’t engage with experience. Taking us through this journey we have four acts. One, a short story. Two, about the value of performance. Three, the mind on the edge. And Four, strategies to overcome the edge. 

Act 1 – Cliff Jumping

We are in Lynn canyon, in North Vancouver, a beautiful park filled with dense evergreen trees, intertwining trails, and a small creek that has carved its way through the landscape, at times with cliff walls on either side, higher than 100 feet. To me this is a very special place that has shaped much of my personal perspectives of the inhibitors to experience.  

When I was growing up I would come in the summer time with my friends to jump off   some of these cliff walls into the water below. Imagine taking an elevator up to the forth floor, stepping out onto the balcony, and looking straight down into water below. You feel your hear t beat louder, and your breath deepen. You are in defiance of your very own self-preservation instincts. But for some reason you made a choice to climb up to this very spot with the intention to jump, and you thought you already made this decision to jump, but you still haven’t jump, you’re still there, frozen. Stubbornly frightened or confused? You feel the pressure of your goals, maybe your identity, or the social pressures from your friends or onlookers. And you know it only takes one step and this agonizing anxiety would be over and you finally do make that choice. 

And you fall. You watch the world fly up above you. But still you’re nervous, bracing for the water. Finally, the water. And you’re under it, finally at equilibrium. And then at rest on the shore and you’re exhilarated. You’re ready to go again, and with less contemplation. 

And the why was this something you want to do is still not really understood. Is it the feeling of falling? the pride? The overcoming of a challenge? The person that you want to be? This all feeds right back as bits of motivation to step up to that ledge and jump.

And that moment right on the ledge, that agonizing time spent standing there, looking down at the water is the question. Because each day students step up to the metaphorical ledge of education and they don’t jump. They remain on the ledge as educators, designers, and even the students themselves may not know how they couldn’t take that step off the ledge and immerse themselves into the experience of learning. 

So in exploring this question, I look at the value in overcoming this moment, what may be occurring in the mind at this moment, and strategies of overcoming the edge and jumping in. 

Act 2 – Performance

The act of performing or the doing of something can be the very learning experience itself. Vygotsky’s concept of the Zone of Proximal Developmment explains that one may learn when pushed just beyond what they can do on their own so long as there is adequate support to do so. Cazden (1981) elaborates that “the teacher assumes that the assisted performance is not just performance without competence, but performance before competence–that the assisted performance does indeed contribute to subsequent development.”

In cliff jumping, or facing a fear, once you jump, it’s so easy to go again. The performance of jumping, maybe, has taught your brain that it is indeed safe and your fear is unmerrited. So right away, you may want to jump again and this time, your fear is less of a barrier. This mirrors the technique of exposure therapy where distressing stimuli are performed in a safe environment with the intention of linking the stimuli with positive outcomes instead of distress. 

But what if the real life individual feels like a different person than the one performing?

In the world of show business, actors and actresses become characters. Scott (2017) explains that there are opportunities for liberating transcendence from the self and into a character. One where the I is no longer and one becomes something new, free from the normal self-judgement among other things. 

And this feels good – maybe the cliff jumper mid-air is a different person than the one on the edge? The inter family systems model views the mind to be subdivided into different parts (IFS Institute, n.d.). Not dissimilar to the Disney Pixar movie Inside Out **** Inside Out Audio ***, though these parts are not always divided by feelings like in the movie. Maybe using a different part of your mind feels like being a different person.

Scott elaborates on the psychological concept of ‘edgework’ – hilariously the term originally comes from the late Hunter S. Thompson who founded ‘Gonzo Journalism’ where the journalist immerses themselves so fully into their subject that they become a central figure. You see the overlap?

Now edgework is pushing the boundaries and testing the limits of the self often including voluntary risk-taking activities (Scott, 2017). “Surviving these results in feelings of triumph, joy and a heightened sense of self: participants describe feeling ‘pure’, ‘alive’, and hyper-real, experiencing self-mastery and self-determination.” (Scott, 2017). 

There are a significant overlap of edgework with the theory of flow – being a state of  intense focus and concentration on a narrow perceptual field (Scott, 2017). Like edgework, flow also allows for euphoria, a lack of self-judgement, and a type of divide between the ‘normal’ person and one in flow (Scott, 2017). Where flow and edgework differ is in the essence of risk – flow focuses on balancing skill with challenge, while in edgework, risk is sought out as an end of its own (Scott, 2017). 

Cliff jumping is both a practice of edgework and flow since risk is an end of its own but that risk (if you’re not stupid) is a calculated one where the challenge is appropriate for your skill. 

If you haven’t already made this link, I want to throw it in just for you! Because there is interesting overlap with video games as players take on the role of characters and act significantly differently than they do in real life. In the game world, the player as a character may commit heinous acts of violence (to name one thing), but in the real world that player may be non-violent. The self and the character one takes on is divided. 

Act 3 – The Mind on the Edge

Maslow in 1958 explains the unconscious, ‘primary-processes’ of one’s mind as having “no negatives, no contradictions … [as] it is independent of control, … inhibitions, … calculations of possibility or impossibility”. From this portion of ourselves, we gain the ability to play, fantasize, and be creative (Maslow, 1958). In contrary, the conscious, ‘secondary-processes’ of one’s mind is “logical, sensible, and realistic.” On the edge, the ‘primary-process’ has no inhibitions and maybe just wants to play, to jump, while the conscious, ‘secondary-processes’ of ones mind may be calculating the risk and instilling fear. Much has changed in our understanding of the human psyche since 1958, but the concept of a split mind, with at times contradicting ideas, still remains. 

With the notion of the performer becoming a different character than the person’s true self, this would mean that overcoming the edge is a process of overcoming the conscious, ‘secondary-process’. While being stuck on the edge is the secondary process taking over (Maslow, 1958). 

Scott (2017) explains in show business, stage fright, “a state of existential self-doubt”, similar to the edge, can occur before or during a performance. During the performance, there may be a “disruption of the social frame” which exposes the actor or actress as their real self instead of a character. In Maslow’s concept, 

These different parts within one person, the one on the edge or the jumper, the actress or character, the creative mind or the one of self-judgement may also be explained through the theory of cognitive load which views a limited capacity of working memory (Fisch, 2017). The brain, being very complex, has many different neural pathways, but only so much of it can be activated at one time. One unable to leave the edge may be ‘stuck’ in one mode of thought. Maybe ‘stuck’ in anxiety, fear, or self doubt.

Steele (2011), explains a study by Krendl, Richeson, Kelley, and Heatherton, “who used fMRI imaging technology to examine stereotype threat’s effect on brain activity.” They tested women who were strong math students to perform a math problem while examining their brains (Steele, 2011). The experiment group were put under stereotype threat by being told that “research has shown gender differences in math ability and performance” (Steele, 2011). 

“Although women [not under stereotype threat] recruited neural networks that [from previous research] are associated with mathematical learning, women who were [under stereotype threat] did not recruit these regions, and instead revealed heightened activation in a neural region [that from previous research is] associated with social and emotional processing” (Steele, 2011). The women under stereotype threat did not perform as well as the control group enacting a great example of cognitive energy being wasted on extraneous details rather than the problem (Steele, 2011). 

The mind on the edge may be viewed as a mind stuck in an inadvertent self-sabotaging cognitive process. 

Act 4 – Strategies to Overcome the Edge

For some people, sometimes, the strategy is simple. Like Nike’s slogan and this, Shia LaBeouf’s ludicrous motivational speech: “Just do it” 

Now it’s not that simple all of the time, so we’re going to explore some strategies that have come up from our ideas today. We will touch on motivation, invitation, scaffolding, characters, rituals, deception, and disinhibitors. 

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list but instead more tools for the educational designer’s tool box. 


Why should someone jump off the edge? The act of performing may be the learning – the notion of performance before competence (Cazden,  1981). If the student truly believes this, it may be motivation in itself. 

There are also strategies of appealing to intrinsic motivators within the learner or if needed, extrinsic motivators. I’m sure you know much of this so we’re going to move on. 


Does the learner perceive that they belong in the experience? Is it inviting? Or does it appear to be not for them? 

Steele (2011) talks about cues in an environment. Cues of prejudice like “are some groups disdained”? (Steele, 2011) And the more subtle cues of contingency – do the educators “value the experiencing of group diversity as integral … to one’s education?” (Steele, 2011) In other words, does the learner perceive that the educators strive for diversity or inclusivity of their group? 

One concept Steele (2011) explains is of ‘critical mass’, a tipping point where once a significant amount of representation is achieved, identity or stereotype threats subside. 

So for an environment to be inviting, it must be free of prejudice and contingency cues, ideally achieving a critical mass of the minority one wishes to include. Put simply, does the person see themselves in the experience or environment of the experience. Are they represented? 

Now an educational technology designer may ask can an environment be inviting to everyone?  Or does a designer need to choose who they are designing for? 


Scaffolding is the act of stripping the experience into smaller learning experiences that the learner conducts one at a time. It’s as if the edge starts at a comfortable, undaunting height, and once successfully completed, the edge will be raised higher or supports will be removed. This iterative approach ends with the student on that high edge, but now they are practiced with skills and they know how to navigate the experience and overcome the edge. 

This approach is a constructivist one, aiming to keep the student within that zone of proximal development where they are working just beyond their skill  (Powell & Kalina, 2009). With this properly matched skill to challenge level, there is the opportunity for flow.  


Can educators directly recognize the different parts of a learner’s brain? Maslow (1958) and Steele (2011) describe that when one uses a different part of their brain, their thinking and actions may be very different. So how could the use of characters (or becoming a different person) affect education? How can educators help students assume a different character, something more successful than just asking students to “put on your math hat.“

Fullerton (2018), speaks of characters in video games as having abilities, characteristics, and oftentimes a story. Getting a learner into a character may need some creativity from the educator. 


Some performers enact rituals prior to a performance to create a “faux-confidence through the illusion of gaining control” or to bond performers (Scott, 2017). Some rituals range from superstitious to playful and fun such as meditation, Eskimo kissing, and sharing irrational beliefs (Scott, 2017).  

Some pre-event rituals, such as this jingle before streaming on Netflix **** Netflix Sound *** elicits a pavlovian-like response. 

Can educators utililze rituals to get students ready for an educational experience? 


Deception would be the hiding of the edge or turning  focus away from it. 

This may be imagining the audience to be only in their underwear, to deflate their critical power Scott (2017). Potentially unethical, but an educator may withhold information from the learner that would make them ‘waste’ their cognitive load and make them very evident of being on the edge – if you’ve read the Sci-fi novel, Ender’s Game, I don’t want to give it away, but it comes to mind as a great example. 


Scott (2017) explains that some actors/actresses turn to alcohol, tobacco, or other substances to help them overcome stage fright. Substances can quite easily allow someone to take on a different part of their mind, to feel like someone different. 

Another trend is the use of ‘study drugs’ that allow one to focus. 

I’m not suggesting we should get all our students drunk but instead to imagine a time and a place where it may help an educational experience.

I’m going to play you this clip from Freakenomics, where Yahuda explains a counselling practice where the client is under the influence of MDMA (also known as Ecstacy). 

“YEHUDA: If you’re put in the exact right state where you’re not afraid of your emotional reactions or your memories, you have maximum interpersonal trust, a minimum self-blame or guilt or any of those things. This is the state that is a perfect place to be to start processing very difficult, traumatic memories and really catalyzing a therapeutic process … 

And you might ask, “Why do you need a drug to catalyze a therapeutic process?” And the metaphor that’s often used is that psychedelics to the mind are what the telescope is to astronomy and what the microscope is to biology. It’s not that all of a sudden you see things, you’re hallucinating things that didn’t exist or that aren’t real. You’re actually allowing yourself to have a tool so that you can really see things that actually are there, things that are really important that aren’t that obvious or cannot be looked at in any other way. And so once they started to understand that that was the purpose of MDMA, it really clicked into place as something that is very necessary.

Because trauma survivors with PTSD, they don’t want to look at their traumatic experiences. They don’t want to look at the reasons that they’re kind of stuck where they are. Because it’s very, very painful” (Dubner, 2020).


I hope these ideas of the edge of experience are a helpful lens. Maybe they’re bringing up more questions than anything else. Some of these techniques may be difficult to apply to education but hopefully, they incite some interest. And I’m very curious about your thoughts on the matter. 

You can find references and further readings online.

 Adrian signing off.   


Cazden, C. (1981). Performance before Competence. The Quarterly Newsletter of The Laboratory Of Comparative Human Cognition. 3(1); 5-8

Dubner, S. (2020). How Are Psychedelics and Other Party Drugs Changing Psychiatry? (No. 433) [Audio podcast episode]. In Freakenomics Radio. 

Docter, P., Del Carmen, R. (Directors). (2004). Inside Out. Pixar Animation Studios. Walt Disney Pictures. 

Fisch, S. (2017). Chapter 11 – Bridging Theory and Practice: Applying Cognitive and Educational Theory to the Design of Educational Media. In Cognitive Development in Digital Contexts. (pp. 217-234) Academic Press. ISBN 9780128094815.

IFS Institute (n.d.). Internal Family Systems Model Outline.

LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner. (2015). Shia LaBeouf “Just Do It” Motivational Speech. YouTube.

Maslow, A. (1958). Emotional Blocks to Creativity. Journal of Individual Psychology. 14(1); 51-56

Powell, K. C., & Kalina, C. J. (2009). Cognitive and social constructivism: Developing tools for an effective classroom. Education, 130(2), 241-251

Scott, S. (2017). Transitions and transcendence of the self: stage fright and the paradox of shy performativity. Sociology, 51(4); 715-731. ISSN 0038-0385

Setuniman. (2015). Intro 1L72. 

Steele, C. (2011). Whistling Vivaldi How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do . ‎ W. W. Norton & Company.

WikiPedia. (n.d.). Hunter S. Thompson.


The goal for this IP is to briefly overview the Educational Technology landscape from past to present, with attention focused on which pedagogies are embedded in the educational artifacts. My focus will be on digital applications, while still outlining relevant predecessors, with special attention paid to growth and transition over the past years.

Postwar America established an educational toy market that first satisfied direct educational goals before expanding to include open-ended educational experiences (Ogata, 2004). The disruptive power of digital technologies expanded the possibilities for learning to occur beyond the classroom walls (Brown & Long, 2006). The further development of digital tools makes content authorship and creation accessible to the public, distributing power away from institutions. Grounding the history to the present, there is an exploration of two successful mobile learning apps exemplifying market trends: Mimo, a for-profit mobile app and Scratch, a free app developed by academics.


Postwar America was primed for educational toys, such as “science kits, construction toys, anatomical forms, … encyclopedias, … pounding benches, peg boards, and plain blocks” (Ogata, 2004), due to the baby boom, a rise in the middle class, mass consumption, and a culturally held notion that “correct parenting became a weapon against war, delinquency, and communism.” (Ogata, 2004).

Educational toys were extremely popular, leaning on the value of play and development – Piaget’s theory of development was becoming widely adopted (Ogata, 2004). 

The desire for educational toys was also a disservice when utilized to the extreme. In Ogata, (2004), Lawrence K. Frank (1957) explains:

‘Some people have been so impressed by the importance of play that they want all the child’s playthings to be ‘educational,’ that is, to be limited to those toys and games which are designed to teach some specific skill or to convey some definite meaning … but if we do this we deprive the child of a large area of experience equally essential to his development as a well-rounded personality. It is as if we say that everything in life must be usable and practicable and reject everything that is esthetically desirable, that gives tone, color, and richness to living.’’

Two decades later, the pendulum swung back from critiques from educators, child development experts, and public faith in abstract art (Ogata, 2004). The idea of ‘unstructured play’ proliferated “in which the games, objects, or fantasy were left to the child instead of being determined by the manufacturer” (Ogata, 2004).

Playskool Skaneateles Train advertisement, Playthings Magazine 54, no. 4 (April 1956): 76. (PLAYSKOOLN & n 2005 Hasbro, Inc. Used with permission. Photo, Science, Industry & Business Library, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.) In Ogata (2004). 

The Digital Revolution

From the internet to personal computers and personal devices, this digital age has transformed access to information and educational tools. “Digital technology continues to advance at a frenetic pace, offering greater capability while simultaneously becoming more mobile and more affordable” (Brown & Long, 2006). Personal digital devices have immerged as a powerful learning space that can be accessed anywhere, anytime, expanding the opportunities for education  (Brown & Long, 2006).

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 was defined by Tim O’Reilly in 2005 and outlines characteristics such as users as co-developers, harnessing collective intelligence, and lightweight user interfaces, development and business models (Newman, Chang, Walters, & Wills, 2016). Content creation began to expand from the few businesses, corporations, or those with technical know-how to anyone with a suitable internet-connected device (Newman, Chang, Walters, & Wills, 2016).

Digital tools for content creation, authoring, and development continue to be more accessible. 

While participatory culture has the power to democratize authorship, it may also re-enact established hierarchies between laypeople and experts (König, 2012). Non-experts may not follow academic rigour or have the foundational content knowledge and may be excluded or marginalized from knowledge contribution (König, 2012). With the power of democratized knowledge, ideas and alternative truths can become politicized, further exacerbating the division between laypeople and experts (König, 2012). 

The Current Digital Educational App Market

With broad access to digital devices and ease of authoring mobile applications, there is a myriad of ideas, philosophies, and pedagogies embedded into these applications, as well as wants from them. If the social media platform Facebook can act as a launching point, then the vast majority of design decisions are made by engineers and not content experts, such as social psychologists or educators (Vankatesh, 2021). Have educational apps succumbed to a politized perspective of pedagogies instead of one based on critical evidence? 

We are going to look at two vignettes that may help to highlight the stakeholder’s wants, values, and needs.  

  1. Mimo: Learn coding in HTML, JavaScript, Python

Why Mimo? This app teaches users how to code, was ranked very highly in the educational category in the Google Play Store and has received a couple of awards such as the “Google Play’s Editor’s Choice” and the “Best Self-Improvement Apps of 2018” (Mimo, n.d.). In other words, it is publicly viewed as a good educational app. 

Mimo is a for-profit app that employs a behaviourist pedagogy with narrow, sequential lessons, and rewards. It utilizes ‘visible’ gamification elements such as the big three – points, badges, and leaderboards – as described by Werbach (2015). 

Bitrián, Buil, Catalán (2021) show that “gamification increases user engagement through satisfaction of the needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness. User engagement, in turn, leads to greater intention to use, disseminate [word of mouth] about, and to positively rate, the app.” Gamification may not increase education but does increase popularity, popularity may be more in-line with generating profits.  

As a selling point, it is easy to see the progression through the app by the cumulation of points or levels unlocked. I wonder if these simple-to-understand results (as biased as they may be) persuade the public with educational merit. 

  1. Scratch

Why Scratch? Scratch is an easy-to-learn coding language that is popular amongst educators (Lamb & Johnson, 2011). Scratch has been translated into 64 languages and had 29 million people creating projects in 2020 (Scratch, 2020). 

Scratch is developed by the MIT Media Lab and is free with a GNU General Public License. Scratch employs a constructivist pedagogy, as users code within a sandbox environment and are offered ample different tools, options, and possibilities. Scratch also hosts an extensive online platform for users to share, discuss, and remix projects. 

As a free program, Scratch does not need users for income and can focus on educational value. Scratch creates the potential for a ‘transitional space’ as described by Ellsworth (2004), where there is potential for a transitional experience for the user to grow as they are absorbed into the app Scratch. 

The Future

Two avenues for interactive educational tools appear to be emerging, one from ‘experts’, potentially publicly funded, and the other from ‘laypeople’, potentially with profit in mind. As development and marketing become increasingly accessible for everyone, the market will experience an incredible growth of diversity as laypeople develop educational tools, but this may be at the detriment of less pedagogically informed tools. The market will experience considerable choice and with it some concerns of educational merit. 

Perhaps such a divide would consist of experts and laypeople designing for their respective groups, potentially furthering a pedagogically inaccurate notion of learning amongst the laypeople. Moreover, with an increase of educational tools available, marketing and advertising may become the predominant factor of success, opposed to inherent value of the tool itself. 

Educational toys and tools reflect ideologies of a place and time. New technologies have been adopted into the development of educational tools, bringing with it affordances that influence the tool. In the 1940-50’s, society subscribed to the belief that toys were most acceptable or relevant if they fostered skill building or taught a specific skill (Ogata, 2004). In the 1960’s, toys opposed this previously held belief, by designing for unstructured play and greater autonomy, thus allowing space for the player to become (Ogata, 2004). Parallels can be drawn between popular beliefs around  toys in the mid century, with some of today’s educational apps. Many app designs share a prevailing belief that behaviorist techniques, such as points, rewards, etc., are now necessary and an integral component of successful apps (Khomych, 2021). Pre 1960 toys and some modern apps share a narrow view on ways and methods teaching should take place. 

The educational app market may not be able to shift their values like toys did in the mid 20th century (Ogata, 2004). Obsession and retention are key metrics in some app design, often influencing profit potential for developers (Eyal & Hoover, 2014). This behaviour design can highlight progress and celebrate successes, boosting a user’s reward response and providing extrinsic motivation for continued ‘learning’ (Eyal & Hoover, 2014). Users and designers alike may enjoy such apps providing little reason to change the beliefs that influence their design.

There are numerous educational trends and cuts that can be drawn between practices, this paper focused on the exploration of a single one. Mapping a future for the entire landscape of education trends is impossible, as only time can tell. 


Bitrián, P., Buil, I., & Catalán, S. (2021). Enhancing user engagement: The role of gamification in mobile apps Elsevier. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2021.04.028

Brown, M. & Long, P. (2006). Ch 9. Trends in Learning Space Design. In Learning Spaces. Educase.

Ellsworth, L. (2004). Chapter 3 – Pedagogy’s Time and Space. In Places of learning: Media, Architecture, Pedagogy (pp. 57-82). Routledge. 

Eyal, N. & Hoover, R. (2014). How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Penguin Group.

König, R. (2013) WikiPedia. Information, Communication & Society. 16(2). 160-177. Routledge. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2012.734319

Khomych, A. (2021). Is Gamification the Only Way for Apps to Survive? Get Social. 

Lamb, A., & Johnson, A. (2011). Scratch: Computer Programming for 21st Century Learners. Teacher Librarian. 38(4). ProQuest Central. p. 64-75

Newman, R., Chang, V., Walters, R., & Wills, G. (2016). Web 2.0—The past and the future. International Journal of Information Management. 36. p. 591-598.

Ogata, A. (2004). Creative Playthings: Educational Toys and Postwar American Culture. Winterthur Portfolio. 39(3).

Scratch. (2020). 2020 Annual Report. Retrieved from 

Vankatesh, S. (2021). The Garbage Can Model of Decision Making http://podcast. Sudhir Breaks the Internet. 2. Retrieved from 

Werbach, K. (2015). 4.3 The PBL Triad. Gamification. Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Coursera. Retrieved from