School of Athens, by Rafael/Raphael

The School of Athens painting, by Raphael

I’ll get straight to the point – the following article about a philosopher successfully teaching 8-9 year old children how to count in binary using the Socratic Method, over the course of a single Friday afternoon (think back to your own Friday afternoon level of concentration in school) seems nothing short of magic.

It’s a transcript, and reading it myself I could understand why the children seemed so excited – what’s more exciting than learning, and I mean really learning, and being able to solve stuff for yourself that moments ago would have been nonsense?  It’s the same buzz we get in video games!

Maybe the Socratic Method used by the gentleman shares a certain kinship with videogames in general.  If his role was to carefully consider each question, that it might lead naturally into the next flash of understanding – then is not the role of videogames (and their makers) to carefully craft each puzzle or encounter, that it may build on the previous knowledge and give you that hit of triumph that only the perfect amount of challenge will give you?  What is every encounter, if not a question: “I see you’ve got this far, but can you do defeat/solve/win this?”

This is teaching using flow.  If it’s too easy, you’d get bored – if the questions take too many leaps, you stall and fail.  Maybe this ties into why we find it so incredibly unfair when a game springs a new mechanic on us in the final level – untrained and unaksed for.  It’s like someone using the Socratic Method and throwing in a completely random question out of the blue.  Read the article – while the author was using it to teach children, it’s probably the best, ‘stickiest’ way I’ve ever learned binary counting myself.