What Dance Central Can Teach Us About Learning

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[NB: This post has been modified from original publication. I have removed reference to specific songs within the game. All comments remain.]

I enjoy Dance Central. Sure, some of the songs and characters are annoying, but the game play is amazing. And it's a surprisingly intense workout to dance to some of the songs.

No, I will not post a video.

Besides being incredibly patient, encouraging and helpful, Dance Central does something else right in teaching you a new move: When you're ready to attempt it on your own, you get three tries.

Make it and you get some props. "You have that unlocked!"

Fail? The game assures you it's all good and that you'll do better next time.

...and then it moves on.

There's no wallowing in misery. There's no eternal "try that again." You simply move on to the next part with the idea of returning to this area again next time.

Left to my own devices, I would keep trying until I was beyond frustrated. Then I would storm off, swearing never to play that stupid game again. Tears and rage is where I tend to end up when I can't master something right away. I keep trying until there's no longer any joy in learning. Dance Central won't let me do this. To keep the game fun--and to keep me out of a rut--it gives me three attempts and then cheerfully moves on.

And unlike the "I'm in a band playing rock music" games which boo and jeer when you fail--and, yes, I fail--Dance Central acknowledges you need to do some more work, but stays positive.

The lessons?

  1. Stay positive. It's easier for a computer to ignore my groans and complaints, but the constant affirmation works wonders.
  2. Keep it limited. Put a cap on the number of attempts, and then move on until a later date.
  3. Acknowledge growth areas. Don't tell me that I'm doing fine. I'm not and I know it. But honestly assessing that I'm not too bad but can totally get it next time is a huge benefit. If we're honest about the shortcomings then the successes will be real.

I'm a huge fan of working toward mastery. But I've realized that even the mastery approach to education needs to bend to something else: The love of learning.

If you're not loving it, take a break and move on. It's far more important to want to return to learning later than to continue until all is misery and you swear off learning forever.

Looking for homeschooling curriculum you're guaranteed to love? Sonlight has just such a guarantee when you get a complete homeschool curriculum program.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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