What puts you in the ‘flow state’?

Sunday. I have awoken with an uncontrollable urge to read non-fiction.  Drawn to the clicky screen of my Kindle and considering some prep work for the upcoming academic year, A Short Introduction to Game Theory looks strangely appealing…

At a conference last year in Hungary I was delightfully enlightened about gamification. If unfamiliar with the concept, it’s 

the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. (Wikipedia)

Think of the ‘badges’ and prizes you get in all sorts of apps nowadays, e.g. fitness apps (Nike+), language learning apps (DuoLingo), brain training apps (Lumosity), etc. While I’m told gamification and game theory are very much different fields, I’ll return to this topic with renewed gusto after I finish the book. On the surface, there seems to be tenuous parallels. 

All that said, I like games. I use them in the classroom sometimes, but without the explanation of this theory or science behind it, students seem to think they are regressing in intellect/years. There is a time and a place for them, of course. But done right, they can engage, inform and delight at the same time. Outrageous. Education, doing all that? Surely not…

I’m reminded of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game or Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s talk on ‘flow’.

Reading some research year’s ago on certain cultural activities increasing the state of flow, I thought it was silly at first. After seeing that TED talk and later using the figure below to explain/justify games to my students, I’ve come around to the idea. I’ve also come around to reflecting on what puts me in a state of flow and how I can be there more often, regardless of how much money it makes me.  Have a look at the chart, go beyond the funny connotations of the word, and ask – where do you find that challenged/skilled state?

Having been distracted by putting together this blog post and being subsumed by flow, I’m going for a ‘flow run’ in a last ditch effort to prep for a half marathon next weekend. I’ll come to game theory and non-fiction next time…



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