Can we use data better to support behavioural change?

Imagine you never stopped learning and that every so often a friend, educator, health professional or heaven forbid – some bloke on Facebook gives you feedback on something that they think you need to change – what do you do?

Lets assume this is medical information and that changing your lifestyle will improve your life quality. So that means it is important and you really want to change because you know that it is good for you.

We are faced with this types of questions all the time but the information we are presented  doesn’t make it easy to understand or – more importantly to act and make the changes we often should make.

I was recently given the results of some routine medical tests and as a comparatively highly educated professional used to dealing with huge amounts of data I was shocked at how little use the lab tests really are.

So the first idea here is that if we can change the format of the med tests that will be easier for the health staff to communicate and easier for us to change. Thomas Goetz takes a look.

“Your medical chart: it’s hard to access, impossible to read — and full of information that could make you healthier if you just knew how to use it. At TEDMED, Thomas Goetz looks at medical data, making a bold call to redesign it and get more insight from it.”

Another related  idea is the way we learn is very influential in what changes, outcomes and skills we can acquire. It seems like that gaming activity as a popular pastime has managed to engage huge numbers of us in a way that educators would love to do.

Again there is an idea here that the way we engage with the content and the efficacy of that learning experience can make a huge difference.

“Gamers often commit great feats of persistence, dedicating hundreds of hours to complete marathon quests all while learning complex, nuanced skills. At TEDxCMU, John Riccitiello calls on educators to harness the resolve video games can inspire to build new learning tools for the next generation of kids.”

Riccitiello makes the point that a student studying for a an engineering degree course takes 1680 hrs to complete over the 3 years that it takes.  At the same time he estimates that a gamer would invest 1724 hours in a single year to advance in their game. That level of commitment, interest and determination is often lacking in the educational context.

Perhaps one of the reasons that gaming creates new learning is because the presentation of the data is much more immersive and conducive to changes of all kinds.

What would happen if someone took those medical results and then represented that data as a life changing game? in Wellington is doing exactly this. Behavioral change supported by social gaming style interaction and the trigger event is the need to quit smoking As they make clear on their web site

“Want to quit smoking?

We’ll help you! Goalpost makes it social by connecting you with friends, expert advice and game play! We’ll keep you on track with challenges and rewards and supporters to cheer you on. You can do this!”
Goalpost is a 12-week game. You’ll have daily tips, tasks and challenges that give you points and rewards! win win!

Personally I believe that we can change our behaviours at any time.

  • It definitely makes a big difference to how successfully we do that if the data is easier to understand
  • and when the learning experience is more engaging
  • plus the gaming element gives us social support which also improves our chances of success.

See also

Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning