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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


The internet is for being social (and for cats).

By Domi C Sinclair, on 5 March 2015

The power of the internet, and people’s desire to interact socially have been demonstrated time and time again, and I recently wrote a post for this blog about the power of the crowd. Another example that struck me, and that I wanted to share was that of the Kickstarter project, Exploding Kittens.

Exploding Kittens is a card game, that received a large amount of funding ($8,782,571) via it’s Kickstarter campaign. The amount of money they received was vastly over their initial $10,000 goal and so money is really not a problem for this project. Within the mechanics of Kickstarter many campaigns offer what are known as stretch goals. These are additional benefits offered to backers if the campaign exceeds certain goals. They are usually designed to encourage funding and will start once the project has exceeded its initial funding target. The Exploding Kittens project had initially refused to do any stretch-goals, however due to pressure from backers they agreed to set up a series of extras that could be achieved by reaching certain targets. As I mentioned before this project received a gigantic amount of funding, and the project team did not want or need any more money. Instead they decided to set a number of social challenges, to get backers engaging in the project and community, as well as to get them interacting with one another and working towards a shared good. These social goals ranged from things such as reaching a specific number of Facebook followers for the project to 100 people in a room having a picture taken with cat ears on. Yet again the backers showed their power and managed to meet even some of the weirder targets to unlock the stretch goals.

You might not think Exploding Kittens has much to do with education, but it shows the potential for getting people to work together for a shared goal through a series of social targets. One of the projects social goals was to create a Wikipedia page for the Exploding Kittens project. This could be translated into education by setting students the goal of creating a wiki page, on UCL’s very own wiki and then everyone contributing to unlock extra tutorial slots, or more mock exam questions. The difficult part with education is ensuring the goals are tempting enough for students to want to unlock them, without being so important that denying them to students would be unethical. Some of the other challenges that could be used in an educational context include the various photo challenges. You might set a selfie challenge for students to take pictures with certain museum artefacts, or outside buildings of specific historic significance. Perhaps they could then be asked to write a report about why that object or building is so important or their experiences there, or they might have to pick someone else’s selfie to write about. Maybe you could set a group challenge where at least 5 students have to take a picture in a certain location – which would involve them communicating with one another to make arrangements and might help with group dynamics for later project work. These of course are only ideas, and subject experts are much more likely to know what they wish to get out of students. It might just help to think of how we can utilise other popular elements of the internet for an educational purpose and get everyone working together, for the greater good.

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