Uriel Fogué, an architect, design lecturer at the European University of Madrid in Spain, and a Nudge blog reader sends along a great story of interactive learning from his classroom. The lesson relates wisdom of the crowds, feedback, gambling, and solar energy. Quite a combination.
I run a Workshop called Energy Bets at the Universidad Pontificia Javeriana de Bogotá (Colombia). The idea was to explore during two weeks the architectonic opportunities that the use of solar photovoltaic technology entails nowadays.
The students’ assignment was to design in full a building using integrated solar photovoltaic systems. In order to get ready, they had to acquire a basic knowledge of this technology, but instead of a conventional lecture, we chose to nudge them to learn it for themselves. We called the nudge we used “Quinielas energéticas” (Energy Bets) and it worked as follows.
We had installed a solar panel in our office’s balcony in Madrid. There was a webcam monitoring the panel and sending information in real time to Colombia, where it was projected on the classroom’s screen. The idea was to turn the classroom into a simulated energy stock-market. As a pre-requisite for the workshop, the students had to pay a betting fee of around 15$. This was their initial bet in our quiniela (pools). Every morning, at the beginning of the lecture, we made a question concerning the Madrid panel (such as ‘How much energy is it going to catch tomorrow at 12am?’ or ‘How many solar panels like the one we are working with would be necessary to give service to a full electric house with this and that requirements?’). At the end of the lecture, the students had to give an answer, in which they gambled 1$ at least. During each session the students were supposed to find out the information needed to give the correct answer, by whatever means they could use.
The first three days nobody got the right answer. But after the 4th session and for the remaining, there was more than one winner every day and the estimates became so accurate, that we had to consider decimal figures in the answers in order to choose the daily winner. The rules stated that the last, the day person who achieved the highest score of correct answers, would get all the collected money.
Through this nudge-gambling the students became photovoltaic experts in a record time, and were able to use the new knowledge in their architectural designs. On the other hand, this kind of active participation (instead of recieving information or obeying technological mandates, having to looking for it) turned the learning process into a playful, making the technological knowledge an enjoyable topic.
The experience was so successful that it left us thinking whether we could transform the learning of ecological principles into a sort of gambling vice, in which the participants would get hooked to getting the right answers.