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Two year-olds and the scientific method

As I watch my little one play with his trains (he’s still pre-videogames) I can see the essence of the scientific method playing over and over with his hands and his eyes.

Try to put the big train and attach it to the little train. It doesn’t work. How about the toy car? Nope, not that either. At the end he has all the magnetic pieces put together properly and then says "choo-choo!" as he pulls the locomotive. Now he’s trying to place a small "Jojo Circus" figure as a "passenger" on top of the train. He pulls it a couple of times but it keeps falling, until he realizes that the bendy legs fit perfectly around the oil tanker car. Then he pulls everything apart and tries it again, this time in a different configuration.

Will Wright on Wired: 

Just watch a kid with a new videogame. The last thing they do is read the manual. Instead, they pick up the controller and start mashing buttons to see what happens. This isn’t a random process; it’s the essence of the scientific method. Through trial and error, players build a model of the underlying game based on empirical evidence collected through play. As the players refine this model, they begin to master the game world. It’s a rapid cycle of hypothesis, experiment, and analysis.

Wired 14.04: Dream Machines

Think about this when you write your next piece of software – these are the people you are writing software for (after all, most young adults grew up playing videogames).  The previous generation read a lot more than they experimented. The new generations try things out first, then collect their experiences and blog about them, then maybe read someone else’s experiences to find kindred spirits. So make your software easy to experiment with, and make most everything undoable.

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