How to Make Learning as Addictive as Social Media | Luis Von Ahn | TED #bigIdeas

How to Make Learning as Addictive as Social Media | Luis Von Ahn | TED

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How to Make Learning as Addictive as Social Media | Luis Von Ahn | TED

In this thought-provoking discussion, technologist Luis von Ahn, the creator of the popular language-learning platform Duolingo, delves into the challenges and strategies of making an educational app as engaging as social media platforms.

He shares his journey of leveraging technology and psychological techniques to democratize education and create a platform that is both accessible and engaging.

Competing with Social Media

To compete with the addictive nature of social media and mobile games, Duolingo incorporated similar engagement techniques.

Concepts like ‘streaks’ and optimal notification times are used to encourage users to return to the app and maintain their progress.

The Balance of Engagement and Meaning

While acknowledging that an educational app can’t match the engagement of social media platforms, Von Ahn argues that the meaningfulness derived from learning can compensate for the slight lack of engagement.

This balance between engagement and meaningfulness is key to the success of educational apps.

The Success of Duolingo

Duolingo’s success in reaching more language learners in the United States than there are students learning languages in all U.S. high schools combined exemplifies the potential of leveraging technology and psychological techniques to democratize education.

Future of Duolingo

Von Ahn envisions a future where screen time is seen as a tool delivering high-quality education to everyone, regardless of their economic status.

He hopes to see the model of Duolingo applied to other subjects, transforming the way we perceive and engage with education.

There are more people learning languages on Duolingo in the United States than there are people learning languages across all US high schools combined. – Luis von Ahn

Potential Subjects for Gamification

Subjects learned through repetition, like reading and elementary school math, could potentially be gamified in a similar way to Duolingo.

However, subjects requiring explanations might require different methods, such as instructional videos.

When you’re learning something, you get meaning out of it. Whereas when you’re scrolling for two hours on Instagram, a lot of times afterwards, you feel like you just wasted your time. – Luis von Ahn

The Power of Meaning in Learning

Despite the engagement techniques used, the real power in educational apps like Duolingo lies in the meaning derived from learning.

This internal motivation can supplement the engagement factor, making educational apps appealing to a large audience.

The Power of Technology in Education

The success of Duolingo demonstrates the potential of technology in education.

By making learning accessible and engaging, technology can help bridge the education gap and provide opportunities for individuals worldwide.

The Redistribution of Wealth

The freemium model of Duolingo effectively redistributes wealth, with wealthier users subsidizing the education of users from poorer countries.

This model not only sustains the platform but also promotes equal access to education.


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