July 1, 2016

Week 13 – New Prototype – On Par

By mary

It’s the New Year and the prototyping phase of our trial run is coming to a close in 3 weeks! We’re determined to make the most of them!

Those of you who have been following along know that we hit the reset button right before the holidays. We had put 2 weeks of effort into exploring 360 degree video as a new learning medium. The user experience was not strong enough, and the fit was not great with the team. We decided to kill the effort and work on something new.

As Tim Gunn of Project Runway like to say, it was a “make it work” moment.


We flew the extented team to Rochester for several days. We started out by reviewing and synthesizing everything we have learned so far in this project. In a mind-mapping exercise, we focused on the difference between amateur and expert learners. We knew that clinical reasoning was hard to teach. We believed that, in order to build on AME, we needed to get to that “gisty” or “system 2” thinking that emphasized pattern recognition.


As a team, we did a design studio session where our constraint was to teach gist thinking. We then went to refine our ideas, and looked at games like Lumosity and Elevate. We were interested in how doctors mentally sort important versus unimportant data, and did some research on mental agility and cognitive processes. Dasami modeled out how people think through information in a clinical setting and started thinking about correlaries to games like solitaire. We spoke to our advisors Dr. David Cook and Dr. Farrell Lloyd about their research on system 1 versus system 2 (Dr. Cook), or verbatim vs gist (Dr. Lloyd) ways of thinking.

That was our Tuesday. By the end of the day, abstract thoughts had turned into a game we call On Par. It is a game that challenges you to perform efficient, diagnostic pattern recognition.

For an educational game to work, it needs to be both educational AND fun. That can be a hard bar to hit. We needed to see if we were on the right direction, so we jumped right into paper testing.

We sat down with Dr. Lloyd and Jane Linderbaum and fed a real patient case into our initial ideas for a game system. We build a first version of the game with index cards, paper and image print-outs (which you can see below).


We then grabbed as many doctors as we could and had them start playing. As we watched people play, we were able to see what was working and adjust the rules system accordingly.

We need to create something with a simple rules system, effective game dynamics, the right level of intellectual challenge, and a direct connection to our goals of using pattern recognition to teach system 2 thinking.

The advantage of paper testing is that it is extraordinarily easy to iterate. By the end of the second day, we were convinced that we were onto something. Doctors, NPs and PAs were having fun and wanted to play more. The subsequent weeks of testing have only reinforced that goal.


Paper testing with Dr. David Cook

Our current task is to translate the paper version of the game into a simple digital version (with a small enough feature set that we can build it in under 2 weeks) and design a compelling initial set of cases that can seed the game.

Next week, we’ll explain a little bit more about how the game works, and soon we hope to put a working version in your hands.

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