Epistemology of a Learning By Doing Project about Health Education

Let’s try to make Health Education more fun !

As described in my previous article, everything started from the will of finding and experimenting new ways, new paths for Health Education and prevention.

As part of the Learning By Doing (LBD) course of the Master EdTech I wanted to start a project about nutrition; in fact, what topic is more central and interrelated with so many others than nutrition ? My approach was to decompose this huge field in some common and simple advice and try to enhance users’ motivation through a pedagogical approach. I wanted to design a learning experience permitting users to eat slow, since it is simple and proven to reduce the energy intake and to increase satiety.

For this I imagined a connected bracelet using Movuino, a low cost open-Hardware equipped with an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer. This bracelet would detect when the user eat and the duration. Data would be sent to a mobile application that would provide users a gamified feedback, in order to be informed if they ate too fast and to motivate them change or maintain the practice of eating slow.

We will see in the following paragraphs the epistemology of Learning By Doing, i.e., how this methodology contributes to creating and disseminating knowledge starting from the analysis of my project.

First we’ll see how answering a big question and prototyping are key aspects of LBD methodology in a wide perspective and then we’ll apply this reading grid to my personal project.

The 17 SDG defined by the United Nations

Motivation + Inspiration → Creation

Knowing that the issue you’re tackling could have a big and real impact on the society , on others’ lives or on the environment really gives you huge motivation and inspiration which, added to the feasibility conditions of a project, are key engines of the creation process.

Big Question → Big Impact → Big Diffusion

As you answer a Big Question with your project, the knowledge you create will be useful. Moreover, you produce a very practical knowledge that will also be used by a significant number of people. In their turn they will develop new solutions, iterate and spread it in an exponential way. To foster this circulation, it is essential to document as much as possible the LBD process, the results but the experimentation too.

I’ve learned more from my mistakes than from my successes — Humphry Davy

It is probably the core of Learning By Doing. What often prevent big ideas from having a big impact is reality. Its complexity makes it impossible to imagine and predict all the limitations and constraints your idea, your project, your product will encounter. The human brain has the tendency to imagine big solutions for big problems, but it is more often little feasible things that can make a big difference.

A prototype allows you to get some exterior feedback, new points of view. Even it is basic and not finalized (actually it’s the principle of a prototype!), the utilization of the prototype by others add their questioning, their sensations to enrich your Big Question. It also creates a new questioning, new ideas, new projects bring new concepts to users. This spreads some knowledge and may generate the conditions for a knowledge creation process in the user’s mind.

It’s “having a finger in the pie” that you will identify all the little details you haven’t thought about. These new constraints pushes you to ask new questions and so nurtures a perpetual new knowledge creation process. Iteration is the key of this process.

As you iterate, with a prototype or just with an idea, you create your own unique learning path, and it’s probably more important than any result. As you progress into it you ask yourself new questions and find new opportunities of learning.

The definition of the Big Question was quite trivial as I face in my everyday medical practice Health Education and more specifically nutrition. This intrinsic motivation I had for this topic really focused and drove me through the creation process during the project. Moreover, it goes beyond. The idea of creating a connected bracelet has been set apart, but maybe not forever and mostly, the exploration of this concept has spawned some others. The exploration of Health Education 2.0 is not about to end.

For me probably prototyping is the most important part of the learning path. Confronting ideas and ideals to reality was tough and enriching at the same time.

First, trying to build the prototype I have faced a lot of technical issues I had not thought about. I had to go deeper and dissect every process. The Movuino can record data but to recognize such a complex movement as the eating movement, we need to use a machine learning algorithm such as artificial neural networks (well beyond my skills). Even before being treated, the data has to be stored into the hard drive of the Movuino, sent to an other hardware (computer or mobile phone ), etc… Things were not impossible but way more complex than I thought initially.

During the entrepreneurship’s week led by Margaux Pelen , we’ve conducted user’s interviews with potential users, 2 family physicians and a nurse. Facing users’ reality and getting this feedback about the idea was greatly enriching as it gave me new perspectives on my Big Question. Users and health professionals wanted a more global approach to Health Education, with validated knowledge and a tool that would enhance the dialogue between patients & health professionals about Health.

The journey isn’t finished yet, next step : try to gamify health education through changing habits !

Originally published at medium.com on January 22, 2018.

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