I had never experienced the term Ghetto Testing until I read a blog post about how the FarmVille creators use it. One of the biggest parts of Ghetto Testing is to track interest and support for a new feature before actually building it. This means that before a single line of code is written, they throw up a link within the game that allows for people to sign up to be a part of that feature as soon as it become available. This is their way of testing interest. If enough people click on the feature, they will actually build it. If it is something that most people could care less about, they will go on to their next idea.
This seems to be entirely different than everything I currently do. Essentially, I create learning objects before anyone has said that they want them. I create courses that people have said that they want but that they are not intimately involved in developing. I produce blog posts that do not have a specific audience, and there is surely no way that I have of asking others for which direction I should be going in. Certainly, I get feedback in comments, but that is only after I have written out my first version.
So, this idea of Ghetto testing has really got me thinking about just how few iterations we really get as teachers or as workers. As teachers, at most we get to teach a single topic 4 distinct times a year (within a given unit of study), and most likely, we probably only get to teach it once or twice. The ability for a single lesson to be tested and iterated upon comes around so rarely that we are likely to either simply do what we did last time with a small adjustment or completely start from scratch.
But, what if students were able to gauge interest, and better yet, value in each discipline as they went through the curriculum. What if we could do a heat map test on which topics have the most interest from our students. What if we could build those items out only after we knew that it was something that they would use. Especially in terms of the way that they would like to learn a given topic, if we were able to present the materials in 10 different ways and we gauge the ways in which the majority would like to see it presented. We wouldn’t have to build all 10 ways, but probably just the top few. Then we could do some A-B testing to see which one was truly more effective.
Yet, we don’t do that because we have no mechanism for iteration. We only do A-B testing if we are forced to do action research. If there were some way of doing this on a large scale, some way to receive instant feedback on how we should be creating the curriculum, we could actually differentiate in the ways we say we should. Perhaps this is why I believe so much in hybrid programs. If we can allow students to choose their own adventure and then let them support those features that we haven’t built yet by simply being our beta testers, there would be so much intense buy in for doing well and actually making educational choices that would impact their learning.
And what about business… What if it were possible to do Ghetto testing with projects that you were working on. What if we gathered the early adopters for every new initiative in a company simply by engaging them in the process of self-selection. If CEO’s have the captive eyes of their employees, what would happen if they didn’t build the agendas for meetings but rather gathered the input from their interest in certain topics. It could change the ways in which people build new products, and the ways in which they create corporate culture.
Now, the blog post that started this line of thinking made sure to point out that you can’t always have the same people being the testers and you should try to test out too many unbuilt pieces at once. But, I don’t think that it would be a problem to release pieces of Ghetto testing within our own environments.
The question I am now faced with is “What do I want to NOT build today”? What should I put in front of people and let them make a decision based upon their interest? While the wisdom of a crowd is not absolute, creating something new (learning or a product) requires us to always analyze the data about the best way to introduce something that will (at least in the long run) be beneficial to them. Perhaps game developers have a point here… Boring is not an option, and people are interested in being a part of the learning/development process.