How do we motivate people to learn? Well, Gee (2005) notes that "[u]nder the right conditions, learning, like sex, is biologically motivating and pleasurable for humans (and other primates)." It is the same hook that game designers use to attract gamers (see link), so we can learn a great deal about learning from video games. Gee organized these attributes in video games in 3 categories and for each category a number of principles:
Empowered Learners - gamers / learners need to have some sense of control
They feel that they are co-designers of the game or learning, they can customize their game play or learning experience, they can take on a new identity (and for learners to adopt the culture and role of a biologist / computer scientist / etc.), and be able to manipulation and distributed knowledge in the game virtual world or in the real world.
Problem Solving - gamers / learners need to be exposed to appropriate information and problems
They need to be exposed to well-organized problems that are not too complex nor too trivial, and problems should be pleasantly frustrating and there is payoff. There should be cycles of practice to help them develop their expertise, information is given 'on demand' and 'just in time' so they don't feel overwhelmed, they are exposed to fish tanks and sandboxes (simplified versions of the game / learning content) so they can understand a simple system or try out things without any risk first, and they see their practice of skills as strategies to accomplish their goals.
Understanding - gamers / learners make sense of their world
They want to look at the big picture and be able to think of the system at large, they can attach meanings to their past experiences.
Gee, J. (2005). "Learning by Design: good video games as learning machines." E-Learning, 2(1). pp 5 - 16.