Contestants, hands on your buzzers!

Trivial Pursuit

Image cc license from Flickr user: sparetomato (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparetomato/4336014364/)

Research has demonstrated that short breaks can increase overall productivity.  Next time you take a break, instead of playing Angry Birds, try Sporcle. Sometimes, playing ten rounds of Angry Birds feels relaxing, but at other times, it can seem too mindless and not fulfilling.  Using Sporcle, one could instead spend five minutes matching countries and flags, identifying elements of the periodic table from their symbols, and determining which lines of dialogue come from Space Balls and which come from Star Wars, which can feel like time well (or better) spent.

Sporcle has the appropriate tagline “Mentally Stimulating Diversions”, which seems very appropriate. Use of Sporcle will not bring you any closer to finishing that paper or blog post you’re supposed to be writing or knocking items off your lengthy to-do list.  However, when combined with self-control, it can provide a few much-needed minutes of entertainment that won’t leave you feeling as though you’ve killed brain cells unnecessarily. You didn’t waste time, you tested your general or subject-specific knowledge and improved the likelihood that you, too, will have what it takes to more successfully compete in pub quizzes.

Kidding aside, Sporcle games are both entertaining diversions and educational study aids.  Quizzes cover a variety of subjects including science, math, geography, history and computing, as well as arts, literature, and entertainment. Some quizzes are created by Sporcle staff while others are created by users, and you can share your results, to enable you to compare your score with that of colleagues and friends.  Quizzes could also be useful for students and teachers, as a way to create study guides for test preparation; however, it is useful to check and see whether similar quizzes have already been designed, to avoid losing valuable time to re-inventing the wheel.

One might ask, why would there be a post about Sporcle on this blog?  One could contend that the quizzes and games hosted on the site are entertaining, but can be black holes into which time is irretrievably lost.  However,  one ought not forget that there are different styles of teaching and learning. Some individuals retain information from simply reading a text, while others require a combination of reading and writing notes. Others find it easiest to learn when they don’t realize they’re learning, such as through games or competitions. I remember those worksheets we had when we were first learning how to spell — on one page, there were four sections, each with a heading followed by blanks. See, said one column; below, I would watch as my mom wrote the word. Say, said another column; I would then write the word as I spelled it aloud.  It always seemed a little silly to me; why “say” the words when all I needed was to see them and practice writing them in the proper order?  It was only later explained to me that not everyone learned the same way I did and the four columns were designed to help all types of students learn.  In the same way, Sporcle‘s quizzes provide unique opportunities for users to play and learn;  while A Google A Day enables searchers to learn facts while developing searching skills, Sporcle enables participants to learn and test their knowledge and skills in the guise of mindless fun and entertainment.

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