Getting so much better all the time

Ever since a freshman year surfeit of Xtrek led me to almost flunk out of Cal, I’ve gone cold turkey on video games – never touched an Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii.

Till iPhone. And the SightRead sight-reading app. The beautiful thing about educational games is that even while they keep you from doing the dishes or looking for work, you can indulge your obsession under the happy illusion of “usefully” spending time.

So I have been playing this game. For hours at a stretch. And my sight reading is improving, or at least, whatever it is that the app measures – a combination of reading accuracy and mini-keyboard “playing” speed – is improving.

Here’s how it works: each run through sight reading sixty notes is scored on a scale of 1-100, and my top five scores to date are recorded. The quite unexpected insight is that each new top score has been a step function jump – not just a single point over the previous best, but two or three, leaving a gap. And then over time I fill in that gap with other high scores, until the next jump. Improvement isn’t “gradual,” but a process of gradual consolidation … which suddenly gels in a quantum leap of improvement, followed by another period of consolidation. I’m sure there’s a theory about this somewhere, but it’s fascinating to observe first hand.


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