Review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2019

while True: learn()

Unique, powerful AI game requires self-directed learners

Subjects & skills
Subjects
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Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
9–12
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Pros: Groundbreaking way to learn about machine learning and AI.

Cons: Explanation and instruction for players is at a pretty high level that most students will find inaccessible.

Bottom Line: Without a lot of support, these complex challenges require either a teacher knowledgeable about the topic or highly motivated students.

while True: learn() isn't a tool designed explicitly for teachers to use in the classroom. That said, it could be an incredible way to give students interested in machine learning and artificial intelligence opportunities to learn how it works and how it's being applied in the real world. For really motivated students, the game also offers extensions to much deeper learning on the topic.

For teachers without a lot of background in the topic, while True: learn() would probably best be used as an optional resource for advanced students. For teachers with a higher level of understanding of computer science, the game could be a practical and engaging way to have students apply their learning. The teacher could then support and coach students through problems and use the game as a launchpad for discussion and further learning. 

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while True: learn() is a game about machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), currently available on the Steam and Humble gaming platforms (also available as an iOS and Android app). It's not designed as a classroom tool but rather as an educational game for people interested in machine learning and AI. It's worth noting that the game is charting new ground in using a game to teach about such a complex and important topic.

The game puts players in the role of a machine learning specialist working either as a freelancer or as chief technology officer (CTO) of a startup. As players progress through the game, they take on increasingly complex challenges that require players to train and use AI to solve them (for example, to train the AI to recognize and sort different shapes). As players complete each challenge, they receive payments that they can use to buy better hardware (like RAM), processing nodes, and items for their office or cat.

while True: learn() takes on the daunting task of teaching -- in a game format -- how machine learning really works. The game developers have created an appealing game environment and paired it with challenges involving the types of tasks that computer scientists and businesses are using machine learning for. Students playing the game have the chance to learn how AI functions and how it's being practically applied. 

The game's shortcoming is that there's not a lot of explanation or instruction for players who don't initially "get it." The developers have incorporated links to some amazing extension and support materials, ranging from courses on Coursera to readings on computer science topics like SIFT (Scale-Invariant Feature Transform) algorithms. Unfortunately, these are at a pretty high level, and most students won't find them to be accessible learning materials. Keep in mind that while True: learn() wasn't designed specifically for teachers or schools. Instead, it was designed as a game -- just one that students can learn a whole lot from. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Appeals to students already interested in machine learning. For others, it may be a tough sell.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Complex challenges require players to train and use artificial intelligence. The game provides links to support materials (videos, articles, etc.), but otherwise, this is a game for self-directed learners. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

It doesn't offer a lot of in-game support, but there's a community on Discord for discussion and tips. 


Common Sense Reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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