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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Virtual NBC



I wish you Happy Holidays and a great New Year.

Hope you and yours have a great holiday season no matter where in the world you are located or how you celebrate.

Also wishing you a happy holiday is the US television station, NBC.

NBC set up and conducted a "get together" in Second Life on December 20th. The event is now over, however, you can visit the virtual New York skating rink and Christmas tree in Second Life. I can tell you, I've been to New York in December to see the tree and the rink and it was a LOT more crowded than this online Second Life version.

This virtual Holiday area is yet another example of mainstream media getting into Second Life. All the more reason to consider Second Life for some of your training classes this year. It is a New Year's resolution isn't it?



The virtual square allows you to travel around a 2 or 3 block area, walk on the rink and get a really good feel for what the actual square and tree look like. If you are still in the holiday spirit, take a walk in Second Life and visit the Christmas Tree and look at the decorations.

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Definition: Cognitivism

In the 1980s, several theories of learning that concentrated on studying learning as an internal function of the brain and as a social process...as opposed to overt actions and stimulas-response began to gain popularity and momentum. These theories and the study of how computers processed information all converged and led to the creation of a learning philosophy known as Cognitivism. The theories are are: Cognitivism was created to document and analyze how humans process information. The idea is that the learner is a complex information-processing system and to understand how learning occurs, one must understand how information processing occurs within the human brain. The idea is that learning is more than the result of externally observed behaviors...much more occurs than simply observable behavior.

In the cognivitist’s view learning occurs internally and through the social interactions with others. It is the social interactions that really trigger and assist the learning process as the learner makes internal connections between and among what has been observed and his or her experiences.

Currently research in the area of Cognitivism is in the areas of metacognition (thinking about thinking), novice vs. expert knowledge and problem-solving.
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Friday, December 22, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Learning about Avatars

Here is a great article from the eLearning Guild on avatars. If you are not familiar with the potential of avatars for e-learning check out this article by Raj Sheth titled Avatar Technology: Giving a Face to the e-Learning Interface. The article does a great job of defining avatars and describing the different types of avatars and provides examples of how they are used in a variety of settings.
Raj describes an avatar as:
An avatar, in the broadest sense, is an image that represents one party in an interactive exchange. In some situations, the avatar may represent an actual human being, but in e-Learning, the avatar almost always operates as an agent of the e-Learning application, and generally simulates human activity. Avatars in e-Learning are somewhat similar to avatars in online games.


Raj believes that avatars are just begining to show their potential in the world of e-learning. If you have some time, check out the article.
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Out and About: Interview with Marc Rosenberg

Here is an interview I did with my colleague Marc Rosenberg author of two influential books in the field of learning and e-learning for the web site e-learningguru.com.

I worked with Marc at the 2005 EduNeering Knowledge Summit a private event for EduNeering clients. I really enjoyed working with him and jumped at the chance to interview him for e-learningguru.


Check out the interview with Marc and other great stuff at Kevin Kruse's e-learningguru.com web site.

Marc has some great insights into the field. As an added bonus, here is another article he did for Learning Circuits called What Lies Beyond E-learning?.

If you have a moment, take the time to read what he has to say in the interview and in the Learning Circuits articles. If you like them, check out his two books.


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Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Avatars for Learning


A great deal of research is being undertaken in the area of avatars...you know, the lifelike animated people that inhabit Second Life and other online worlds.

One person doing work in this area is Amy L. Baylor at Floridia State University. She is the founder of The Center for Research of Innovative Technologies for Learning (RITL) which is creating these virtual trainers has found that learners tend to choose virtual trainer types that were similar in ethnicity to the learner. She has also found that female avatars seem to be better at motivating learners than male versions.

The customizability of these avatars means a learner can choose to learn from a wise old mentor or a hip young "dude" or "dudet". Gamers, who are used to building their own players in video games, can now construct their own online trainers, tutors or mentors. These trainers can then assist them to learn new information or be available from time-to-time when they detect that the learner is in trouble.

Sounds like an interesting way to have Einstein be your mentor. To learn even more, check out this article titled Attractive Virtual Professors Draw Student Attention. Research is begining to show that avatars can be an effective tool for online learning. If done correctly, the same "teacher" could appear as different avatars to different students. Regardless of who was teaching the class, you could have the look of the instructior you wanted.

Design: Behaviorism Has It’s Place

Stephen Downes in his response to my post titled Definitions: ABCD Objectives writes

It remains puzzling that so much of the instructional design community remains rooted in behaviorism - this more than 30 years after the theory was abandoned everywhere else

I am not sure behaviorism has been abandoned everywhere else. In fact, I think the best representation of the effectiveness of behaviorism is Las Vegas, if slots machines are not classic Stimulus-Response-Reward…then nothing is. And last time I checked, Las Vegas is doing really well.

I think advertising agencies are hoping for stimulus-response. You see the product, you make the purchase. They want to program you to behaviorally respond, and, at least with my kids, they are doing a good job.

A child touching a hot stove and subsequently learning that when someone says “Don’t touch its hot” she should not touch it or she will get hurt...stimulus response. Lots of learning requires a stimulus-response sequence. Hit the key to submit the order. Stimulus-Response.

But the question I think that should be addressed is, “should we create learning objectives based on measurable outcomes?” If we are talking about corporate training situations, the answer is yes.

In a corporate environment every other department is held accountable to measurable behaviors
  • Sales must sell so much product
  • Operations must produce so much product
  • The R&D department must have a certain percentage of their work ready for commercialization
  • accounting must close the books by the end of the month.
All measurable outcomes based on measurable behaviors.

I think it is a little irresponsible for the training department to say…oh, we are special, we can’t measure our outcomes but trust us…we are doing our job. I really don’t think that works and that is part of the problem with the perception of the level of professionalism in our field. We tell everyone that what we do is important and critical to the outcomes of the organization and then we turn around and say that we can’t measure what we are doing...that is not even rational.

For mission critical items, we cannot write an objective like:
The nuclear technician, upon encountering a meltdown of the primary reactor will use a discovery method to explore possible options for stopping the meltdown.

We really need something like:
The nuclear technician, upon encountering a meltdown of the primary reactor will follow a defined set of steps to stop the meltdown.

In many situations, you need a prescribed set of responses and, when training people, you need to make sure they follow that prescribed set of responses. Some things require measurable, behavioral outcomes.

Now, having said that. I don’t think for one minute that all learning has behavioral outcomes. Cognitivism and Constructivism are important schools of thoughts and are becoming increasingly important as we explore informal learning but we can’t turn our back completely on Behaviorism, we need a blended approach.

There can be value in not having a specific, measurable goal. I teach a class in which I form students into teams and give them a goal of “Creating a winning elearning proposal.” This is not a behavioral outcome, it is a collaborative effort of innovation, writing, presentation and many other skills. Even individually measuring each possible behavioral outcome might not provide the Gestalt that is needed to determine the overall “winner.”

My point is that there is a time and place for measurable behavior-based objectives. To ignore the power of measuring behavior as it relates to learning is to throw the baby out with the bath water.
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wake up Karl, the Meme has you

Ok, so I have been tagged in a blog exercise called a “Meme” which is much like a chain letter…always fun before computers, loved handwriting fourteen letters to avoid my impending doom or bring about incredible luck…the idea of this meme is to write 5 things that you may not know about me and then tag five other people to do the same.

One thing that struck me as interesting about this exercise is that it would be fascinating if someone studied the interconnections among the member of the blogosphere...research how this community is linked to each other. One could study who links to whom and if one person gets more links than another and whether or not the whole meme eventually returns full circle. This could be a topic for Nancy White’s follow up article to her Blogs and Community Article.

First, thanks to Wendy Wickham for inviting me (or pulling me) into this exercise…I think:) Actually, Wendy provides really great insights into the field, you need to go check out her blog if you haven't already.

1) While I was in college, I did a number of gigs as a stand up comedian; I even got paid for some of them (ok, one of them). So now the next question is ….Were you any good? To that I reply, “NO, otherwise, I’d have my own special on HBO.”

2) I spent all of my summers, after I turned 16, lifeguarding at local pools…that is where I first learned that I could get paid for what I knew, not what I did. (only ever had to jump in three times and really, thankfully only one was really a “save”)

3) I have two awesome Gamer sons who are 9 and 12. They are the most fun anyone could ever have…as well as my biggest challenge…I wouldn’t have it any other way.

4) I was a distance swimmer in college. My events were the 1650 and the 500. Too many laps to count. I met my wife while at college because we were both on the college swim team. She, by-the-way, was inducted into Dickinson College’s Swimming hall of fame…me…well as Bob Uecker used to say…I guess I wasn’t as good as they said I was.
Visit the Bob Uecker Quotes site if you don’t understand who he is. (now he was a professional comedian, too bad he wore a baseball uniform instead). Even if you know who he is, visit the site...funny stuff.

5) My musical tastes run into the area of 1980’s obscure punk-like bands (Adam Ant, Bow Wow Wow, Violent Femmes.) I still listen to these group, I have them on my iPod.

*please note, don't try this music at home, it is an acquired taste (if I can use that word with this music)*

Ok, my five are done. Here the five “chosen ones” from my meme.

Tom King
Steve Woodruff
Phil Charron
Will Thalheimer
Paul Kremer
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Design: Webinar Presentation of E-Learning Instructional Strategies

One of the most important elements of designing effective instruction is to use the right instructional strategies. Here is a recording of a Webinar I conducted for Adobe on the topic of instructional design strategies, it is called Six Effective E-Learning Design Strategies.

Take some time to look at the examples and think how you can design instruction incorporating these strategies.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Check Out BrainPOP



There is a lot going on in terms of educating kids through the Internet, this same enthusiasm will be coming to an online training classes design for employees in the near future. As these "gamers" enter the workforce, they will want educational opportunities in the same vain as their educational games with which they are growing up.

One site that is combining entertaining games with education is BrainPOP. They have a variety of interactive demonstrations you can check out as well as neat little animated movies. Go over to BrainPOP and meet Moby (a robot)and Tim and think about how your online training programs could be improved using some of the element and instructional design of BrainPOP.

I'll give you one, short, small educational pieces provided in an entertaining manner. Check out the science section and the piece on Kinetic Energy. It focuses only on one topic, holds the learner's attention, defines the concept and uses examples and non-examples to then explain the concept and shows practical applications of Kinetic Energy. These little learning pieces at BrainPOP are perhaps the perfect learning nuggets. Can you develop one for handling customer objections, creating an effective email, or safely operating a piece of equipment?
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Definitions: ABCD Objectives

Here is how to create an effective Learning Objective.

A learning objective simply states the behavior orknowledge change you would like to see from a learner. An objective is the final outcome desired from a learning event. Objectives need to be stated in a manner that is easily understood and measured by the designers and deliverers of the training.

While objectives can be stated and developed using a variety of techniques, one of the most effective methods is to state an objective using the ABCD format The ABCD format is an acronym representing the words, audience, behavior, condition, and degree. Objectives written in this format are specific and measurable.

Audience: The audience is the group of individuals who are targeted for instruction. While at first this seems straight forward, many times employees will ask “will I get anything out of this training?” or “should I attend this training?” or “who is supposed to go to this training?” Without a clear-cut audience in mind, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly who gains from the training and who would be better served in a different class. Knowing the intended audiences is useful for the training developers; they need to understand the knowledge levels and aptitudes that must be accommodated in the training.

Behavior: The behavior element of the objective indicates the desired outcome of the particular learning event. The behavior will be stated in the following form “will be able to detail properly” or “will be able to discuss the mechanism of action (MOA) with the doctor.” The behavior is what you want the person to be able to do as a result of the training. It is important to clarify the behavior because training programs can get off track when the desired outcome of the training activity is not clearly defined. A behavior like “understand how to sell a product” is not effective because “understanding” is difficult to measure. You want something more concrete such as “be able to describe four methods for overcoming objections.”

Condition: The term “condition” describes circumstances under which the behavior should occur. An example would be “when calling on a doctor,” or “upon hearing that the doctor is using a competitor’s product.” The condition describes a trigger for the desired behavior.

Degree: The term “degree” represents how well the employee must perform to be considered acceptable. The degree of the objective is the measurable component. Measures can be expressed as level of productivity, quantity, quality, time, internal or external customer requirements, or other criteria gained from actual or anticipated work practices.

Here are two examples:
  • A customer service representative, when receiving an incoming phone order from a customer, will correctly identify the needs of the customer and record the information into the automated order entry system with zero clerical or typographical errors.
  • The LMS team leader, when faced with a decision regarding prioritization of tasks for the LMS implementation, will correctly select the proper priority sequence as compared to a list developed by a panel of LMS implementation consultants.

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RFPs and Proposals: LMS/LCMS Selection Templates

The selection of a Learning Management and/or a Learning Content Management System is an important decision for any organization. Unfortunately, there are not many playbooks for this process.

However, here is one that is very helpful. This document created by Sherry Engel--a leader of the Learning Management Team at Sovereign bank can help you through the difficult selection process. Sherry, also an alumni of Bloomsburg University, has put together document containing helpful and targeted information.

The document, LMS Selection Template, provides several templates to help you develop a consistent approach to your LMS or LCMS selection process from the RFP outline to checklists for evaluating vendor demonstrations. It is a very good resource to have.

Another good resource, if you are writing or responding to an RFP, is Winning E-Learning Proposals: The Art of Develoment and Delivery. It literally contains everything I know about writing an e-learning RFP.

WARNING: It doesn't really make a great Christmas gift. But is great for those 2007 sales meetings where you want to give your sales force a leg up on the competition.


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Monday, December 18, 2006

Learning Circuits Blog: Big Question: A Follow Up Discussion on our Models

I have been having a great discussion with Mark Oehlert in his post If You Believe It's Broken - How Do You Change Our Industry/Models/etc?

He also has a follow up post titled Neuroleadership and Birth Announcement that hits the nail on the head in terms of what is needed for the field--a multi-disciplinary approach that brings together great minds from seamingly totally unrelated disciplines.

Check out this lively and semi-heated discussion on the problems with the field. And feel free to chime in...we certainly don't have all the answers.
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Shopping in Second Life

Circuit City just announced that they are opening a store in Second Life in an article titled Circuit City Enters Second Life. The process was facilitated by IBM as discussed earlier in my post IBM Opens a Business Unit in Second Life.

In my upcoming book' Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning, I make the following prediction
Entire shopping malls will be online and populated with avatars. The avatars will have the same measurements, skin tone, and hair color as their physical real-world counterparts. Friends will meet online and try on clothes, chat and spend time together.

Well the idea of Circuit City entering Second Life, IBM being involved and a third piece which I have used for years--a vitual model of yourself that you can build on the Lands End Web site--all lead me to believe that we are very close to that reality. Here is as close as I could get to myself with the avatar.


If you haven't created your own model and tried on clothes at the Lands End web site, you need to do so at Lands End virtual model web page. Now imagine placing your model into an online shopping mall as an avatar in Second Life and shopping online with your friends. I give it 12 months.
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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Science Fiction Foretells the Darkside of Games for Learning

If you are looking for a glimpse into the mentality of the upcoming gamer generation and the future of e-learning but also want to be entertained. Consider checking out the book Ender’s Game which provides a compelling and, sometimes scary look at learning and gaming in the future.

Ender’s Game written by Orson Scott Card is a scary look into a future in which the Earth finds itself preparing for a battle against an alien race. To prepare for the upcoming battle, young boys and girls are recruited from Earth, taken to a military space station where they engage in a series of military games designed to prepare them to think about the multiple dimensions of space and how to out maneuver opponents in such an environment. The main teaching tool throughout the entire book is the use of games both virtual and physical.

I listened to the audio version of the book and liked it so much, I bought a hard copy. I have two boys who play video games all the time so the story of Ender and his brother hit home and then when Ender was fighting his final battles in space…it is really a moving story. I suggest you get yourself a copy and read it while thinking about how powerful and effective games are for teaching and molding behavior. The book is entertaining but also, I think, a parable outlining some of the darker aspects of virtual games. This is especially compelling given the emphasis the United State and other militaries have on using games to train and prepare troops.

If you’ve read the book, please feel free to leave a comment to let others know what you think about it.

If you are interested, you can find out more by clicking on the book cover below.


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Friday, December 15, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Nobel Prize Games

What do you get when you cross a Nobel Prize winning science or literature project with the desire to educate youth on science and literature...you get a web-based game of course.


Go to the Educational Games section of the Nobelprize.org web site to check them out and learn a little about the projects that are worthy of a Nobel Prize.

My favorite is the Laser game which is a side scrolling game like the Super Mario Brothers games but with science questions thrown into the mix. Good method of adding content to a game. Great for teaching basic facts and concepts.

Conductive Polymers is a little more involved but is a great model for creating game-based prerequisites through the certificate process.

You can even learn about international trade with the Trade game.

These games can serve as great models for corporate training events as well.
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Implementation: Create a Learning Council

I am continually amazed by large organizations that do not have a handle on all of the training that occurs within the organization. Many have no idea what types of training are occurring or even how many divisions or departments are conducting training of one sort or another...one group is doing training programs, another sales training, yet another new employee training and none of the trainers even know or talk to one another. Each group or division is doing it own thing. This is ineffective and not efficient.

One way to remedy this problem is to create a Senior Learning Council (SLC) in your organization. A SLC should consist of the current trainers, designers of training and executive sponsors of the training, as well as with the individuals selling and marketing training internally. Get all of the training related folks together and provide them with an opportunity to get to know each other and to understand all of the training requirements of the organization.

Ideally, the SLC should meet monthly to discuss issues related to the learning services provided, to share best practices and to remain focused on becoming a world class learning organization. The meetings will provide opportunities for:

  • Sharing of Best Practices
  • Debriefing Learning Situations from the Classroom
  • Coaching and Group Learning Opportunities
  • Re-enforcement of Change Activities and New Methodologies
  • Creation of Standards
  • Avoidance of Duplicate Work

Between the face-to-face meetings, the SLC should set up a wiki or a blog so that the members of the SLC can share and exchange information.

This seamingly simple step will have a major impact on productivity and in giving the Learning Group within the organization a larger voice and bigger impact.
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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Design: Creating Questions for Compliance Training

No matter what industry you work in…banking, manufacturing, insurance, retail...there is compliance training that must be developed by instructional designers and taken by employees. Typically compliance training involves the following design:
page-of-text, page-of-text, page-of-text, painfully-obvious multiple choice question (repeat).

When we ask learners to simply identify an answer from instruction they have seen two or three screens earlier in the e-learning module, we are doing ourselves and our learners a disservice.

Additionally, most compliance-based e-learning courses (or even classroom instruction) are typically a series of DON’Ts.
  • Don’t accept deposits from a single customer of over $10,000 in one day without seeking approval
  • Don’t pour chemical A and B into the same bucket
  • Don’t allow a customer with condition A to purchase policy B
  • Don’t dispose of waste without first decontaminating it through process C
This type of training is, well, painful.

An alternative is scenario-based questions and situations. Rather than ask the learner to recall a policy or process, ask them to APPLY the policy. The scenarios don’t need to be long or involved, but they do need to be realistic.
A customer comes to your teller window with a deposit slip for $3,000. You check the records for the day and see that she has already deposited $8,732 in a joint account this morning. Which of the following actions should you take?

Notice how that question requires the learner to think through a situation and adds the twist of the joint account. One reason training fails to change behavior is because we give our learners the simplest, most straightforward assessment questions ever. The reasoning seems to be “we don’t want to ‘trick’ them.” Unfortunately, “real life” tricks them all the time that is one reason policies and procedures aren’t always followed.

Our job is to prepare the employee for the tricks. We must provide examples of the types of tricks they will actually encounter. We must create instruction that helps them deal with the situation. In real life, a teller is rarely asked to state verbatim the policy on large deposits to a customer; rather he or she is asked to APPLY the policy on large deposits to particular situation. Wouldn’t it be great if training helped employees prepare for the situations they face every day on the job?

Also, if using e-learning, let’s take advantage of its ability to deliver small increments of instruction.

Every day when an employee logs in, present them with a “situation of the day” e-learning module. This e-learning module would present the employee with a short scenario based on one or two compliance policies. The employee then needs to work through the module before starting the day.

In ten minutes, the employee reads the scenario, thinks of the policy and applys it to the real life situation. Feedback is given as to whether or not the policy was applied properly, if not, the next day the employee is confronted with a different scenario but same policy. If the employee correctly applied the policy, they are given a new one the enxt day. This would happen every day.

No more cramming for a compliance training program (or getting the answers from a co-worker...I got news...they've even figured out the "randomized question" functionality of most compliance courses, people are smart at working around systems). Daily the employee would be reminded of policies and practices. Having a "Daily Scenario" shows management’s commitment in ensuring compliance with governmental and company-wide policies.

This approach to compliance training would be far more effective than our current models.

My colleague Will Thalheimer has done a whitepaper on this topic called Simulation-Like Questions: How and Why to Write Them. It is available from his catalog of whitepapers.

He has also written a blog article about assessments which is relevant Assessment Mistakes by E-Learning Developers.

Next time you think about designing a compliance course, reconsider the traditonal design and delivery of the course. Force learners to actually think about applying the compliance policies to their daily practices.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: IBM Opens Business Unit in Second Life

One of your new year's resolutions better include learning to use Second Life. Why? Well for one thing, IBM has just announced that it will open an Emerging Business Unit in Second Life. That's right a business unit designed to create value and wealth for the large company focused on, among other things, Second Life.

Here is Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technical strategy and innovation talking to C/NET News about the opening of an IBM business unit focusing on Second Life. Check out other pictures of the interview.

To quote the article
IBM will launch an official group in January to deal with Second Life and other virtual realms from which the company hopes to profit. ..According to Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technical strategy and innovation, IBM employees have a significant presence in Second Life. He states that "I think that there are close to 1,000 people in our Second Life community now active, and perhaps several thousand more that have avatars that are not that active,Â…IBM Chief Executive Sam Palmisano's arrival in Second Life helped pave the way, he added: "Having our CEO Sam Palmisano jump into Second Life during our recent Beijing meeting helps a lot in legitimizing this kind of activity within IBM. If it is good enough for SamÂ…"
If you haven't been serious about the implications of Second Life for learning in the past, this article IBM to give birth to 'Second Life' business group should change your mind.

As the article states:
Virtual reality connects directly with the human mind. "There is something very human about visual interfaces. I almost think of text-based interfaces, including browsers, as 'narrowband' into our brains, whereas visual interfaces are 'broadband' into our brains."

Well said, it might not be the best graphical display or perfect environment but it is certainly a beginning for distance learning, collaborating and meetings. Second Life is a glimpse into the future of learning.

If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe IBM.
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Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Learning Multiplication Tables in a Game

There are video game based learning tools for a variety of topics including Algebra and Spanish. Here is one for multiplication tools.




Timez Attack is a new video game instructionally designed exclusively for learning multiplication tables. The game uses drill and practice disguised as a video game (as we know Drill and practice is an effective strategy for teaching facts, like the multiplication tables).

Using a first person genre, the game provides a graphically high-quality adventure where the learner travels from one location to another solving multiplication problems. Solving a problem opens a door, defeats a monster, reveals a key or otherwise advances the young player's cause. The game has various levels to keep the kids interested. It is a lot more fun than flash cards and more motivating.

The first level is a dungeon that gives you a feel for the controls and the game play. This level is straightforward and helps the child to learn how to navigate through the game.

The space level has some trick floors and other obstacles that you have to navigate or start over. I fell victim to the traps a few times. What I like about the game is that it engages the learner and forces him or her to drill on the multiplication tables and, at the end of a level, you face a level boss who forces you to review everything you learned on that level. In essence it is a mastery review test and, if you miss a problem while battling the creature, you have to go back and practice.

You'll have to check out the game yourself to see the "hot" third level.

My nine year old played the game and had a lot of fun (although, he is already well versed in the multiplication tables). He said that it would be great for a second grader or early third grader (he is in fourth). This is a good example of how a drill and practice exercise can be made into a fun game.





Download a free demo version today and play it to see how fact-based learning can be incorporated into a video game format and, if you have kids, use it to teach them multiplication.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Informal Learning at Nick.com

There is a blog entry titled Biases that eLearning 2.0 Faces (or What are we Up Against) over on Tony Karrer’s eLearning Technology blog. Tony quotes a post by a person who raises some concerns about eLearning 2.0.

Like… how can you prevent garbage from being posted on blogs, do companies need to hire professional announcers for their podcasts how will organizations incorporate the next “hot” technology into their learning toolkit.

The overall concern I have seen on this post and others is the same. It is basically a question of how can we really use these Web 2.0 technologies for learning…isn’t this all just a bunch of hype created by a bunch of blogging pundits with nothing else to do but contemplate blogging for the sake of blogging while they blog.

You can hear the critics:
“Why don’t the learning technology folks get serious about learning and create ‘good content that the audience might be interested in reading and referencing’ instead of hyping all this new fangled Web 2.0 technology. Its got the potential for a lot of problems you know.”

The answer can be found in a visit to www.nick.com. Nick.com is “the place in cyberspace where fans of Nickelodeon (a television network for kids) can come to find out more about their favorite Nick stars, play games and have their opinions heard.” It is a site set up to attract and appeal to kids ages 9-14 (give or take a year or two.) Nick.com is promoting an active community for kids to share information.

Now here is the interesting (or scary) part, the site seamlessly incorporates:
  • Mash Ups
  • RSS feeds
  • Chat boards
  • Podcasts
  • Blogs
  • Vidoe Feeds
  • A customization option called MyNick (like MySAP or MyYahoo)
  • An Online Calendar option
  • An Email System
We can contemplate whether “real” learning happens with Web 2.0 technologies, we can be philosophical about the value of informal learning versus formal learning, we can tout the virtues of “collective wisdom” but in the end…none of that matters.



What matters is that kids (gamers) are already using Web 2.0 technologies comfortably and effectively. If we old folks (over 30) don’t figure out how to effectively use these tools to help the younger generation learn what they need to be successful in our baby boomer-run companies, government agencies and other large organizations then we learning and development folks will be irrelevant. Conducting traditional classroom lectures for these gamers is not going to cut it and neither is our page-of-text, page-of-text, page-of-text, multiple-choice question, page-of-text e-learning module format.

We better stop bad mouthing Web 2.0 or eLearning 2.0 and start using these technologies or be passed up by the “digital natives” as Prensky calls them.

If you want to get up to speed on these technologies, visit the Nick.com web site and have your kids show you how to log on.
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Friday, December 08, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Learning about Second Life



If you want to know more about Second Life, you can jump into the world and attend classes sponsored by NETg. I found this billboard as I was walking around looking for educational institutions and experiences.

If you already know about Second Life, they are looking for instructors as this sign shows.
As the online economy grows within Second Life, their are many chances to make money and contribute within the Second Life envrionment (as an instructor for example.)

If you aren't sure how big this "fad" is or how the economy works in Second Life, check out some of these interesting Second Life statistics courtesy of CNNMoney.com. (a Linden is the currency of Second Life)

-1.86 million Total residents

-Amount of money spent in-world in the last 24 hours is US $626,184

-The amount of LindeX activity in the last 24 hours is US $114,015

-The amount of Linden you can buy for US $1 is $270 Lindens

-101% Growth of profitable business owners from June-November
* Figures as of Dec. 7, 2006

-13,788 is the total number of profitable in-world business owners at the end of November

Read the article How Real Money Works in Second Life
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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Brain Drain: Where in the World is Everybody Going?

Dave Lee’s post, let’s continue…present challenges. future predications. Got me thinking about some statistics I ran across concerning the brain drain of baby boomer aged executives and leaders retiring over the next few years. Sometimes the concept is thought of as an issue in the United States but the impact is world wide.
  • In Europe, the pool of workers ages thirty-four to forty-four is expected to shrink by 19 percent in the United Kingdom, 27 percent in Germany, and 9 percent in Italy. The Ford Motor Company expects the number of workers older than fifty years to double in its European plants by 2010. Across Europe, baby boomers are already starting to retire, although the first of the European boomers won’t reach age sixty-five until 2011. Many of Europe’s state-funded pension systems encourage early retirement. Currently, 85.5 percent of adults in France quit work by age sixty, and only 1.3 percent work beyond sixty-five. In Italy, 62 percent of adults call it quits by age fifty-five.23

  • In Japan, the number of people between ages fifteen and sixty-four is expected to decline an average of 740,000 a year for the next ten years; already seventeen out of every one hundred people are over age sixty-five, and this ratio will become thirty out of a hundred in fifteen years.

  • China, will have over 265 million sixty-five year olds by 2020.

I think these statistics and others SCREAM for an increased focus on talent management and rapid leadership development (if that is even possible). As people who have the ability to transfer knowledge through the learning interventions we create, we really need to address the gap between the exiting folks and the new comers.
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Shout Out: Two Bloomsburg Alum- Nick Pastore and Kat Siedlecki

A project worked on by two alumni Nick Pastore and Kat Siedlecki both of involved with online learning at Booz Allen Hamilton just won an award from the U.S. Distance Learning Association (USDLA)—the nation’s premier distance learning organization.

The award and information about the award is featured on the front page of Booz Allen's website. We are proud of our alumni and the contributions they are making to the industry.

Good work!
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Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Avatars On Your Web Page

When you visit a web page, wouldn’t it be nice to see if any of your fellow co-workers or students were at the site and then have a chat with them? Imaging having an online team meeting and having everyone visit a specific web site. A site called Zweitgeist has developed a technology that allows you to create an avatar and then use that avatar to have discussions with other avatars who are also visiting a specific web site.

You can see an example of two avatars chatting on the bottom of the page shown in the image below (look at the very bottom). You can go to zweitgeist and set up your own avatar and give it a try. You can also see others on the site if you go to Zweitgeist after you log into the avatar system.


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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thoughts about 2006 and Predictions for 2007


The Learning Circuits Blog Question for December has been posted. The questions this month are:



What will you remember most about 2006?
What are the biggest challenges for you/us as head into 2007?
What are your predictions for 2007?

These are not easy questions to answer. However, here is my best shot. (taking my lead from Tony Karrer’s post)

What will you remember most about 2006?

  • First, it is the year that I finished my third and most favorite book Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: Tools and Techniques for Transferring Know-How from Boomers to Gamers. It was by far the most fun to write and create. The topic allowed me (or should I say forced me) to involve my two gamer sons in the process. I learn from them everyday and to be able to codify that learning in the book was exciting and rewarding. My oldest even wrote a piece for the book. As always, writing a book is a great way for me to learn and to really think about the ideas, trends and innovations shaping the field of learning and e-learning.

  • I started my blog in September 2006. That was a great event for me. Again, belated thanks to Waleed.

  • I met some great online folks through blogging and my book effort. What a wonderful way to share knowledge, exchange ideas and stay fresh. I really appreciate my fellow bloggers and how quickly they allowed me into their blogosphere.

  • The challenging and interesting ideas of my students who constantly bring a fresh perspective and energy to the field.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for 2007?

Personally
  • I have a lot to learn. There are so many Web 2.0 tools and they are constantly changing, it is difficult to keep up with all the new happenings (however, it is awesomely exciting to try!).

  • I need to expand my Second Life, looking forward to teaching a course in it this summer (see predications)

  • I need to publish some more peer reviewed articles.

Professionally
  • I think the field is a drift. We aren’t sure what our foundational models are, we don’t know if they are effective, we have few publicized alternatives and we have new technology thrown at us at break-neck speed. We need to figure something out.

  • Teaching a course in Second Life.

  • Determining the best places to focus my energy. I have too many items on my to-do list and not enough hours in the day. (that is professional and personnel)

What are your predictions for 2007?

  • Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning will be released in April of 2007.

  • My students in the Second Life course will teach me things I never even thought about (as my students always do.)

  • Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning will become an international best seller (ok, so, that is more of a wish than a prediction…but one can always hope).

  • More corporations will adopt blogs and wikis when they determine how to add some structure to these unstructured entities.

  • The application of instructional strategies to the use of new technologies (like Web 2.0 or even Web 3.0) will become increasingly important.

  • Games and simulations will increasingly be seen as effective tools for training (although, they are not the only tools for training.)

  • Mobile learning will begin to find more and more practical uses.

  • I will continue to blog and enjoy the online community of bloggers, lurkers and others.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Informal Learning: Structuring a Blog

There is an interest question on the Learning Circuits blog that asks whether or not it is appropriate to write a book about informal learning. The argument goes "if informal learning is so important, why use a formal structure, like a book, to describe its value?"

Just because learning is intended to be used in an informal manner that doesn't mean that it needs to be unstructured or without form. Informal learning tools like blogs still require formal structure and conventions or these informal tools will be utterly useless to learners within an organization or in an academic institution. Thus an article I co-wrote with the editor of eLearn Magazine Lisa Neal.

The article, Learning to Blog, Blogging to Learn, describes how a formal structure can facilitate informal learning and provides guidelines to any person who is suddenly asked to "blog" their expertise. Take a look and then let me know what you think about structuring informal learning.
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Definitions: Alternatives to the ADDIE Instructional Design Model

There are a number of alternatives to the ADDIE instructional design model which are not considered or given much due in the “main stream” ID press.

However, I think more than a process for creating instruction; it is the application of instructional strategies that really is the heart of designing effective learning interventions. It is the strategies that we apply to the materials we are teaching that make learning effective or not effective.

Here are a number of the models/concepts/philosophies that are outside of the traditional thinking about ADDIE, ISD and HPT (there are many more). Check them out and see if you can broaden your thoughts on the topic of designing effective instruction. All are link to other web pages unless otherwise specified.

Four Components Instructional Design Model (4C/ID)

List of models in an online book created by Bloomsburg University.

Universal Design for Learning

Cognitive Apprenticeship

Effective E-Learning Design Strategies(presentation)

Learning Requirements Planning (whitepaper)

Here is a large list of learning theory models.

Someone who has given a great deal of thought to the ID process and the variations of the process is M. David Merrill.

Here is a Glossary of Instructional Strategies that has a lot of great ideas on how to structure lessons and content for maximum learning.

If you know of any more links please add in comments.
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Friday, December 01, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Using Games to Motivate Employees

We all know that games can be motivational, but how do you work a game into the regular work-a-day routine of most employees? Well,
the company Snowfly has found a way to create games that "drive workplace performance." Check out the web site and an interesting article titled Goof off at work, get a bonus over at cnn.money.com.
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ROI: Should You Host The LMS or Let the Vendor

There always seems to be a debate about whether or not an organization should host a Learning Management System (LMS) application internally or externally. There are arguments on both sides. An informed client needs to consider costs as well as some questions about the ability to host internally. I have to admit, I lean toward having a vendor host the solution. Here are the list of questions to consider.

What internal resources will be dedicated to the LMS and at what level?

Often times an Information Technology (IT) department within an organization is overloaded with requirements to keep the mission critical software up and running. In fact, one major insurance carrier estimated that for every minute a mission critical application was down, the company would loose $1 million dollars.

As an individual in a training or compliance department, what kind of resources do you have at your disposal or within your department to keep your training servers up and running? What level commitment will the IT department provide to you when course scores are not being properly reported? IT department typically must prioritize requests because they don’t have the time to do everything. You need to determine where on the list of priorities the LMS will reside. If it is high, internal hosting might be the answer, if it is low, you may want to consider external hosting.


What money do you have in your budget for server upgrades?

Software and hardware upgrades to a server are not trivial. For example, updating just the software on a server can cost upwards of $10,000 a year. This does not include the price of new memory, new hard drives or other hardware that is required to keep servers functioning on a regular basis. If you are able to secure in your budget money for software and hardware upgrades (not directly related to the LMS) you may want to host internally. If you IT department takes care of upgrades, make sure their budget includes periodic maintenance and improvement of the LMS server. Sometimes it can get ignored because of a low priority (see question above).


Can you quickly scale up your internally hosted solution?

Organizations are not static entities they are constantly changing. A new division may be created, a competitor purchased, a plant oversees acquired. What resources are available to determine long term and short term needs in terms of purchasing new hardware or software to support more learners than expected? How quickly can you requisition the needed dollars to add more hard drive space or software licenses to accommodate new learners? If you have a fast, effective purchasing process, you may be able to consider internal hosting. If you have to go through many channels for new software or hardware, you may be a candidate for external hosting.


What level of security to you require?

This is an interesting question because you need to know how secure your own internal network may be. Many organizations automatically assume that internal networks are more secure and, typically, that is not the case. Since externally hosted solutions are under a great deal of scrutiny by potential clients and since a security breach can be catastrophic to a vendor who host external solutions, the security is often times much higher than internal network security. In fact, a major bank in the Northeast hosts all of it software applications, mission critical and LMS externally for increased security and reduce costs. Many vendors have 128 bit or higher SSL encryption.

What is your core competency?

If your core competency is training or compliance it is very difficult for you to now learn an entire new “language” of servers and server technology. The hours spent learning how to administer the server, optimize performance and troubleshoot can easily be saved through the use of an externally provided solution.

How many channels are you willing to pursue to get a problem addressed?

If there is a problem with an internally hosted solution, you need to contact the internal IT person assigned to your group, that person must either solve the problem or contact the hardware or software vendor. Often there is a conflict between the actual source of the problem. The hardware vendor will tell you it is not their problem, it is a software problem and the software vendor will tell you the exact opposite. Meanwhile the internal resource is trying to sort out the issue and report to you on status. With an externally provided solution, typically there is one call to the vendor who is responsible for solving the problem and then returning a solution without involving you with the back and forth that occurs between software and hardware vendors.

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