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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hard Sell: Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning

One issue I address in Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning is how to overcome the fear some managers, tenured faculty and executives have of online games and "newfangled gadgets." This unspoken fear can make the "selling" of games, gadgets or gizmos for learning difficult.

First, if we look at it from their perspective, we would be a little fearful as well. They don't know how to play with them or use them. They are unknown. The managers and executives refer back to what they know. As would anyone.

Executives, faculty and managers know what happens in a classroom: they've been in dozens. They know where to sit if you are not particularly interested (in the back), they know how to ask a question (raise your hand), they even know how to pretend to be interested (ask a question concerning the last thing the trainer said). They now even have a vague idea of what happens in online learning. Click to the multiple choice question, answer it until you get it right and move on.

Not so with an online game or simulation. Not so with using an MP3 player or a video iPod. An intuitive interface to a person who has grown up with games, simulations or gadgets is not intuitive to someone who has only learned to use technologies later in life (early 20s and beyond.)

A person can go through a period of deep frustration when they repeatedly fail at mastering a game or using a gadget properly. If this happens, the person will then assume that everyone will have the same problems and therefore, the game or gadget is not productive...a waste of time and money.

So one method is to team up a non-techy (boomer) with a techy (gamer) and allow the gamer and boomer to learn together how to work a gadget or play a training game. This is the concept of "Reverse Mentoring" which has been around for a number of years.

The real advantage here is that not only will information be exchanged concerning the game or gadgets, but the pair will also transfer other knowledge that can be valuable to the organization.

Think about the design of training classes or mentoring sessions, do you team up younger employees with veterans? If you are in a college, is the "new faculty orientation" devoid of experienced faculty...can you bring the two together?

Do you set the expectation that employees should learn from each other in a mutually beneficial way? Do you encourage the experienced employee to take the time to share war stories and let them know that younger employees can help with the technology?

Do you encourage younger employees to pay careful attention to the stories and information conveyed by the veterans. Sometimes younger employees need to be told what is important to learn and how it is going to be taught...through stories or observation.

Designers of learning events need to also set learning expectations within the organization not just within e-learning or classroom learning events. Let all the employees know that they can learn valuable information from each other regardless of their tenure with the organization. Learning is not top down.

Also, just received an article from The New York Times that states that the newest world being conquered by video games is that of retirees. One nursing home operator with 18 campuses around the country and 19,000 residences is installing Wii consoles at each location.

Maybe the problem with gadgets and games is the interface. An easy-to-use interface may break down a perceived bias against games, maybe games aren't the problem, maybe it is the interface.


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