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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Getting" The 3D Synchronous Learning Environment

Lately, I've been working with Tony O'Driscoll and the folks at the eLearning Guild on some research and thought leadership around the idea of using 3D environments to teach in a synchronous environment. You'll want to read the 360 Report when it becomes available and listen to a webcast on July 10th about the findings of the report.

Simultaneously my oldest son has become interested in Second Life and now is on the Teen Grid, he was using my character but he is fascinated with trying to earn he was going door-to-door selling stuff I had gotten for free. One avatar said "Wow, you are the first door-to-door salesman I've met in SL."

It was time for him to get is own account. He is not going door-to-door any more but is still selling stuff he got for free...or trading fact he is virtually looking for work. Talk about a Personal Learning Environment...all the business courses in the world couldn't give him the experience he is gaining just "playing" on the teen grid. He is negotiating, bartering, cold calling, strategizing, building and partnering to accomplish his goal...not doing that sitting in school in a single file row listening to a lecture about economics.

Anyway, as part of my work with Tony, we created a large giant drill and a scenario describing how a salesperson could navigate around the drill to learn about the functionality and various features of the drill. Explaining this concept to people, for some reason, has been difficult. "I don't get it? Why a giant drill?" or "Seems like a waste of time, just show me the parts." or "Why do I want to be an avatar?"

I showed the drill and learning spaces we developed to my 13 year old son. Immediately he says, "That's neat, I could see how that would be useful." Immediately as in...I didn't even need to explain.

Sorry, I know some people don't believe in a technology gap between boomers/Gen X/Greatest Generation and the gamer generation...but come on, he got it immediately, no prompting, I've spent hours explaining that concept to many older folks and...crickets....nothing.

While much of the generation gap might be the typical stuff...some of it is due to technology and its rapid rate of change.

According to an interesting Business Week graphic called What are People Doing? only 12% of young boomers (41 to 50) and only 7% of older boomers (51 to 61) and only 5% of 62+ people are creating content on the web.

Meanwhile, 34% of young teens (12 to 17) and 37% of youth (18 to 21) and 30% of Gen Y (22 to 26) are creating content (check out the chart). There is a trend showing a difference in how the web is used among different ages.

While not absolute with plenty of exceptions (look at the average age of Edubloggers in our space...35-50. The opposite...but that might be due to the fact that there are not many 22-and-under trainers or teachers...they are more likely blogging about non-education stuff...hey, at 18, I wasn't really thinking about education stuff either).

I think the ages and amount of participation is telling. If you are a Young Boomer trainer or teacher are you able to use the tools that as much of 30% of the youth are using to learn, communicate and create? Hey, that 30% gets the giant drill.

So my personnel challenge is to convey the message that a trend is happening and that we need to dial into the trend to make our training/teaching more relevant and accessible without offending...and thanks again to Tom Crawford and especially Christy Tucker for their insights into the issue.

Might these trends even impact the conference formats that Tony Karrer is discussing in his blog? I am sure they do.

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bschlenker said...

this is great stuff. My kids are the same way with technology. I wish "adults" could learn to see with beginner eyes.

Karl Kapp said...


No kidding, they are like fish to water!

Anonymous said...

Hi Karl,

Sorry, I have been a little slow in getting back to this. Thanks for the link.

Do you think part of the generational difference is due to being more worried about being wrong or looking foolish as we get older? Not that teens don't have their own peer pressure to look good, but I wonder if they are mistakes with technology are more accepted among teens. I've seen a lot of adults, especially in certain corporate environments, who are terrified of asking questions to find out how something works because they're afraid of admitting they don't know it all.

I've also been wondering lately if current teens just generally do a better job creating a learning network for themselves than many of us adults. Teens who are used to having multiple friends on IM around while doing homework or to troubleshoot are obviously very willing to reach out for help. How many adults would sit in their cubicle struggling with a piece of software for hours without ever asking for help?

Obviously there are exceptions in all generations, but I wonder if the social structures are playing a part in these trends. Maybe it's the other way around though; maybe the social structures and networks happen because of the technology and not the other way around.

Karl Kapp said...


You bring up some excellent points, I think humans are always social and interested in networks, I think technology just allows you to have a network beyond your geographical area. So you can now find like minded kids around the most cases this is some cases it is bad...some kids may find like minded hate groups, etc.

So I think technology enhanced natural human tendencies to network and to be engaged with others and kids just are more comfortable with some of the tools of this networking because they've grown up around those tools.

Additionally, adults do not like to look foolish and feel like they should know everything...again I think the Boomer/Greatest Generation ethos was centered a lot around knowing more information than anyone else. In the US we wanted to know more about space travel than the Soviets so we could be the first to the moon, we wanted to know more about weapons of mass destruction so we could scare the other side into not bombing us.

That is when IBM had its computer play chess against the time everyone thought knowing everything was it...I think now people are growing up knowing they can't know everything and using technology to help them store ideas and knowledge but...the change is slow, It is hard to accept that fact for people raised in a time when you did not admit that you didn't know something.

Also...when someone is young, they have a sense of invinsibility so who cares if they make any kind of mistake...most all are an adult if you are working in a company and don't know could be fact, you could be fired (oh sorry, laid off) just because you are on some list...nothing personnel. So, fear of doing the wrong thing will certainly prevent experimentation. And with massive lay offs and uncertain stability...who wants to go out on a limb at age 49, 50 or 55 when you have "gamers" in college, mortage to pay and other financial obligations.

Although one could argue that not taking risks is riskier than taking risks but that is another post.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't thought about the space race in these terms before, but I can see that it was a reflection of the emphasis on knowing more than the people around you. Very interesting!

I can see the point about risk taking too; it's harder to put your job on the line when you have a family to support than when you're on your own.

So is there anything we can do to help change the culture to make it safer to take risks and make mistakes, or will the change really only happen when more of the younger generations get into the workforce?