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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Design: Informed Design

Here is an instructional design methodology that is worth investigating. It is called "Informed Design."

Informed Design, is a design pedagogy developed and validated through several National Science Foundation (NSF) projects conducted by the Hofstra Center for Technological Literacy. Informed design prompts research, inquiry, and analysis; fosters student and teacher discourse; and cultivates language proficiency.

Informed Design follows the traditional design process, but uses guided research and investigation to build student knowledge and skills required for the design. These Knowledge and Skill Builders (KSBs) are the heart of the Informed Design process. They assist students in learning key concepts in mathematics, science and engineering/technology that are related to the design challenge.

In the process of informed design, learners acquire knowledge to inform their understanding before they begin designing. Design teams of learners clarify specifications and constraints; research the problem; generate alternatives; justify the optimal design; develop, test, evaluate, and modify the solution; and communicate achievements in a class presentation and final design report.

You can learn more and obtain Informed Design Resources here.
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Out and About: Obtaining Your New Year's Resolution

Ok, so the first month of the year is over. How are you doing with your resolutions? Here is a great tip for helping to achieve your resolutions or to achieve any goal you are seeking.

One of the most effective ways to reach a goal is to write it down. This forces you to slow down, think through the issues and then put them down on paper or computer screen. The act of writing involves slowing down your thoughts and carefully choosing words to match what you are thinking. A good place to start is to write daily or weekly goals to focus on what really matters both professionally and personally.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Class: Enter Your Blogs

As part of Managing Multimedia Projects (better known as the RFP class), this semester each student is creating a blog.

Each team is to enter a comment to this posting and place each team member's URL for the blog into this posting in the comments section.
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Definition: Massively Multi-learner Online Learning Environment (MMOLE)

Massively Multi-learner Online Learning Environment: MMOLE is a genre of computer generated learning environments in which large numbers of learners interact with each other in a virtual three-dimensional (3D) world with the goal of learning.

Learners assume a certain appearance through the creation of an avatar. These avatars are controlled through a computer keyboard and/or mouse. The avatars are able to move independently through the virtual environment. As the learner moves through the environment the computer generates new graphics in real-time to give the learner feedback on their position in the environment and the actions taken by themselves and others within the environment.

The learning can occur formally through a class-like environment or a scripted simulation or the learning can occur informally through chats, wikis or blogs contributed by the learners interacting within the environment and each other.

MMOLEs typically have the following characteristics:
  • Linkages to Learning Management Systems and the ability to launch more traditional e-learning courses.
  • Communications tools such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and/or text-based chats.
  • Controls specifically for the instructor/facilitator.
  • The ability for learners to build or create their own objects within the world.
  • A client-server model, in which the "world" runs continuously on a server, and learners connect to it via client software.
  • Large communities of learners, or social networks.
  • A method of tracking leaner progress for the formal elements of the learning environment.
  • Tools to allow social learning and networking within the environment such as a learner profile, learner generated blogs and learner created wikis.

Advantages of MMOLEs

Immediate Feedback: A learner in a MMOLE receives instant feedback from the environment and from other learners within the environment. Immediate feedback helps reinforce desired behaviors or actions and helps discourage non-desirable behaviors.

Social Interaction: The environment allows learners to exchange information and ideas with each other through voice and text chats. The ability to interact and network with other learners helps to reinforce learning and to generate new learning.

Situated Learning: A learner can be placed into an environment similar to the one in which he or she must work. Research shows that the more similar the learning environment to the work environment, the more effective the transfer of learning. For example, a student teacher could be placed into a classroom of virtual students to work through the issues of classroom management. A sales person can be placed into the office of a potential client and told to negotiate a sale. A machine operator can be placed on the factory floor with all the accompanying noise and distractions and told to produce quality product.

New Perspectives: On the other hand, since the environment is virtual, learners can go places and experience environments not possible in the physical world. For example, a learner could be shrunk and walk through a blood vessel and witness blood clotting. A learner could travel to the solar system and fly around the planets. A learner could be transported to ancient Egypt and walk among the people and watch how a pyramid was built (or even participate in the building of a pyramid). A learner could be transported to a situation where he or she was a first responder and had to perform duties such as crowd control or search and rescue.

Multi-Modal Interactions: Most online learning environments involve some audio and visual, however, they are not typically three dimensional. The 3D aspect coupled with audio and voice can allow the learner to engage multiple senses in the MMOLE experience and help to reinforce the learning. The impact of a 3D visual means that the learner can also be impacted on the emotional or affective level.

The use of MMOLEs is currently in its infancy but the potential for the use of MMOLEs in a variety of situations and industries means that the use of MMOLEs will continue to grow in acceptance and use.

Please feel free to comment on this “definition in progress” and to make any suggestions or additions.

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Some people find that an online college degree program helps them to save money on their degree because they don't have to move or commute in order to earn their degree of choice. Associates and Bachelor degrees are offered from many places, so there is probably an online university out there that's right for you.
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Friday, January 26, 2007

Design: Boo



Here is a great site for learning about skeletons called eskeletons. It is a site that allows the learner to examine different parts of different types of skeletons. The technology is not 3D but is very effective. Parts of the different skulls or bones are highlighted as the learner clicks from part to part.

A good demonstration of teaching declarative knowledge with words, images and color cues. The design is simple but effective and allows the learner to explore and compare and constrast on his or her own.
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Design: Shatter Your Courses

Instead of thinking about placing content into a course, we should think about placing content outside of a course. Digital assets should be allowed to roam free.

See my post: Shatter Your Courses at the TrainingDay Blog.
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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Walking through the Body


For years the National Science Foundation has been supporting innovative educational research and activities.

One such activity has been the creation of 3D Internet-based resources to educate students about archaeology, biology, computer science and geology. One such project was undertaken at North Dakota State University and it was called Virtual Cell (VCell) game. The viewer travels around through the body and cells learning. See Virtual Tools Add a New Dimension to Learning.

The interesting thing is that the research group published empirical studies that "showed the use of VCell and the VCell animations improved problem solving ability and content retention."

So while we may feel or believe that 3D learning environments are better for learning, research is supporting the fact that these environments are better for learning.

The same kind of thing can be done in something like Second Life or a more learning focused metaverse like ProtoSphere.

Last night, in Second Life, I did find a see-through cell but was disappointed when I couldn't "tour" the cell. We need to "shrink" our learners to cells or protons and let them explore.



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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: The Future of E-Learning


I think the future of e-learning revolves, in a large way, around the use of 3D worlds and avatars...I'm not the only one, IBM believes this as well...

Employees of tomorrow will inhabit virtual worlds like Second Life to hold live weekly meetings with co-workers, catch up over lunch with financial advisers, and join friends on virtual shopping excursions after work.

Meet me in my avatar's office explains some of the vision of IBM.

However, I am not sure the actual vehicle will be Second Life. Recently, I was given the opportunity to play with a product created by a company called ProtonMedia.

The product is called the ProtoSphere. This interactive 3D environment was built for learning with Voice Over the Internet (VoIP), application sharing, whiteboards, and virtual meeting spaces. It speaks the SCORM language and looks a lot like Second Life only with a cleaner interface.

This summer I am going to put the product through its paces as I use it for my class "Learning in 3D." I will provide feedback and information on this blog so stay tuned for more information on ProtoSphere: Second Life for Learning
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Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: The Book



Here is a sneak peak of the cover for my new book, Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning (haven't gotten permission to make public but I couldn't wait any longer). I am very excited about its impending release in April of this year.

I have also just received some reviews from the publisher, the comments are below. I would like to thank these people took time from their busy schedules to read and comment on the book...it is much appreciated.

The big contribution of Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning to the field is that it provides direct linkages between the brain drain of the on-rushing boomer retirement and the range of technologies, tools and methodologies required to combat it.
-Mark Oehlert
Learning Strategy Architect
Booz Allen Hamilton

As few others can, Kapp takes us on a delightful and amusing journey into the exciting future of learning and knowledge transfer – a future shaped by the power of digital games and electronic gadgets.
-Donald A. Deiesco, Ph.d., President and CEO, EduNeering, Inc

Kapp does an excellent job describing the neo-millennial student and ways new and emerging web-tools, video games, simulations and electronic gadgets need to be used in our modern "classrooms" to convey knowledge to our techno-savvy students.
-Gordon Snyder, Jr.
Executive Director of the National Center for Telecommunications Technologies and Professor of Telecommunications at Springfield Technical Community College

Do you need to recruit, train or retain the next generation of workers? Karl Kapp’s new book, Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning, is a must read strategy guide for working with the upcoming generation of gamers.
-Founder, e-LearningGuru.com
President, AXIOM Professional Health Learning

Kapp's book provides insights into an employee population that is not as well understood as the baby boomer generation. This is an essential read if you support, train or manage the gamer generation. I will definitely share it with my team.
-Steve Sitek
Director, Learning and Organizational Development
Bristol-Myers Squib
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Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: What Cell Phone is Right for my "Baby"

Since cell phones are becoming all the rage for the 2-5 year old set, here is an article to help you choose the best cell phone for your children.

One of the models you can choose for junior.
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Monday, January 22, 2007

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Kids Don't Like TV, Can't Customize It

In keeping with the theme of 4 year olds talking on the cell phone, I came across another interesting article. A New Crop of Kids: Generation We

The article describes an eight year old boy,Gabriel, whose "interest in TV has really declined, because it's just there, you can't customize it...he's tuned to a world where he controls media, not the other way around."

Who is controlling the e-learning you are designing...you or your learners. Who is managing the pacing, the interactions, the content. I'll bet it is you.

As instructional designers, the signs are all over, if you don't start allowing the learner to be in control of the content and his or her own learning...then you are going to be missing a large part of your audience.
"You've got a generation of kids who've had an unprecedented amount of control of their media and they're not going to give it up," Steuer said. "It does put out a challenge--for anyone in the media busines--of how to keep attention in that media."
or...anyone in the learning business--of how to keep attention focused on the e-learning.

Our learning systems need learner control. What have you done today to give control to your learners?
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Meme is Back

Recently, I was tagged for the 5 Things Meme by Susan Smith Nash, aka, the E-Learning Queen. Thanks Susan. Susan writes interesting pieces and I think you should check her site out. I really liked her En Media Res piece (not the real title of her piece but what I took away.)

Now I am in a quandary, do I start another meme or refer to the previous. I think, I will just refer to my previous meme post. Wake up Karl, the Meme has you
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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Dad, Can I Download the Teletubbies Ring Tone

A while back I posted a definition of a gamer. Someone who has grown up with video games and gadgets. In fact, I frequently write about this generation and think of myself as fairly knowledgeable and aware of what they are doing, heck, I've written a bookon how tech-savvy and connected this generation is as compared to the boomer generation and Gen Xers (me). I even coined Gamer 4.0s to explain their use of technology and games for learning and interacting with each other.

Their use of technology shouldn't phase me...well I apparently have a lot to learn...I was SHOCKED when I saw the release of a recent study by the NPD Group (a consumer and retail market research firm.)

Here is the statistic that floored me:
  • About 15% of 2- to 5-year-olds use cell phones
(that's no typo...two to five year olds using cell phones)

Immediately, my wife asks, "who are they calling?"

I say, "I didn't even realize they could talk at age 2."

Wow, what type of impact is that generation...ubertechs going to have on learning and society...if we are not beginning to embrace technology now for learning and knowledge sharing, we will watch the bus speed away..because we are going to miss it.

Here are some more statistics from the InformationWeek article titled Attack Of The Tech-Savvy Toddlers
Children as young as 2 years old are downloading content to cell phones, computers, and portable digital music players.

More than one in 10 children download content by the time they are 7 years old, 22% download by age 10, and 50% download at 14, according to the report.

Seventy-five percent of children with an Internet connection use it, and nearly half browse the Web without help and one-third do so with their parents or someone else, according to the study.

Downloading games is the most prevalent activity, while 25% of children watch downloaded movies, television, music videos, or streaming video content, the study found.

Children spend an average of 44 minutes per session playing on video game systems and the same amount of time listening to music on portable digital music players, according to NPD.

This really makes a case for m-learning and for focusing our efforts on figuring out appropriate instructional design strategies for these ubertechs.

Imagine how tech-savvy a 22 year old is going to be when she started downloading content to her cell phone when she was three.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Design: Using Technology to Teach Soft Skills

Last night I gave a presentation to the Seattle Captivate User's group 7:00 PST, 10:00 my time. A late night but a fun presentation, thank you to Mark Chrisman for the opportunity.

The presentation got me thinking about teaching soft skills online (although we mostly taked about teaching software online)

I have posted my thoughts on soft skills training at the Training Day blog. Check it out.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: MMORPG in ICT Education


During my recent conference in San Francisco (shown above), Gordon Snyder, Jr. the Executive Director and Principal Investigator of the National Center for Telecommunication Technologies (NCTT) gave a great presentation on MMORPGS and how they can be used in community colleges and training programs.


He mentioned a number of uses of Second Life and how it can be used to help teach math and science concepts. During the subseqent discussion, someone mentioned that she did not like avatars or see the point of learning in an environment of avatars.

In some ways, I agree.(yes, frequent readers might be shocked but read on).

Having a bunch of people virtually sitting in a classroom is not the best use of Second Life or any other metaverse. The real power of the metaverse concept is when we use the platform to do things we could not otherwise do in a classroom.

Here are some examples of the power of a metaverse.:
  • Shrink down and walk through the human body
  • Fly above a cityscape to see patterns or green space
  • Become another gender or race
  • Manipulate financial markets and observe the outcome.

These are innovative uses for a metaverse. As educators, we can't simply reproduce the classroom virtually (like many e-learning courses attempted to do), we need to construct educational environments that reach beyond our current classrooms into the student's or trainee's imaginations. We need to reach beyond our current paradigms into new educational frontiers.

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Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Hidden Agenda Games

Most of the time a Hidden Agenda is a bad thing. In this case, however, it is a good thing.

Enter Hidden Agenda Games. This is an organization that encourages, through contests, the creation of games to help middle school kids (like my oldest son) learn difficult subjects that might not always "stick."

The Liemandts and Reimanns (two families) sponsor contests in which college students create games to help middle school students and then the entries are posted at the Hidden Agenda Games web site.

Here are examples from an Algebra game called AlgebrArcade and one called Waste of Space which teaches concepts like velocity and acceleration...reminds me of the old game Asteroids.




You have to register to play the games but I highly recommend you check them out. Clever, inventive and educational...who could ask for more?
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Brain Drain: The "Perfect Storm" of Unfilled IT Jobs



Just returned from a conference sponsored by the National Center for Telecommunication Technologies (NCTT) held in San Francisco, CA.

The organization is a National Science Foundation (NFS) center that is focused on providing technology education to faculty of community colleges in the area of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). I serve as the external evaluator helping the group to reach its goals by providing formative evaluation information during the life of the grant.

San Francisco, CA. is a lovely place. I took my family and we had a great time (saw all the sites, biked the bridge, went to Alcatraz, ate soup in a bread bowl.)

Meanwhile, back at the conference, what struck me the most was the keynote address by Dr. Peter Joyce of Cisco Systems. His opening address was titled "Trends in ICT Jobs, Salary, and Technological Demand"


Dr Joyce believes that there are forces that will make the demand for ICT workers in the United States critical in the near future and even with outsourcing of some of the IT work, there will still not be enough people to meet the demand.

While most of the media and the popular opinion is that there are no more "high tech" jobs left, that is simply NOT true. More people than ever need to be trained to do more and more technically difficult jobs from programming to helping establish a network in a person's home.

Here are some of the facts:


  • In September 2006, IT employment stood at 3,667,100 up 4.2% from 2005 (an all time high)

  • 79 percent of IT workers work in IT-reliant companies (health care and financial services, industries enabled by IT but not focused on IT)

  • From 2000 to 2004, the number of incoming US undergraduates planning to major in Computer Science dropped by 60%.

  • Estimated 1.5 million new computer and IT related job opening between 2002 and 2012

  • By 2008 the number of young adult workers from 25-40 will decline by 1.7 million that’s 1.7 million less workers to replace the 77 million baby boomers who will be eligible for retirement

  • Countries other than the US are developing their own “Silicon Valleys” and, therefore, will not be available for US companies

Dr Joyce’s conclusion is that there will be intense competition for top talent. Is your organization ready for this Perfect Storm? What are you doing to capture the knowledge of your existing workforce and are you partnering with schools (community colleges, trade schools, universities) to tap into this talent? Because, in the future business growth will be severly limited by the availability of talent. No talent...no innovation and no advantage for your organization.
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Monday, January 15, 2007

Industry News: 2007 Predictions

Every year Lisa Neal over at eLearn Magazine collects predictions of more than a dozen thought leaders throughout the learning community. Check out this year's predictions and see if you agree. If you do, let me know, if not, what are your predictions?

Predictions for 2007
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Friday, January 12, 2007

Out and About: Blogging at Training Day

I am now posting on a weekly basis over at VNU's Training Day blog (every Friday).

My first posting is called Technology/Learning and the Year Ahead. Check it out and feel free to comment.

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Industry News: Predictions for Biz and Industry

Over at Wired Blogs, they have posted predications for 2007 for business and industry as well as providing an opportunity for others to add their predictions, it is worth a read to see what is on the minds of non-learning and development folks and to read what they think about the future of technology and it's input on our lives.

I think two predications "The Power of Peer Production" and "The Open Everything Economy" both have huge implications for learning professionals. As many people in an organization provide knowledge that learners need to do their job, we need to help them develop the proper format and structure.

Also, the Open Source for software and even training will have a big impact in the near future.

Check out What are the most important biz/tech trends of 2007? And decide what trends you think are going to impact you this year as you design training.

Also check out the cool voting system they are using to capitalize on the "wisdom of crowds" we'll have to see next year which predictions proved to be correct.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Rapid E-Learning Trade-Offs

This month the Big Question on the Learning Circuit’s blog has to do with rapid e-learning.

“What are the trade offs between quality learning programs and rapid e-learning and how do you decide?”

I have done some previous writing on the topic of rapid e-learning:

Learning at Byte Speed
Speed is King: Rapid Creation and Deployment of Enterprise E-Learning Solutions

Also, call it fate or good timing, I have just been interviewed on this very topic for the February issue of T&D Magazine. So you can read more of my thoughts on rapid e-learning in the magazine. In the meantime, here is a sneak preview.

Just because we have developed tools to create e-learning rapidly…that doesn’t mean we can design effective learning more quickly than in the past. In fact, what most often passes for rapid e-learning is a poorly designed slide show presentations developed at a moment’s notice with bullets and a bad voice over from a rushed trainer or developer.

A good example of the forces at work to push rapid e-learning is given by Howard Cronin. His post sums up some of the pressures we get from management. Often training professionals are not given the same time frame as software developers or others and then we are told to develop training at the last minute and, like dutiful soldiers, we develop it at the last minute (we have too or be out of a job). Unfortunately, the thinking from us and management seems to be “It isn’t what we want, it isn’t really effective but…hey its done.”

And, since our industry does a horrible job of evaluating our successes (or lack thereof) no one checks...so everyone is seemingly happy.

To me one of the most telling comments on this entire topic was posted by Will Thalheimer in a post titled Simple Performance Improvement. Check the Clock.

Will reports on an article indicating that doctors who take longer to perform a critical procedure to identify potentially cancerous polyps during a routine colonoscopy find more polyps than doctors who rush through. It seems so obvious...but...The lesson, speed is not always a virtue. But for some reason we think it is a virtue in and of itself.

But I do believe that Yes, we can reduce the DEVELOPMENT time but I am not sure we can reduce the design time.

Design is the “secret sauce” that we instructional designers should be adding to the sea of information that surrounds our internal and external clients. Only we (if you believe we are skilled professionals) can identify the content to be learned and then, using instructional strategies, research and proper instructional sequencing… design instruction that helps learners retain the information they are to learn. We design conceptual lessons with examples and non-examples, we teach procedural knowledge through decomposition and other strategies.

We should applaud the reduction in time for the development process of creating e-learning. But we should not allow for a reduction in DESIGN time. I know that designers face the issue of push back from clients all the time and, as Wendy Wickham, has mentioned before…not everyone is in the positon to push back. So, I don't want to seem too ivory tower...but are we getting short term relief while courting longer term problems (hey, it only took you 2 weeks for the last e-learning module…do this one in a week and a half)

Trade Offs
So what are the trade offs, well we have three general areas, Quality, Speed and Cost (really four, see below)

When we rapidly develop e-learning we often eliminate motivational aspects of the instruction, we often eliminate sound instructional strategies. We often remove context such as the use of scenarios or case studies, we often reduce the amount of feedback provided to the learner, we reduce the amount of analysis we do to make sure we are even creating instructional that is valuable in the first place. Sometimes we even just copy and paste from the procedure manual.

Rapid e-learning is not impossible to do effectively, we just need to be rational about the word “rapid” and I completely agree with Clive Shepherd when he writes;
Who says e-learning materials that take a long time to produce are necessarily high quality, let alone relevant or effective?

So, maybe the real question is how to we balance quality, speed and cost, and, I will add, learning. I think of these items as sliders on a stereo system (if anyone remembers those) we have to seek balance by moving the sliders to the right and to the left to seek the right balance.

So the trade offs are many, the answers are not simple but we must strive to inform all of our stakeholders that when one slider is pushed to the far end in one direction, another slider is pushed to the far end in the opposite direction and the results may not be pretty.
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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Hot Shot Business “Simulation”

Want to run your own business? Need to learn business basics? Well if you are under 14, there is a great site for you to learn about the various ins and outs of being an entrepreneur. (actually, even if you are over 14, it is worth a look.)

In this game, you have to deal with the issues of financing (get a bank loan or bootstrap your business). You get to run marketing campaigns (even design the ads) and deal with issues of supply and demand.

The game, is over at the Disney site and is called Hot Shot Business.

You can choose to run one of several businesses, of course my favorite is the comic book shop.

You then need to decide what to sell and how much to charge. Then after a certain number of virtual "weeks" you get an update on your progress and coaching form two simulated characters...who don't always give you the same advice.

The game is created in a cartoonish environment but is really effective at conveying the basic fundamentals of running a business. My kids, 12 and 9 play it frequently and enjoy the challenge.

The interface is simple and easy to learn and the educational aspects are woven into the game pretty seamlessly. Check it out and become a hot shot business women or man today.


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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Definition: Metaverse


A Metaverse is an online world in which there are no specific goals or objectives.

It is a virtual world in which you create an avatar and then explore the world as that avatar. You are able to chat with others in the world and interact with there avatars.

Typically an inhabitant can create buildings, clothes, habitats or any other items they can imagine. A metaverse usually has some type of economy in which goods are either bartered or paid for with virtual monies. Many times those virtual monies are tied to an exchange rate based on “real” currency (i.e. the US Dollar or the Euro.)

This is in contrast with an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Game) which typically has some sort of a mission or goal. For example in World of WarCraft one of the quests is to battle Ragnoros—a type of fire god. Also metaverses do not typically have non-player characters (characters that are computer generated). In a metaverse all the characters are tied directly to an actual person.

According to wikipedia, a metaverse can be defined as follows:
The Metaverse, a phrase coined by Neal Stephenson's science fiction novel Snow Crash (1992) constitutes Stephenson's vision of how a virtual reality-based Internet might evolve in the near future.

In Snow Crash, the Metaverse can be accessed through public-access terminals in reality. However, using them carries a social stigma among Metaverse denizens, in part because of the low visual quality of the rendered avatar; the Metaverse representations of a user in virtual-reality. Entering the Metaverse through a private terminal, making it possible to customize your avatar, is possible from almost any location using portable devices. In the Metaverse, status is a function of two things: access to restricted environments (such as the Black Sun, an exclusive Metaverse club) and technical acumen (often demonstrated by the sophistication of one's avatar). The Metaverse is frequented mainly by the upper and middle classes.

[Can anyone say…digital divide?]

The best known actualized example of a metaverse is probably Second Life but, it is by no means the only example. Other metaverses include:



So, while Second Life gets and the press and attention, metaverses are slowly invading the net unnoticed in other areas. These will soon become standards for web browsing and web communities.

These communities will then spawn new educational models that will influence how training and education is conducted in the near and distant future. It will be possible to have very real experiences (learning and otherwise) in these online universes.

The question is, how prepared are our educational structures to teach within these metaverses? Will our traditional modules of instruction work? Do we bring everyone together in a virtual classroom and lecture to them? Or, more realistically, do we create new and different methods of helping the metaverse inhabitants learn? If this is the case, and I believe it is, then what educational models work and which do not?

For more information on metaverses and where they might be heading check out the Metaverse Roadmap project.
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Friday, January 05, 2007

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Virtual Real Estate for Sale


Traveling to Calypso is similar to traveling to any foreign country. You exchange your currency for the currency of Calypso and, when you return home, you can exchange left over Calypso currency back to your currency. The only difference? Calypso is not a physical place—not a Caribbean island. It is a virtual world—a metaverse (short for “Metaphysical Universe” aka “online world.”)

In the Calypso metaverse, you exchange real money for virtual money and then, exchange it back. Calypso has its own virtual economy which works almost seamlessly with physical economies. The enviornment, once called Project Entropia (now called Entropia Universe), is free to download and has no monthly fees unlike most MMORPGs. Instead the universe works on a cash basis. You are required to have cash to purchase items like a laser rifle, a house or a vehicle. Cash is King. The Project Entropia Dollar (PED) has a fixed exchange rate linked to the US Dollar currently 10 PED = 1US$.

Once inside the game, you create items to barter with other players, get a job and even find hidden treasures throughout the virtual world. You can mine items of value like gold or ore, manufacture goods or even set up a store or mall and rent out space. Trade on the virtual stock exchange. You constantly exchange PEDs for goods. To date, the largest transaction was for a virtual astroid that sold for $100,000.

Well, the ante has just been raised. After 10 days of bidding for three digital malls the virtual buyers have ponied up a total of $179,668. This is all for "virtual real estate." Places that physically don't even exist.

You can read the article 'Project Entropia' real estate sale fetches $179,000

What does this mean for trainers and instructional designers? It means we really need to understand these 3D online worlds because it is not just Second Life, many online worlds exist and if we let this technology pass us, then we will be playing catchup. Arguing about whether or not these platforms are "learning platforms" is less relevant than figuring out how to provide learning experiences within these worlds...teachable moments.

The educational philosophy of Constructivism is a good place to start in terms of thinking about how learners can create meaning. What if there was an environment where a learner, learning about history or learning about making a sales call could experiement in a relatively safe world with total access to any information he or she needs in 3-dimensions (just like where we really live). The dimensions and the immersiveness of the experience add to the learning.

We are incredibly effective learners (humans that is) we can learn from books, each other, observation or even from a good story...however, as instructional designers our job is to make that process more efficient and effective. If people could simply learn from others in an effective way...then instructional designers would not be needed but every expert is not a good facilitator, teacher or mentor, every person is not able to learn from a journey to many blogs and then reaching their own conclusion (mostly because of time constraints) so, we as workplace learning professionals must be on the forefront to understand how these technologies will impact the future workplace and what we can do to facilitate learning.

We might not like these environment, we might think they are silly or even a passing fad, of course the same was said for television, computers and the Internet.
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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Design: En Media Res

Susan over at E-Learning Queen has a great post on the concept of “en media res” which, she explains, literally means “in-the-middle.”
…this technique is employed in almost all programs designed for television, as well as a significant percentage of feature-length films. It's a familiar technique: the viewer is catapulted immediately right into the middle of the action, usually a dramatic pivotal moment upon which the rest of the plot is constructed

The idea, used in television and movies is to drop the viewer (or in our case, the learner) into the middle of the situation and allow him or her to then determine what is going on before the plot or lesson is being explained. The learner is placed into the context of the learning situation immediately. If we tie this to an on-the-job situation, we immediately place the learner on the job so he or she can be in the exact context in which we want them to apply the learning.

This is a great technique and one that should replace, in a large part, the habit of beginning every online learning module with a list of objectives. In instructional design terms, it is a lot like Gagne’s idea of gaining attention. But this just doesn’t gain the attention; it puts the learner in the context of the learning event.

This also appeals to the constructivist idea of having the learner create meaning. In the beginning of an en media res event, the learner must create his or her own meaning of the event, use his or her background to understand what is going on and then orient to the situation. Think of all the cognitive processing that a learner would be required to do if they were, indeed, dropped into the middle of a critical event like preparing a workbench for a new work process or removing a die from a machine or were dropped into the middle of a doctor’s office.

Coincidently, I was recently reviewing some instruction created by a client of mine and noticed that the couple of online courses that started with a semi en media res were much more engaging to me than ones that started with a more traditional approach. As a person designing engaging lessons or even engaging simulations for your learners, I suggest you try this technique and check out Susan’s post Learning with Audio: Lessons from Television-Monk, House, MD and NCIS (Be forewarned, however, she left out my favorite CSI.)


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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Manage: E-Learning Project Elements that Need Managed

If you are going to manage an e-learning project, you must manage the following elements.

Scope: This includes proper identification of the tasks that need to be accomplished for the project. It should also take into consideration what happens when the scope of the project changes (it will change).

Quality: Your client (internal or external) must feel that you are providing a high quality product. This can be at the product level (no bugs) at the navigation level (easy to navigate good usability), at the educational level (teaches what needs to be taught) and at the performance level (actually impacts behavior of learner) and ultimately business impact (project must positively impact organization or...don't do it.)

Instructional Design: The Instructional Systems Design (ISD) process is a methodology for developing instruction. Following a methodology ensures that your resulting instruction is engaging, effective and instructionally sound. Not everyone understands the ISD process or sees its value. So you must manage this process so it adds value and contributes to the effectiveness of the instruction being created.

Time: This involves determining the amount of time it takes to perform each task as well as determining the overall time required to complete the project. The time allocated for each task must be feasible and within industry norms.

Cost: This is the price for the project. The price must stay within budget, but must be high enough so that the e-learning can be created properly.

Human Resources (people): The team assigned to the project must be capable of actually performing the work. You must also be careful not to overwork the team or stretch them too far. We like to think we can always work better, faster, cheaper but that is not always the case.

Technology: This area is constantly changing you must consider revisions to the software, updates to browsers and other areas where technology can change.

Communications: Communication protocols both formal and informal should be established. The better the communication among team members and clients, the better the project.

Risk: All projects have risks, some are internal and some are external. It is important to let everyone know that the risks are understood and that you have some contingency plans for those risks.

WOW! Management: Tom Peters, that maven of management, writes that every project should also have a WOW factor. If the project doesn’t make someone sit up and take notice, then it is not worth the effort. He preaches that mediocre successes are far worse than spectacular failures. Don’t forget a little WOW!
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Out and About: Discussion on Educational Schools of Thought

The great thing about blogs is that even though it seems like two people are having a discussion, others can join in. As Stephen Downes and I have been exchanging talking points about the various schools of educational thought, Bill Kerr has added a number of ideas and insights to the discussion as well and then took it one step further and created a summary on the discussion called _isms as filter, not blinker. It is a good post and I suggest you take a look.

Bill Kerr then added his own insights and a comment that I find resonates with me:
It seems to me that each _ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete or stand alone in their own right
I couldn’t agree more. We need to take pieces from each school of thought and apply it effectively because…Cognitivism doesn’t explain 100% how humans process information and neither does Constructivism or Behaviorism. What we need to is take the best from each philosophy and use it wisely to create solid educational experiences for our learners.

So the next question you ask is “What is the best, how do we know what makes sense or what doesn’t?” I suggest that lower level learning (lower cognitive load) requires a behaviorist approach (memorize, recognizing, labeling) as does the expectation of outcomes that must be measured. I then suggest that procedural and rule-based learning requires an emphasis on Cognitivism and finally, problem-solving, collaboration and creativity require a view of Constructivism.

The issue many forget is that “learning” is not one thing…it is a multi-layered word that tends to get treated as if it were just one thing…and it’s not. It is multi-facetted and that is why developing new models for “learning” is so difficult…there are too many levels for one school of thought or one model to do it all.
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Definition: Constructivism

In contrast to the concept of the human brain as merely an information-processing center, the educational philosophy of Constructivism was born. (Apparently Stephen Downes—see his post on the topic-- is not the only person who had a problem with the concept of the mind being like a computer and working in an “information processing” only fashion.

Thus Constructivism is the idea that learners construct their own knowledge. The concept emerged because some educators and others were concerned that students were learning isolated, decontextualized skills and information and, therefore, students were unable to apply what they had learned or their proceduralized skills to situations outside of the classroom.

The Constructivist school of thought attempts to link learning with situational variables such as, emotions, environment, social status and anticipated consequences. The idea is that designers and teachers cannot teach anyone, they can only present information and then the learner creates his or her own meanings or constructs.

This could explain why something like Second Life which is literally a constructivistic paradise is so popular…people are literally constructing their own meanings, contexts and situations. This concept of constructivism may also be the missing link Mark Oehlert is wondering about when he asks
"what is the requirement?" - "what does this do differently or better than what has come before?" Kept running through my head. One answer to the former question is...there is no requirement. No requirement you can pin an ROI to. No requirement you can justify to a boardroom. Really - at this point there isn't - so stop looking.
In his post Thinking Out Loud on a Post about Second Life. Since Second Life allow you to construct nearly everything in your environment and then interact with environments created by others who have, in turn, constructed their own meanings.

Constructivism supports the idea of discovery learning which was proposed at least as early as John Dewey if not earlier. Learners discover what they need to know and then build their knowledge base through their own bias and context. This, of course, means that the instructional designer is forced to create an environment for the learner to discover learning rather than a specific step-by-step lesson.

For more information and links to Constructivism sources, you can visit a page created by the School of Education the University of Colorado at Denver
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Out and About: Which Superheros are my Sons?

So once I took the quiz, we got both boys involved in the quest to see who was whom among superheros. So...continuing with the "Which Superhero are You Quiz" (see below)my youngest son is Ironman.

His attributes are Inventor. Businessman. Genius. I think it pretty much fits him. He is curious, has a good head for numbers and constantly amazes me with how smart he is (no bias of course)

My oldest son is The Flash. It says that he is Fast, Athletic and Flirtatious. He does run cross-country and he does like all kinds of sports. But what has me worried is the Flitratious. He is just about 13 and certainly has girls on his radar. HMMM, I'd better keep and eye on the Flash.

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Out and About: Which Superhero am I?



Ok, so I couldn't resist taking the "Which Superhero am I Quiz".

We got the PS 3 for Christmas and my boys (and me)have been playing the Marvel Ultimate Alliance game constantly...so a superhero theme is running rampant through out our home at the moment. (I know DC and Marvel are rivals but to me a superhero is a superhero)

I took the quiz and it turns out I am The Green Lantern with the statement: Hot-headed. You have strong will power and a good imagination

Of course I agree with the will power and imagination part, not sure about hot-headed? But he does have that cool ring that conjures up all kinds of neat gadgets and gizmos. Also, there are a number of Green Lanterns all through the galaxy so I like the idea of team work and collaboration that the GL represents. I also like the idea of him having a lantern and leading the way for others...sort of what I try to do with my writing, scholarship, teaching and blogging. Also, he was the first superhero with a family.

You can learn more about the Green Lantern and, I guess, me at the Green Lantern Wikipedia entry.

My second place was Superman and my third was Spiderman. Batman showed up last so I guess, even though I like gadgets, I am not dark enough to be the dark night.

Anyway, a lot of fun. Check it out

Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...


This is the Green Lantern (aka Karl Kapp)signing out:

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