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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Guilty of Overhyping Tech?? Come Back to Earth

Ok, so sometimes I may hype a new technology because I think it is cool or because it looks neat and well...what looks neat might not be so practical. Therefore, every once in a while, it is good to come back to Earth. So I got a big kick out of the posting by Jacob Nielsen called Usability in the Movies -- Top 10 Bloopers

My favorites are:

The Hero Can Immediately Use Any UI

Break into a company -- possibly in a foreign country or on an alien planet -- and step up to the computer. How long does it take you to figure out the UI and use the new applications for the first time? Less than a minute if you're a movie star.

The fact that all user interfaces are walk-up-and-use is probably the single most unrealistic aspect of how movies depict computers. In reality, we know all too well that even the smartest users have plenty of problems using even the best designs, let alone the degraded usability typically found in in-house MIS systems or industrial control rooms.
To that I say...yeah but that's what we try to teach our students to do.

And, hey Will Smith did crash the alien ship in Independance Day...he had some moving from Director to Flash.

The 3D UI

In Minority Report, the characters operate a complex information space by gesturing wildly in the space in front of their screens... Gestures do have their place, but not as the primary user interface for office systems
But it just looks so damn cool!

"This is Unix, It's Easy"

In the film Jurassic Park, a 12-year-old girl has to use the park's security system to keep everyone from being eaten by dinosaurs. She walks up to the control terminal and utters the immortal words, "This is a Unix system. I know this." And proceeds to (temporarily) save the day.
Having started my career using a Sun Solaris Operating system, I struggled through many chmod, lprm and kill commands...I was a lot older than 12 and still had trouble. That is until one of the techies told me to do a rm*.* at the root directory...that fixed everything:) It even helped me to get a new job.

The entire list is great. Check it out.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Good Use for Technology

I think this is a great image. Hope you get a kick out of it as much as I do.


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Request for input on Definition

I am attempting to define the term "3D Synchronous Learning Environment"

Here is what I have so far:

Being immersed into a 3D environment as an avatar for the purpose of learning while being guided by another person who, in the form of an avatar, is providing instructions and/or guidance.
Please comment, critque, add/change or modify. Any input you can provide will be helpful. Use the comment function below (you know how this works).


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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Does Your Organization Allow Trial and Error

Organizations (corporate and academic) need to encourage trial and error. Trial and error is how break-through innovations are created and the way many of the gamer generation have been taught to learn.

Gamers are used to making a mistake or failing, but they don't see this as a major problem. They call the concept "failing forward fast." This means that they gain incremental knowledge through repeated failure. A mistake in a video game is not the end, it is just another chance to figure out the problem and try something else. And a really BIG mistake is just a chance to play the entire game over again.

Consequentially, it is important that gamers have an opportunity to try out new ideas and concepts in working and learning environments. They should be encouraged to try various ideas, approaches and techniques to see what happens.

Organizations, teachers and managers should not view failure as an absolute. In fact, encouraging trial and error encourages entrepreneurial activities (and every successful entrepreneur has at least one story of failure.) Organizations that embrace the gamers' experience in overcoming failure will be successful.

Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Friday, May 25, 2007

Understanding Virtual Worlds Articles and Links

Here is a link to an article I wrote called Defining and Understanding Virtual Worlds for ASTD's Learning Circuits.

And here is a good companion piece if you haven't read it already, check out Another Life: Virtual Worlds as Tools for Learning at eLearn Magazine.

One of the authors of that article is Tony O'Driscoll who I am workign wth on an article about 3D synchronous learning environments for the E-Learning Guild.

Tony has a great concept called "The Seven Sensibilities of 3D Spaces." Read his post Virtual Worlds Going Mainstream.

Here is a snap shot of me and Tony discussing our article at IBM's location in Second Life.


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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Testing: Not a Reliable Predictor of Future Success

I see more and more organizations (schools and corporations) reaching toward "tests" as the answer for effectively screening employees and determing success. I think tests (assessments) are an inaccurate and artifical way of measuring competence. Actually, some of the best students I have had did not do well on tests but they were creative, entergetic and full of great ideas, not to mention hard working. They just weren't good on tests.

However, as a nation we are moving toward tests and assessments as a validation of knowledge and future potential...not good.

Here is an excerpt from Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning on the topic of tests. Based on a true story, it explains that tests don't always work.
I was getting desperate for some money the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college. I couldn't find a job anywhere. Rent was due, no food in the fridge, It was bad. I even considered canceling my cable subscription. Finally I learned of an opening for a cashier at a branch of a national drug store chain. It was my last resort.

Securing the position was not easy. The interview process was intense. It involved a battery of tests; psychological, drug, and mathematical. I did satisfactorily on all three and was hired. Finally, I had a job. It lasted three days.

The first day, after the end of my shift, the amount of money in my drawer compared to the amount indicated by the register tape was off by five cents. Not bad for a beginner. The second day it was $2.50 and the third day it was closer to $5.00. I left voluntarily.

The problem…doing math under pressure. Sure I could do the math on a paper and pencil test when I didn’t have fifteen people in line waiting to buy lottery tickets and tooth paste without exact change. But calculating change in a pressure situation… I got flustered and gave the wrong amount. Some people would tell me and some people would keep the extra change—so much for the math and psychology tests.
So when people tell me tests are the answer to increasing performance and productivity and that they are necessary to "measure" learning...forgive me if I snicker just a little.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Accidental Learning and the Power of Stories

So today I am all ready to write a blog entry based on an article,"Why is Work Looking More Like a Video Game?" in the online version of the NY Times but then a link over on the side catches my attention. I click and am highly interested.

The link is to an article titled This is Your Life (and How You Tell It). The article describes how psychologists are starting to research how people tell their life stories as a method of gaining insight into the personalities of people.

The article notes that:
Researchers have found that the human brain has a natural affinity for narrative construction. People tend to remember facts more accurately if they encounter them in a story rather than in a list, studies find; and they rate legal arguments as more convincing when built into narrative tales rather than on legal precedent.
So, yet another arguement for including narratives in all types of learning events.

But what I thought was also interesting was when the article discussed research involving how people replayed events in their lives.
Psychologists have shown just how interpretations of memories can alter future behavior. In an experiment published in 2005, researchers had college students who described themselves as socially awkward in high school recall one of their most embarrassing moments. Half of the students reimagined the humiliation in the first person, and the other half pictured it in the third person.

Two clear differences emerged. Those who replayed the scene in the third person rated themselves as having changed significantly since high school — much more so than the first-person group did. The third-person perspective allowed people to reflect on the meaning of their social miscues, the authors suggest, and thus to perceive more psychological growth.

And their behavior changed, too...a subsequent experiment showed that members of the third-person group were much more sociable than the others. “They were more likely to initiate a conversation, after having perceived themselves as more changed,” said Lisa Libby, the lead author and a psychologist at Ohio State University.

Dr. Libby and others have found that projecting future actions in the third person may also affect what people later do, as well. In another study, students who pictured themselves voting for president in the 2004 election, from a third-person perspective, were more likely to actually go to the polls than those imagining themselves casting votes in the first person.

Think of the implications for learning. Can we get our learners to think in third-person when dealing with leadership or communication issues and can we get them to visualize future activities in the positive so they exhibit the desired behavior?

Maybe at the end of a safety class, we should require the learners to visualize being safe in third person. In a leadership class, ask the learners to visualize a time when they were not good leaders in third-person and have them replay the event and then deconstruct it so they can objectively see what behaviors need to change.

You could do the same thing with new trainers or teachers. This would be a great technique with teenagers as well.

I think this also helps make an arguement that third-person simulations or game environments might be a more effective learning tools than first-person envrionments.

Intersting article and it shows the power of the web as I found the article completely by accident just by clicking on an a link that caught my attention. The power of informal and accidental learning.

Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Content Guide

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Knowledge Summit

This year at EduNeering's Knowledge Summit (a private educational forum for EduNeering's clients), I had the opportunity and privilege to co-present with Scot Osterweil on the topic of games for learning. It was a lot of fun.

Scot is the project manager for MITs the Education Arcade and is currently running "Learning Games to Go," a federally funded project designed to develop mobile games that teach math and literacy to underserved youth.

He presented on the concept of the four freedoms of play which are:
  • Freedom to Experiment
  • Freedom to Fail
  • Freedom to Try on Identities
  • Freedom of Effort
He also gave one of the highest ranking presentations at the Serious Games Summit. He is a great thinker about games and has some really interesting ideas on how to design a game for educational purposes.

I presented on the topic of integrating games into a corporate setting and how educational games can enhance compliance training.

It was fun and interesting to speak along side Scot. We share many of the same ideas and concepts about games, play and education.

Here is a short video clip of Scot speaking on the topic of the four freedoms of play. It is not footage from the Summit but he is covering the same topic in this clip.


Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Sunday, May 20, 2007

My New Training Magazine Online Column

Over at the ManageSmarter site, I've started writing a column called Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning. The first installment is titled Defining (or Redefining) a Gamer.

It is part of Training Magazine's efforts to provide more web-only content.

Let me know what you think.

Running an online background check on a babysitter is one way in which doing a background check is legitmate not just for a business but for personal use as well. To help do that there are websites online where you can search for people, generally called something like a people search engine.

Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Parts of the Stove: Simple Tools for Effective E-Learning

Here is a short "e-learning program" I developed called Parts of the Stove. The purpose was to show how you can use a digital camera, PowerPoint animation and a tool like Adobe's Breeze (which now has another name.) It is a little old but still shows the power of such tools.

You can see that with just a few simple techniques and animations you could create instruction on your equipment or machines and have an instructive piece built with no knowledge of complex programming tools. Knowledge of PowerPoint and how to use a digital camera and a photo editing software package as well as a PowerPoint to e-learning tool.

The overall presentation is a little crude in some respects but is meant merely as a demonstration of possibilities.

Disclaimer: I don't have any vested interest or financial interest in the Adobe Breeze product, it is just the tool for which I have access. Articulate can do the same job as well as others. In fact, I recently saw the Articulate Engage program for which I was impressed.)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TrainingDay Post: Musings About PowerPoint

This week over at TrainingDay blog, my post is titled PowerPoint Musings.

I think PowerPoint is a ying/yang thing. You need to approach it as a balance between content, ideas, bullet points and interaction with the learners.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Graduation Speech

Bloomsburg University Students in Line to Receive Diplomas.

At Bloomsburg University, the commencement address is provided by a member of the faculty instead of hiring an outside speaker. This means the presentation is more focused on Bloomsburg and the faculty member is someone that many of the students know.

This year, I had the honor of speaking at the morning ceremony to the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Technology. I spoke to over 500 graduates and twice as many parents, friends and relatives.

Here is the transcript of my speech.

Thank you.

First of all I would like to extend my greeting to the parents, friends and relatives of the graduates. You should all be very proud. I am honored to be here today.

To the graduates, you are graduating at a time of unprecedented technological advances. Research is finding cures for diseases. Laboratories are creating products to improve our daily lives and the Internet has changed everything from how we shop to how we consume media. (In fact, I think I have seen a couple of you in a video on YouTube with Green Day or something like that.)

Today, I want to talk to you about a technology that impacts your daily lives, a technology that many of you have embraced and continue to embrace.

That technology is video games…that’s right, video games.
  • How many of you graduates have played a video game?
  • How many of you have played a video game to relieve stress?
  • How many of you have played a video game when you were supposed to be studying?
As 2007 college graduates you are truly products of the video game age just as your baby boomer parents were products of the televisions age. In fact, last December I was standing in Rongos behind two students and one student said to the other, what are you asking your parents for this Christmas. The student said, “I’m letting them off easy this year, I’m only asking for three things.”

“Three things”, the other answers…”what are they?” He said, “a PlayStation 3, a Nintendo Wii and an Xbox 360.” The other student said, “Yeah, me too.”

At any given moment over 1.6 million people are playing a video game. Some claim that the video game industry is bigger then even Hollywood.

Many of the graduates in this audience were born in 1985, not coincidentally, the same year as the Nintendo Entertainment System, the puzzle game Tetras and the fun and quirky game Dig Dug and the same year “Where in the World is Carman Sandiego" hit schools across the country [Speakers note: This got a huge round of applause.]

As you have grown from the terrible twos into brooding teenagers and finally into fine young men and women, video games have grown from the early beginnings of Pong into games with more sophisticated graphics, content and interactions among players. Today, video games are everywhere. In fact many of you have video games on your cell phones…If I am not mistaken; I think some of you are playing a video game right now on your cell phone. Or maybe you are just texting your friends about where to meet after graduation. Tell them ttyl and focus up here. [Speaker's note: I actually said tyyl and then the graduates shouted out it’s ttyl and I said, “See I continuously learn from my students."]

As children of the video game age, you have grown playing games like Civilization, Super Mario Brothers, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Halo and Halo2 as well as the game The Sims.

Fortunately and unknowingly, these electronic games, regardless of their content have taught you many valuable lessons.

In the next few moments I want to share those lessons with you and your parents who are, by now, shaking their heads in disbelief. The lessons you learned playing video games will serve you well in the future and I implore you to apply these lessons as you move through life.

First, video games teach that failure and disappointment are opportunities for learning and growth. They teach you to be resilient. Let me give you an example from some of the rigorous, scientific research I did for my book. One day in my basement my wife and two boys were playing a video game based on the movie, the Incredibles…you know with Mr Fantastic, his wife stretch, and his invisible daughter and the little boy Dash. At this point in the game we were controlling Dash who was running around a tree and down a path. My wife picked up the controller and proceeded to run Dash directly into the tree. She tried again and ran Dash directly into the tree again with out veering. She did this 15 times and on the 16th time, she got around the tree and down the path.

How can you not learn to be resilient when a video game gives you multiple chances to try the same thing over and over again until you get it right. Video games teach you that if you work hard enough, you will learn the skill, technique or knowledge you are seeking.

As a video game player you must use every mistake or set back as an opportunity to get it right on the next try. And, when you do…that success gives you confidence to try an even more difficult task which in turn encourages you to try an even more difficulty task. The act of succeeding at difficult tasks is highly motivational.

As anyone can tell you, mistakes are inevitable. It is how you handle them that make the difference. View every mistake, set back and failure as a chance to learn, improve and move on. Do not dwell on mistakes.

Next, video games teach you to problem solve. Every time you pick up a controller, you are confronted with a problem. Much of the time spent in the game requires to you work through mazes, solve puzzles find objects and figure out what your Sim character really wants when its says “rello, rah rah, raha rah.” And to find clues. When you are confronted with a problem in the video game, you must break the problem in to its elements, reconstruct those elements and put them back together again to win.

You will be confronted with all kinds of problems in life. The first is how to get out of the parking lot after graduation. But you will also be confronted with problems like “how to pay the rent?” or which job to take or where to live. People will also confront you with problems, from your boss, relatives, co-workers and maybe even the IRS. Some problems you will need to solve independently but other problems you will need to solve in a group or a team. Be a person who solves problems.

Third, and this might be counter intuitive but video games to you how to cooperate and work in teams. There are even games specifically designed to teach you to work in teams. These are called Massively Multiplayer Online Role-play games or MMORPGs (there will be a quiz afterward). These games require team work and cooperation. Each person is assigned a specific role and they must accomplish that role. Life is similar

Let’s look at how you play a game in your dorm or apartment. You get a group of friends together and decide the best trade off the controllers, you might say to one friend, “Hey I know you are good at driving so you do that level and I’m good at solving puzzles so I will do that level.”

In life you must work on teams and joining with people that shore up your weaknesses and magnify your strengths. Be a team player

Finally games teach you to be life long learners. Well made video games require you to take knowledge from one level and apply it to the next. Life is the same way. Be a life long learner.

Know that Bloomsburg university has prepared you to move to progressively more difficult levels in your life.

Today, you complete the college level but don’t put down that controller yet, tomorrow you move to the next level. For some of you it may be the “graduate school Level” for some it is the “undecided level” (and as an aside if you are undecided Bloomsburg has a great masters’ program in instructional technology you may want to consider, the professors are a little quirky but) for others it maybe the “Professional Level” or the “Premed Level” for other still it might be the “move back home level” (this hopefully is a short level)

But regardless of what level, know that Bloomsburg university, actually more than video games has taught you to be resilient, a problem solver, to work cooperatively and to become life long learners. Those lessons will help you to be successful

And finally remember, today is not “Game over” instead, its “Congratulations, you’ve made it to the next level!”
It was an honor to speak and I really enjoyed the graduates. I hope they had as much fun listening to the speech as I did presenting it.

Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Content Guide

Friday, May 11, 2007

Out and About: Presentation at ASTD Mid-NJ Chapter

Here is a picture of the great folks from the ASTD Mid-NJ chapter. The photo is taken from the presenter's perspective.
Last night I had the pleasure of speaking to the Mid-NJ Chapter of ASTD on one of my favorite topics “Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning.”

It was a great event. I got to see a former students, CAC members, meet people whom I’d only spoken to on the phone and got to meet again Steve Woodruff whom I met at SPBT last year and with whom I’ve corresponed a number of times. Actually, Steve arranged to have me speak at the meeting.

The audience asked great questions, made good points and made me think about some of the assumptions in my presentation…a great success all the way around.

You can link to a write up on the even from the Mid-MJ ASTD blog at an entry calledTraining the Gamer Generation

You can read Steve’s impressions of the events on his Impactiviti blog with an entry of the same name called Training the Gamer Generation

Several attendees asked about downloading the sides from the presentation. You can download the Games, Gadgets, and Gizmos: Transferring Knowledge from Boomers to Gamers slides here.

If you attended the event, please drop a note or comment. It would be great to have you contribute to this blog.

Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Learning Circuits Big Question: Avoiding Death by PowerPoint

This month the Learning Circuits Blog Big Question is about PowerPoint.

The question: PowerPoint: What is Appropriate? When and Why?

I decided to create a demonstration showing good and bad uses of PowerPoint to make a particular point.

You can watch the short presentation (less than 10 minutes) by clicking on this link to the presentation Avoiding Death by PowerPoint. The presentation shows animated examples and how I converted some traditional slides into slides that are much more effective.

I thought with a subject like PowerPoint...visuals were a must.

Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Content Guide

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

CAC Digest: 2007 Event

Twice every year our Department of Instructional Technology holds its capstone event. Our Corporate Advisory Council Event. Alumni and professionals from the field return to the Bloomsburg Campus to participate in the event. The first day of the event is when Corporations show off what they are doing in terms of learning and e-learning to each other and to the students (who are all potential employees).

On the following day, the tables are turned and the students present their solution to a mock e-learning RFP.

The final day consists of a business/curriculum meeting between the staff of the department and the corporate professionals, a chance for students to interview with companies and always a great "trends in the industry" presentation by our own Helmut Doll.

Here is a link to the assignment and subsequent student proposals. Remember these are all students who created these documents.

Here is a digest of the CAC links, both in the blog and on alumni blogs (a first), of the 2007 event.

If I missed any alumni blogs, please let me know, I'll be glad to add. This event is held every November and April and is a great place to look for potential employees and to learn about the field. It is open to the public so let me know if you are interested.

Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

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.


Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Monday, May 07, 2007

TrainingDay Post: Combine Simple Games and Information

This week over at TrainingDay blog, my post is titled Combine Simple Games and Information.

Why not create distracting "casual games" that also educate customers or employees. Why do all the learning games have to be "serious." Let's make learning games fun and learning more "accidental" than forced. Perhaps less focus on Immersive Learning Simulations and more focus on fun and games. Fun is motivational and engaging.

Also, thanks to Bart at Virtual Learning Worlds for leading me to the game I posted about on TrainingDay.

Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Friday, May 04, 2007

MP3s for Everyone

I have been having a “technology in schools discussion” with one of my readers who mentioned that it is too expensive to place electronic gadgets like MP3 players or iPods in schools and since every student can’t have one, we shouldn’t use these gadgets.

As he states
Many schools ARE attempting to integrate new technology, but really, most can't afford the newest technology. You can't integrate cell phones or media players or PDAs into the curriculum UNLESS EVERYONE HAS ONE. Otherwise it is just an unfair advantage to those who do.

I don’t buy the too expensive argument. At all. Instead, it is a matter of priorities.

I think schools can afford MP3 players if they are clever about it. I did some pricing of textbooks.
  • Physical Science book for 6th grade $63.97
  • Mathematics book for grades 6-8 $52.47
  • Spelling book for 7th grade $16.95 (consumable)
  • American History for 7th grade $67.47
  • Reading book for 6th grade $47.97
Total text books: $248.83

You can purchase one Phillips 30GB Player player for $159.00 (retail price no educational discount) that can fit most, if not all of the information from those text books. Additionally, the Sony player allows for displaying JPEG image slide shows on the 2-inch color LCD. Replacing only three of the more expensive books in the list of textbooks would more than pay for the MP3 player.

The player could be issued every semester just like books. The Sony MP3 player could be bar coded and tracked if you are worried about them being stolen. So the cost of using a MP3 Player with images is comparable if not MORE cost effective than textbooks.

Why more cost effective? Because the school district could update them every year without having to purchase a complete new set of textbooks. Just upload the new content. Also, teachers could customize the content on the MP3 player by creating their own MP3 files. So schools would gain customizable, updateable content containers for a price equal or less than the price of textbooks. Plus they are more portable and many kids (but not all) already have portable MP3 players. These would just be for the kids who didn’t have them.

As an added benefit, a student could carry with him or her, every book that they needed for every class. This would enable schools to cut down on time between classes because students would not need to go to their locker between classes because all the content would be on the 30GB MP3 player. More time for education.

But we can’t do away with textbooks, you may say.
Ok, let’s look at what schools are spending on other items. Like football uniforms (the same schools that ‘can’t afford’ MP3 players for all the students.)

Again, I did some pricing:
  • Youth football Jersey $28.50
  • Youth football helmut $89.99
  • Shoulder Pads $37.99
  • Youth Football Pants 25.90
  • Protective Mouth piece 14.99
  • 7 Piece pad set 14.99
Total = $212.35

For less than the price of a football uniform, students could be equipped with MP3 players. Schools find money for textbooks and football uniforms, yet they can’t find the money for MP3 players?

Integrating technology into schools is not an issue of affordability, it is an issue of priority.


Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Learning Through Reality-based Video Games

Here are three reality-based video games...what can they teach us about creating effective learning events?

Over at Tony Karrer's eLearning Technology, he has an entry titled Learning from Sports Games where he writes how a video game (MVP Baseball) has helped his son learn the rules of baseball.

My son has been playing MLB '07 The Show, a similar baseball game, and one thing that struck me was that in the tutorial section, the player is put into a number of game situations where he must bat and field. The situation is specific to the player. So, my son plays first base, every once in the while, he is in the field and the ball is hit to the first baseman so he practices what he needs to do. The ball isn't hit to center field or the pitcher. It is hit to where my son can get specific practice.

Situated practice for an actual situation. Great use of video games for learning. In fact, as my son moves through the Spring Training the system has the following message:

"Fast forwarding to your career player's next event." Now that would be a great learning strategy.

As developers and designers of learning events, we should have our learner "fast forward" to specific tasks they need to complete to be successful on the job and then provide specific, guided practice to them in a virtual environment.

In Tony's post, he refers to a blog entry by Tom Crawford called Rules of the Game. In that entry, Tom talks about how the football sensation Amobi Okoye learned to play American Football.

As Tom states:
When Amobi came to school in the U.S. he had apparently never heard of (or at least certainly never played) American football when an assistant coach encouraged him to try out. While he had the physical abilities, he didn't understand the rules of the game. So what did the coach do? Gave him Madden Football (a very popular video game series from Electronic Arts) and told him to go play.

Amobi's coach is not the only one to use this tactic. In fact the great coach Joe Paterno has been using this trick as well (as reported in a 2005 issue of Sports Illustrated). I wrote about it in Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning

Joe Paterno has been coaching the Penn State football team for over forty years. One trick he has adopted is providing his quarterbacks and receivers with copies of the Penn State Playbook on PlayStation 2 memory card. The players put the card in to the game Madden 2006 and practice plays and run routes virtually. This allows them to be better prepared to run routes and make moves during practices and on game day.

In a similar vain, doctors at the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego use the racing game Midtown Madness to treat patients who have a fear of driving after traumatic car accidents.

On the medical front, a colleague of mine told me he invited a friend who was a surgeon over for dinner one night and was explaining to him about his new Nintendo Wii system and, almost embarrassingly mentioned that he had a game that mimicked surgery called "Trauma Center." Once the surgeon started playing the game, they couldn't get him to eat dinner...he was hooked. He really enjoyed the similarities to actual surgery.

And studies show that surgeons who play video games three hours a week decrease mistakes by 37 percent in laparoscopic surgery and perform the task 27 percent faster than their counterparts who do not play video, you want your surgeons to play games.

Tom Crawford also writes "It makes me wonder what commercial-off-the-shelf games we could be using to help our employees understand the rules of the game."

Interestingly a multiplayer on-line game might just do that for people trying to learn business from a macro-level. You chose a company name, an industry and start producing products but you also have to worry about competitors and other players who will try to out produce you and steal your marketshare. You can borrow money, open additional businesses and try to climb to the top of your industry against others trying to do the same thing. The game is called Industry Player Business Simulation Game.

I like the idea that you compete against others just like actual businesses. You get animated employees to help you make decisions and move along through the process.

Video games have a lot to teach us about how to create effective learning...use the rules and parameters of actual situations to challenge the learner to perform actual tasks in virtual situations. Give the learner "game situations" in which the learner must apply specific knowledge to a specific situation. Use the parameters of actual situations to provide guidance and instruction to learners. Find a video game that contains concepts you want to teach and give it to your learners.


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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Disastrous E-Learning Might Be Good

This week over at TrainingDay blog, my post is titled Disastrous E-Learning Might Be Good

When you consider how to change the behavior of learners, you might want to take a page from the Hollywood disaster movies and add that flair to your e-learning.

-Also, don't forget, you can win a book if you leave a comment on the TrainingDay blog...unfortunately, it's not my book (yet).

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Video iPod Comes to Your Glasses

Let's continue the iPod discussion. While schools are banning iPods as fast as they can (see Hire that Kid!), several companies I work with have placed Standard Work Instructions onto iPods. Actually onto video iPods.

The idea is that a worker, away from his or her computer, can quickly look up a specific work task and view a 30 second video of how to perform that task. The Just-In-Time learning allows the worker to see what he or she needs to do and then perform the task.

If you have ever tried to interpert written instructions, you know just how valuable a short video can be for helping to understand exactly what you are supposed to do. A video can show how parts work together or the correct way to move an item from point A to point B.

In fact, my son's Karate instructor uses that exact same technique to refresh his memory of Katas. A Kata is a sequence of moves, kicking, punching, dodging. So, my son's Karate instructor has 100s of Katas loaded onto a hand held video player which he keeps in his pocket. When he want to remember the exact sequence of the Kata, he pulls it out and reviews it. He then teaches the moves to the students.

In this case, he uses the video player to refresh his memory and to enhance his instruction.

In Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning, I write about the use of Visual Job Aids on a portable video player created by a company called EduNeering. Here is some of the passage.

In a recent study at a client organization, one hundred workers in a pharamceutical manufacturing facility needed to learn a new procedure. Fifty of them were given the typcial paper version of the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), and fifty were given the Visual Job Aid version. In a writen test of SOP knowledge, only 42% of those who received the paper SOP passed the test, while 82 percent of those who learened using the Visual Job Aid passed.

Now take that video iPod to the next level and create glasses that allow you to view the video heads-up. This is what a company called MyVu has done.

They have created glasses that you hook up to a video iPod and then can see a "large screen" version right in front of you. Imagine a few modifications to create a heads-up display of a piece of machinary and then provide video-based instructions on how to repair the equipment or make adjustments. Think of the learning implications of the use of a heads up video display powered by a pocket sized iPod...schools will go nuts.

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