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Friday, May 30, 2008

Games and Learner Assessment

Here is an interesting article titled Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games. The article outlines some good ideas for integrating assessments into games and why simply sticking a multiple choice question into an otherwise "cool" game doesn't make it an educational game or even fun.

Because computers can quickly and accurately grade [Multiple Choice Questions] MCQs, those types of questions have become the foundation of almost all modern testing. This makes MCQs the obvious first choice, and often the easiest choice, for assessment in serious games.

MCQs are not always the best choice, though. While MCQs can accurately gauge memorization and retention of a set of facts, they are hardly the best way to gauge whether the student is following a process correctly. This is a notable shortcoming because some disciplines, such as advanced math, are more about the processes used to reach the answer and less about the answer itself. Multiple choice math tests can only provide a list of possible answers and have no easy mechanism for determining whether the student figured the answer out properly or merely guessed well.

Instead of multple choice, here are a few alternatives:
  • Completion Assessment -Did the player complete the level in the game? How long did it take? How many attempts? Was it the preferred path?
  • In-Process Assessment - How did the player choose his or her actions? Did he or she change their mind? If so, at what point? What was the motivation behind the choice? Was it congruent with other decisions or did it appear to be a guess?
  • Point Assessment -Did the player score enough points to be considered successful? Did they score them in the right area?
These are just a few ways in which assessments can be re-considered and we can break out of the multiple choice assessment trap many e-learning modules seem to have fallen into. These suggestions also provide a way of creating authentic assessments in the context of educational games.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Music Distribution Model: Video Games

A new music distribution model has arrived (about time for the music industry) and it's called Rock Band. In fact according to an entry on Joystiq, the new Mötley Crüe single was downloaded on Rock Band five times more than on iTunes

Here are some interesting statistics courtesy of Reuters Canada's article Rock acts ringing up sales via video games
According to data provided by the band's management, Tenth Street Entertainment, the Mötley Crüe track was downloaded more than 47,000 times via the Xbox 360 version of the game in the first week after it became available....By comparison, the same track received slightly more than 10,000 downloads via digital services like iTunes and Amazon...a pretty big discrepancy considering that music bought via "Rock Band" can't be transferred to a portable music player or even a computer for later enjoyment. It can be played only via the game.

Allen Kovac, CEO of the band's management company Tenth Street, says, "the resurgence of rock has happened because of 'Rock Band' and 'Guitar Hero, and the reason is because of the interaction with the audience. The more music marketing people look at interaction with the audience as opposed to only radio or a video, the more lasting the experience will be and the longer the artists' career will be."

Interaction is the key to the new model of music distribution, people want to interact with information, music and ideas, they don't just want to passively listen...sound familiar?

I've written about this intesection of interaction and music before in Kapp Family World Tour and My Wife...Guitar Hero!

We should all take a page from Mötley Crüe (can't believe I just wrote that) and consider how we can make our content more interactive and less passive.

*Full Disclosure...see my musical tastes here. (scroll to bottom of entry)

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Creating Learning Spaces in Second Life

This morning I received an email message from, Fiona, who provided me with a really interesting link to 50 Tips and Tricks to Create a Learning Space in Second Life.

Actually, it is really a listing of great SL resources and ideas broken down by different categories such as:
  • Training Purposes--Employers and educators who want to train new hires or test their students can use Second Life in a number of ways.

  • Blogs and Websites--Turn to these blogs for tips, services and tools when setting up a learning space in Second Life.

  • Examples of Second Life in Education--Follow these real-life Second Life projects from Stanford, Harvard Law School and even a New York middle school to start your own studies or get students of all ages involved in Second Life.

  • More Tips and Ideas--From Campus: Second Life to designing your own planetarium to creating games for history class, this list features even more tips and fun ideas.

  • Resources--These tutorials and guides are designed especially for educators who want to create an effective learning space in Second Life.

  • Second Life Tools for Teaching--Learn how to create your own prims, make use of virtual camera tools and discover SL features to make the most of your virtual classroom.

  • Communication Tools--These teaching tools to help distance learning educators, college professors and other teachers communicate with students through Second Life more easily and effectively.

You may want to add this list to your favorite social bookmarking tool.

Thanks Fiona!

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Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Colleges Play Games

At an ever increasing pace, college curriculums are starting to pick up on "serious gaming" and the implications that games and game-like interfaces are having on just about everything and are creating classes and experiences that reflect the value of video games to learning and education.

Here are some quotes from an article in this weekend's Philadelphia Inquirer. I saw the article in the newspaper since long weekends are a chance to unwind and relax with good old fashion paper news but also, an alert blog reader, Jaff, sent me the electronic link to the article as well. So a shout out to Jaff! Thanks!

Here is the article Colleges see the future: Video games and here are some highlights.
More than 200 colleges and technical schools have a gaming-related study program of some sort, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Drexel, La Salle, and the University of the Arts all have them. At the University of Pennsylvania, you can even get a doctorate in a related field: the modeling and animation of human movement...

[in one game called Lazybrains] Aplayer assumes the role of Morby, a boy who has been transported to a dangerous fantasy world as punishment for lying on the couch all day and watching TV.

To escape, Morby has to battle various imaginary creatures and solve puzzles. While some involve using an old-fashioned computer keyboard, others simply require the player to concentrate really hard.

The device strapped to the player's forehead monitors brain activity - literally, the amount of oxygen coursing through his prefrontal cortex - by shining near-infrared light through his skull and measuring changes in the light's intensity.

It was developed by Drexel's biomedical engineers to monitor the brains of patients who are under anesthesia, but they were happy to lend it to their game-designing colleagues for a more light-hearted purpose. Ayaz, a Ph.D. biomed candidate, said he "lifted" the manhole cover in the game by imagining that he was pushing up a bar on the screen that measured his brain activity.

[And jobs?, yes, according to the article.] Indeed, jobs are available.
After designing a virtual theme-park ride that took people back to feudal Japan, one Drexel grad student was hired last year by Disney.
Stephen Lane, director of the master's program at Penn, said his students have gone to work for game-makers Electronic Arts and Activision, as well as the DreamWorks movie studio.

I've written before about controllers that use brain waves to manipulate objects on screen at Interface be Gone!

Also, check out video from Emotiv describing how their brain reading headset works.


Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
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Friday, May 23, 2008

Evoluation of Training/Teaching? Three Vignettes

Following are three different segments designed to get you thinking--over the long weekend here in the states--about the evolution of training/teaching or lack there of.

Number One:
Here is one man's interpretation: "Evolution of Dance."

(very funny)

Here is one man's interpretation: "Evolution of Training/Teaching"
(Thanks to Mike Qaissaunee)
(not so funny)

Number Two

This next one is quoted in Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning but I originally saw the quote in the Greentree Gazette
A professor from a college in Kentucky made an interesting observation. He noted that in “1913, it took 31 days to build an automobile and 16 weeks to teach Freshman English 101.” He goes on to say that with advances in technology and process improvements, it now takes only a day and a half to build an automobile, but it still takes 16 weeks to teach Freshman English 101 that is known as educational progress.

Number Three

This is a joke told by Tony O'Driscoll at the Advanced Learning Technologies Summit.

A mother and her daughter are touring colonial Williamsburg(which ironically has a web site.)

They walk into a room where a large loom is set up and an 18th century craftsman is dyeing textiles and weaving fabric. The girl turns to her mother and says, "what is this place and what is that man doing?" The mother carefully explains to her daughter the weaving process and how clothes were made in the 18th century and how modern factories now make clothes that she and her daughter can pick up at the local store.

They move on to the next building and encounter a foundry. Again the daughter asks, "what is this place and what are they doing?" The mother explains that this is a foundry and in the foundry the men melt brass and bronze and pour them into molds to form bells, coach and harness fittings, shoe buckles, sword hilts, furniture hardware, and many other things. She explains that in the late 1700's and early 1800's this hot, dangerous process was how metal objects were made.

The mother and daughter walk into the next building. The daughter gets very excited, "mommy, mommy, I know what this's a classroom."

Something to ponder.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

IBM Looks at Global Innovation

Recently, I got my hands on IBM's Global Innovation Outlook 2.0 report. You want to do the same.

In fact, you may want to check out a number of reports and ideas flowing at the IBM Innovation Web site.

But getting back to the Global Innovation Outlook 2.0 report. The report is well written and is fun and easy to read, it is written in the style and format of my favorite Tom Peters book Re-Imagine. So it is filled with images, quotes and statistics from a variety of sources all juxtaposed to provide punctuation points to the information they are providing.
Reading the report I was struck by a number of statistics and quotes which are splashed all over the pages and included in the margins.

Let me share a few with you that I thought were of particular interest:
  • "many organizations continue to seek innovation in the form of the latest gadget or gizmo...[however] innovation in the realm of business processes, business models, and even management or culture is as important, if not more so." Let's modify that quote to read " many organizations continue to seek learning innovations in the form of gadgets, games or gizmos, however, innovation in the realm of instructional processes, new instructional models and even cultural changes in the organization are as important, if not more so."
  • Number of people who work full-time at Wikipedia--2, number of registered contributors 36,000+.
  • 329,000+ is the number of people who work at IBM.
  • 724,000+ is the number of Americans for whom eBay is their primary or secondary source of income.
  • 100,000 is the number of people in China who earn their living playing massively multiplayer online games seven days a week.
The report also highlights issues of innovation in terms of the environment and in terms of transportation, two hot issues that are currently impacting every aspect of our lives no matter where we live.

Finally, the report indicates something many of us knew already but fail to practice. Innovation is a mindset and not a department, course or book. To constantly think about innovating products, processes and protocols is an element that no organization or even individual can ignore.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Typing of the Dead: Not for the Faint of Heart or Slow Typist

Learning to type can be boring (oh, sorry now its called "Keyboarding")...while killing zombies is generally considered fun many years ago after what must have been careful consideration and an examination of pedagogy, some one at Sega asked the question what if the two were combined? And the rest is, as they say, history.

The combination created many moons ago resulted in a fun and quirky game that is educational without a real emphasis on fact if you aren't careful you'll forget the game is reinforcing your typing (oh sorry) keyboarding skills. You are so engaged in the flow of the game, you forget it is designed to teach you a specific skill.
Type fast or die

Here is what the GameSpot review said of the game:

The Typing of the Dead is an offbeat first-person puzzle-action game for the PC that lets you fight hordes of gruesome zombies by quickly typing out words that appear onscreen....once you start playing, you'll be too busy frantically typing away at zombies to care about anything else. Every time an enemy appears onscreen, it's accompanied by a word or phrase that you must type in quickly and accurately to defeat it. This might not sound too interesting, but things can get very exciting when three or four angry zombies--each bearing a long, challenging phrase--suddenly leap out at you from all sides...The Typing of the Dead is an unusual game that might not have amazing graphics or sound, but its gameplay is unique and extremely fun.
So while the game is not really appropriate for school or even most work places, it is appropriate for reinforcing or developing your keyboarding skills without giving any thought to your keyboarding skills. Here is a brief video to give you a feel for the game.

And although the game is a bit dated, it is still fun, interesting and a great example of how a skill can be taught through a video game without the learner even thinking twice about the skill being taught.


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Second Life Created Virtual Documentary

Second Life and movies have had a history. In my post Second Life at the Movies, I discuss the possibility of a full-feature length movie being created in Second Life.

Well it has finally happened as a documentary. Filmmaker Douglas Gayeton has created a documentary-style film about an avatar's search for "the creator." In the documentary, the avatar known as Molotov Alva searchers for meaning by searching for the creator and along the way meets some really interesting avatars.

Molotov Alva turns the virtual camera on his virtual self.

If you go to the Cinemax: Molotov Alva web site, you can view a series of "Dispatches" made while Molotov is on his journey. The interviews are interesting and, at times, thought provoking about things beyond virtual worlds with thought of the "meaning of life" popping up from time to time.

But what got my attention was the idea of using this technique for employee orientation. How many times is the critical experience of employee orientation neglected or overlooked by companies? How many times is orientation done poorly or with a half-hearted effort? If the gamer generation is going to be harder to recruit and retain, maybe we should consider orientation training a little differently.

Imagine making a machinima explaining your company to a new employee. You could have virtual visits with managers, vice presidents and even the president. These people are too busy to speak with every new employee and may even be too geographically dispersed but they could participate in a Second Life interview that is then made into a documentary about your company.

IBM's Vice President of IBM's Technical Strategy and Innovation, Irving Wladawsky-Berger sits for an interview in Second Life.

Another feature that could be added are customers (how often do they appear in employee orientation training?...don't answer that.) Have the learner be whisked to a customer site and have a customer give a virtual tour of their facility and explain what they do and how they interact with their customers. Instead of searching for the "Creator," your machinima could search for "customer service" or for "the customer." Think of the possibilities, the new employee could "fly through" a new product to learn how it functions and could go places not possible with traditional video-based orientation programs. They could even fly through a customer's work site or product to learn what they do.

The possibility of using a virtual world for orientation provides great promise and possibilities. It allows you to leverage Second Life or other virtual worlds without having to deal with teaching everyone navigation, worrying about security or dealing with other similar issues.

Consider using a machinima Second Life for your next orientation program.

Thanks Mike for the idea and email.

Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Monday, May 19, 2008

Increasing Learner Performance Through Interactivity

Recently, I did a presentation for ELearning! Magazine and Adobe titled Increasing Learner performance Through Interactivity.

I promised to post the slides and here they are.

Also, if you are interested in other resources, check out my resources page which contains a number of links which you may find helpful (although it is in desperate need of an update...its on the "to do" list).

Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Content Guide

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Work at Learning, Learning at Work: Create a Learning Portfolio

Once again I am participating in the The Working/Learning blog carnival. This carnival has one broad theme: work at learning; learning at work. The idea is for many blogs to createin posts that relate to how individuals can go about their own learning, and how learning happens in the workplace. This week it is being hosted by Rupa at One Stop Resource for Instructional Designing.

Check out Rupa's posting for the carnival.

Here are my thoughts for this month.

Learning at work is both accidental and purposeful. Often a person will learn from a co-worker, a boss or even a client. Sometimes they will learn what "not-to-do" as well as what they should be doing. Sometimes learning will be from an email the you were accidently copied on or from over hearing a discussion in the hallway.

Other times a person will establish a goal of learning something, "I am going to learn how they calculate the budget for my department" or "I am going to learn how to write a better proposal." These types of learning events are not typically scheduled in advance or are even on a person's radar until the moment of need arises and then they spring into action.

Other times there is a long term learning goal, "I am going to learn to be a project manager and then position myself so I can become a project manager." These types of purposeful learning goals are long-term and planned in advance.

As you think about learning at work it is important to create both short and long term goals as well as allowing accidental learning to influence what you are doing. The more types of learning you can include in your "Learning Portfolio" the better off you will be in the long run and the more you will learn at work.


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Recommended Games and Gadgets
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Content Guide

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tell Me a Story

Karl asks Stephen Denning about the power of storytelling.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the 5th Annual Kaplan-EduNeering Knowledge Summit (more about my speaking with Nadira Hira in another post.) I really enjoy these knowledge summits. I meet some wonderful speakers and great Kaplan-EduNeering clients. The entire event is about sharing knowledge and sharing innovative ideas about learning from the well-known speakers to the stories and examples of Kaplan-EduNeering clients who are doing amazing learning initiatives from training their clients to rolling out internal training programs to thousands of people to targeting talent with specific learning opportunities.

This year I met Stephen Denning, author of several books on story telling or as Stephen calls it "the art and discipline of business narrative." He spoke about the importance of creating good "stories" to persuade your listeners and how a story can provide the momentum to take action when facts, statistics and figures fall short of the mark. He makes a compelling argument.

Stephen's focus is on leadership through story telling and not just any stories, he provides careful direction on crafting and presenting the right story for the right situation. Even though he frames it from a leadership perspective, if you look at it from a pure training perspective, this stuff is gold in crafting learning events as well.

Many people talk about using stories for learning but what I like about Stephen's work is he provides a detailed framework to craft the story to deliver the correct message.

Throughout his presentation, I busily took notes on my iPhone. One of the first things he does is ask the audience members to turn to each other and tell a story. He then debriefs and says something like "see how a story unlocks the energy in the room. If you want to build energy in a room, have learners tell each other stories." What a great idea. If you are doing any type of stand up instruction, start the class by asking the learners to tell each other a story related to the topic you are about to teach.

Stephen then talked about telling a story of what the world would look like as a result of the change you are seeking.

So tell a story describing the type of behavior you anticipate from the learners after they attend your class or view your on-line learning module. End the story with something positive and motivational for the learner.

Stephen recommends the stories you use to help bring about change be: Truthful, Positive, have Minimal Detail and have a Specific Outcome. Don't forget a happy ending for the person in the story who changed behavior as a result of the learning event.

He said that positive stories are great for bringing about change while stories that are negative (if we don't change...this bad thing will happen) are really only good for gaining attention but then you need to follow with a positive story to bring about the change.

So in your e-learning, start with a story having a negative outcome and then end the learning event with a positive story.

My own recommendation is to have the story after the final "quiz" often the last impression of a course we leave with a learner is "You got 80% correct, congratulations." Instead, after the quiz, lead them into a story with a positive outcome of someone who learned the material and provided the organization and themselves with a positive result. Try it.

Get a hold of Stephen's books and check them out. But if you can only order one, I recommend "The Leader's Guide to Storytelling." From a training perspective, the tools in that book can be quickly adapted to designing stories for learning.

What is also so interesting about storytelling from a design perspective is that narrative and stories are integral parts of video games which is part of what makes them so engaging. They provide a context in which the video game player interacts. So stories need to be part of the learning events we build or we are missing a huge opportunity.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Sitting in the Airport

Yes, I am sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to take off...which doesn't seem to be any time soon.

With all this great distant learning technology and software, I find myself traveling to more conferences and face-to-face venues this year than I have in the past. It seems to me that there are a ton more conferences now then just a few years ago.

So with all these conferences, I seem destined to travel to talk about Gadgets, Games and Gizmos and to see what others are doing with learning technologies. But due to poor weather conditions, here I sit in the airport. A few moments ago, I took a digital picture of where my plane should be but I don't have the right cord to move the image from my digital camera to my computer (of course I have every other cord I could possibly need...just not that one.)

Today I am headed to North Carolina to the Advanced Learning Technologies Summit in Cary, NC. My talk is titled Robotics, Haptics, Gizmos, Gadgets and Medical Mannequins that Will Help Adult Learners. We are using an audience response system and I have lots of good samples and examples to show and great questions for the audience to provide responses.

I've done a number of presentation with audience response systems and it is always a lot of fun but, as I sit in the airport, I'd like to try something new and exciting with the technology so, if you have any really great ideas to push the audience response technology to the limit for presentations or even push it beyond the basic demographic questions, let me know. I'm looking for ideas.

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Content Guide

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Online Presentation for ELearning! Magazine

Join me on Tuesday May 13, 2008 for an online presentation titled Increasing Learner performance Through Interactivity.
The time is 10:00 AM PST which is 1:00 EST. The presentation description:
Designing engaging interactive instruction can help learners increase knowledge and performance. Learn how to use instructional strategies to develop interactive exercises and activities that support on-the-job performance. Review five key design strategies that encourage interactivity. See examples of interactive exercises and explore the possibilities of adding similar activities to your instruction.
I will be discussing how to match learning strategies with specific interactive activities...I will be drawing much of the information from chapter 2 and three of my latest book and adding a few new insights as well.

You can register at ELearning! Magazine on their registration page.

Hope to virtually see you there!

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This Dummy is No Dummy

When most training and education developers think of simulations, they think of online simulations or if you talk to an airline pilot she might mention a flight simulator. However with the US population aging and medical expenses becoming higher and higher patient or medical simulations are growing in popularity especially when you consider that more than 50,000 patients die each year from medical mistakes made by physicians and paramedics. Sounds like they need some practice.

Enter medical mannequins also known as patient simulators. These gadgets are the medical equivalent of flight simulators. One such medical mannequin is named iStan.

This patient simulator comes...fully loaded. As the web site for the company that creates istan, METI, states:
iStan is a patient simulator based around a human-like skeletal structure...iStan also closely mimics the anatomical workings of the human body to a level of realism not possible with other simulators. Spine, neck, arms and hips all move with incredible life-like accuracy. And iStan is fully wireless and battery operated for amazing portability and versatility. Modeled from a unique cast of a real person, the skin of iStan acts, looks and feels like real human skin.
Check out the article Medical Mannequins Provide Realistic Simulation for Patient Care. It even includes some videos you may want to check out showing the "dummy" in action.

Even nurses are getting into the act. Read Nursing for dummies Lifelike mannequins help students sharpen their patient care skills to learn more about how nurses are using these simulators to sharpen their skills.

The medical mannequins become virtual teachers. They can help a young doctor know what he or she is doing correctly or incorrectly. The simulator becomes the teacher helping the learner to hone his or her skills on a life-like version of a real human.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Are we nearing entrance to The Matrix?

The ideas and concepts of the widely popular movie The Matrix are closer than many people think.

An article at indicates that in many ways and with many technologies we are getting closer and closer to entering The Matrix....a world where computer generated images are indistinguishable from physical objects and computers interact with humans as if they were....human. As Morpheus states in The Matrix: "If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."

Here are some quotes from the article Moving closer to a 'Matrix'-style virtual world.

Last month, Brookhaven National Laboratory computer scientist Michael McGuigan told New Scientist magazine he believed a “Matrix”-style virtual world, in which one cannot always distinguish between what’s real and what’s not, could be up and running in just a few years....

Creating a realistic interface, a step or two above Jellyvision's impressive Interactive Conversation technology is the goal. As the article states
Teaching a computer what to say and how to say it could prove a boon for teaching applications that recognize when a pupil is having difficulty. Ditto for computer-based systems marketed as companions or lifestyle coaches. “If a machine is going to share large, sensitive parts of a person’s life, it had better have some sensitivity,” says Roddy Cowie, a professor of psychology at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland who is working on an interface that reads human expressions and reacts accordingly.
Additionally, scientists are working on haptic devices to give computer users a sense of touch to go with the visual elements of these virtual Matrix-Style worlds. I've written about the concept of haptic devices before in Kapp Family World Tour!
[New haptic devices have] magnetic fields and only one moving part, letting users experience the same touch sensation they’d get from running a finger along a rough tabletop. The new system also boasts better simulations of hard contact, such as a three-dimensional virtual object hitting an appropriately hard virtual wall.
Imagine a completely simulated environment where everything feels and looks real. The training and educational implications are expansive and almost unimaginable. What do trainers and teachers do when...there is no spoon.

Maybe we have to take comfort in what Neo learns from a boy while visiting the Oracle "it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself."

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Monday, May 05, 2008

You ask for some online games...I give you the FBI...

Ok, so one of my favorite quotes in Die Hard is when Hans and Theo are trying to get into the vault and Theo is not sure how they are going to get past a certain lock and then, the FBI agents (Johnson and Johnson)cut the power circuits thus opening the vault and Hans says

"The circuits which cannnot be cut locally are cut automatically in response to a terrorist attack. You asked for a miracle, I give you the F B I..."

Well this isn't as dramatic but check out the FBI Kids web page for some simple, casual games. These are simple games that provide a little bit of information about the FBI.

Personnally, I'd like to see some more interactive, role playing FBI games especially for grades 6-12 (the games they have designated for that age group are a little young) but even a serious agency like the FBI sees the value in casual games.

Do you have any casual games concerning your organization? What types of content can you make available in simple quick pieces that can help refresh information?

For more on games spy agencies play see Even Spies Play Video Games

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Do we really need to design differently for the so called "Digital Natives"?

This month, I worked with Tony Karrer to help create the ASTD Big Question (which always seems to be multiple questions under one big theme.) The main question is Learning design differences for Digital Natives?

Of course I have strong opinions on the topic due to the fact that I've written about it many times and I spend all day with digital natives at Bloomsburg University.

I'm having trouble deciding if I should rant on this topic or try to build a rational argument so I think this post will be a bit of both. Let me rant first...

Yes, yes and yes. We need to redesign training to meet the expectations of the digital natives...we need to run away from boring, page turning e-learning courses and provide Just-in-Time learning opportunities, we need to think outside the course and consider communities, learners teaching learners and we need to enable the use of gadgets for you text message anything to your learners? Stand up training isn't going away but it needs to be reconfigured...let's incorporate (when they make sense) more interactive learning experiences, more games and more technology...not for the sake of technology but for the sake of improving learning. Use technology when it improves learning and don't use it when it doesn't...

Getting back to a more scholarly approach...The sub-questions for this month's big question are:
  • Do you believe that we have to design, develop and deliver instruction differently for the so-called Digital Natives?
  • Are there differences in learning expectations and styles or can we just design good instruction and know that it meets all generational needs?
  • If you have an audience that includes natives and immigrants, how can you effectively design instruction without breaking the bank?
First of all, some definitions are in order, Digital Native is someone who has grown up with technology. For example, someone born in 1994 was born the same year that Newsweek Magazine named the Internet "Person of the Year." This means such a person (in the US) has never known a time when the Internet was not a major contributor to culture, society and learning. This is also a group of individuals who have grown up in a culture influenced by the proliferation of video games, that is why I tend to use the term "Gamer" to describe the people who have grown up influenced by video games. Also, understand these terms are generalizations and there are exceptions on both sides of the term but the attempt is to provide a general description of what we must do as instructional designers, trainers or educators to reach these gamers.

A Digital Immigrant is someone who has had to adapt to technology along the way...didn't have computers until college or late high school.

So,Do we have to design, develop and deliver instruction differently for the Digital Natives?the answer is "Yes." This is due to expectations, capabilities and the overwhelming amount of information people are now required to know on the job.

Enter rant, As designers and people who deliver instruction we MUST reconfigure our training programs to meet the new needs of the Digital Natives. We can't lead them into a classroom and lecture to them on sales techniques after FORCING them to turn off computers, cell phones and other technologies...hey don't they use these technologies to schedule appointments, track customers and perform other job related tasks...perhaps we should incorporate those tools into the training process. Perhaps we should create training that can be leveraged by these tools. Tools that, if left behind, they stop the car and return home to get them before they continue on with the day...that is how important these tools have become. We can't ignore them when we have a training class.

The next question, Are there differences in learning expectations and styles or can we just design good instruction and know that it meets all generational needs?

There are differences is uses of technology in attention spans and in processing of information. (See Chapter One of Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning). We are naive to think that a generation who has grown up during a certain time is not influenced by the technology...they are, they are shaped by it. They are dependent on it...they learn with it. If we don't use those techniques, concepts and approaches in our training programs...we are losing huge opportunities to help them learn. Good instructional strategies are still good instructional strategies but we need to be more creative in how we deploy those strategies and leverage technologies to provide good strategies. Perhaps technologies has allowed us to now maximize learning...for example, we've always known that the sooner a learner receives feedback, the higher the retention of the learning. With educational video games, feedback can be instant as opposed to a classroom where you might not get feedback until you take a quiz on the content.

Finally, "If you have an audience that includes natives and immigrants, how can you effectively design instruction without breaking the bank?" I've written on the topic before so here are some ideas.
Acknowledge to the class that their are multiple generations within the class and that each generation may have a different preference for learning and different expectations. Often people aren't aware of what causes generational differences...they just know that the "kids have no work ethic" or that "he expects me to stop my life to work on this project." So, one of your jobs as an instructor is to let all of your learner know that there are differences and that some of them are related to the different experiences of each generation....Another technique is team up the learners based on generation. Team a Gamer/Millennial with someone from the Silent Generation or from the Boomer Generation.

Mix up your own approach. Chances are, you teach or train based on your own preferences. Get out of your comfort zone and begin to involve other techniques that appeal to different generations. Have some online assignments, group assignments, in class games and don't forget a little lecture. Also, have the learners teach each other (using guidelines you create.) Try to mix things up every 10 minutes or so.

Also, when making a point or presenting examples of concepts or ideas you are teaching, use multiple examples. Try to think of an example or metaphor that would cover several generations or pick on per generation. Have your learners develop these types of metaphors that meets their own preference. Learner creation is a power tool for retention and recall.
For the entire blog entry on the subject, see Teaching/Training Across the Generations

So yes, we must think differently about instructional design and the learning events we create because of the expectations, habits and learning styles of the digital natives (or as some people call savages.) If you are interested in learning more about the subject, you can see the web site Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning and read some whitepapers, articles, acquire a book on the topic and even see some examples of instruction designed for these digital natives.

Thanks to Tony for the question.


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