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Friday, August 29, 2008

Save Planet Helios from ecological devastation!-3D Game by IBM

IBM has released a 3D game to teach engineering concepts to kids. It comes complete with lesson plans for teachers including one called windturbine design and build challenge. They are working through a group they helped form called TryScience . Read more about IBM and TryScience here. You can read about their other partner, New York Hall of Science as well.

The game is called PowerUp. Players journey to planet Helios and deal with ecological problems. Once there the learners race to save the plant as they build solutions that are ecologically friendly. Playing the game, students work together in teams to investigate the 3D game environment and learn about the environmental disasters that threaten the game world and its inhabitants

Players meet Expert Engineer characters and experience the great diversity of the field. Conversations with these experts and engaging interactive activities allow players to explore ways engineers design and build systems to harness renewable energy sources as alternatives to burning fossil fuels.

The game is free and can be downloaded at the PowerUp Website.

Here is a short video that describes how the game works.

The game was authored using Torque Game Engine Advanced (TGEA) which is only supported on Windows platforms.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Presidential Thoughts on Innovation and Technology

Gordon Synder of Gordon's Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Blog has a great post titled Obama on Technology and Innovation where Gordon summarizes Obama's policy. I have reproduced some of it here but check out the entire post.

1. Ensure the full and free exchange of information among Americans through an open Internet and diverse media outlets:

- Protect the Openness of the Internet.
- Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership
- Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment
- Safeguard our Right to Privacy

2. Create a transparent and connected democracy:

- Open Up Government to its Citizens
- Bring Government into the 21st Century

3. Encourage the deployment of a modern communications infrastructure:

- Deploy Next-Generation Broadband

4. Employ technology and innovation to solve our nation’s most pressing problems, including reducing the costs of health care, encouraging the development of new clean energy sources, and improving public safety:

- Lower Health Care Costs by Investing in Electronic Information Technology Systems
- Invest in Climate-Friendly Energy Development and Deployment
- Upgrade Education to Meet the Needs of the 21st Century
( I like this one!)
- Create New Jobs
- Modernize Public Safety Networks

5. Improve America’s competitiveness.

- Invest in the Sciences
- Make the R&D Tax Credit Permanent
- Reform Immigration
- Promote American Businesses Abroad
- Ensure Competitive Markets
- Protect American Intellectual Property Abroad
- Protect Intellectual Property at Home
- Reform the Patent System

In the spirit of fairness and to help out Gordon, here is my summary of McCain's policy. If you don't like my summary, you can read the whole thing at John McCain's Technology page at his web site.

To maintain American leadership in the world, John McCain believes we must nurture the conditions under which entrepreneurs can prosper and the American people can reap the rewards.

1. Encourage investment in innovation by:

- Support Risk Capital For Investment In American Innovation
- Not Tax Innovation By Keeping Capital Gains Taxes Low
- Reform And Make Permanent The R&D Tax Credit
- Lower the Corporate Tax Rate To 25% To Retain Investment In U.S. Technologies
- Allow First-Year Expensing Of New Equipment And Technology
- Ensure Technology And Innovation Is Not Hampered By Taxes On Internet Users
- Opposes Higher Taxes On Wireless Services

2. Develop a skilled work force

- America Must Educate Its Workforce For The Innovation Age. He goes on to write that "America’s ability to compete in the global market is dependent on the availability of a skilled workforce. Less than 20 percent of our undergraduate students obtained degrees in math or science, and the number of computer science majors has fallen by half over the last eight years." (yeah, this does have to change).
-Fill Critical Shortages Of Skilled Workers To Remain Competitive

3. Champion open and fair trade:

- Supports Fair And Open World Trade
- Believes Competition Has Been A Great Strength For America — Offering Opportunity, Low Prices, And Increased Choice For Our Citizens
- Protect The Creative Industries From Piracy

4. Reform intellectual property protection (yes we don't want to end up like our friends up north) See Stephen' Downes Web Site for details on the issue of Bill C-61 which will lead to one of the most restrictive copyright laws for the digital environment in the world.

5. Protect Inventors Intellectual Property:

- Push For Greater Resources For The Patent Office
- Pursue Protection Of Intellectual Property Around The Globe
- Provide Alternative Approaches To Resolving Patent Challenges (so we can avoid another issue like some companies trying to patent e-learning...see Patent Office Rejects Blackboard's E-Learning Patent in Preliminary Ruling

6. Keep the Internet and entrepreneurs free of unnecessary regulation:

- Preserve Consumer Freedoms
- John McCain does not believe in prescriptive regulation like “net-neutrality" instead he believes when regulation is Warranted it should be enacted

7. Ensure that America is a Connected Nation:

- Pursue High-Speed Internet Access For All Americans
- Would Place A Priority On Science And Technology Experience
- Ensure That The Federal Government Led By Example (I am working with some Federal agencies in technology...not currently leading by example)
- Support The Federal Government As An Innovator with renewed emphasis on innovation through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs)...CRADAs can be a good thing, I've seen them work with Kaplan-EduNeering.
- Make Sure that All Citizens Can Participate In The Technology Revolution.

Ok, enough for me if you want to learn more about John McCain's policies on ensuring the personal security and privacy of Americans in the digital age. Then Click Here.


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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some Questions and Answers

Recently, someone sent me some questions about the field of e-learning and I thought I'd answer them here and give everyone a chance to provide input as well.

1) How is e-Learning Evolving?

I think it is evolving along four paths. The first is a "quick and dirty" path. This is e-learning that needs to be done quickly, has information that is not permanent and that needs to be provided to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. This uses simple development tools typically based on PowerPoint that have minimal functionality but maximum "ease-of-use."

The second path is toward greater interactivity and interactions through games and simulations. These efforts are being driven by the "gamer" generation and cost much more than option one but are used more for permanent information, high-end skills like leadership or operating complicated and difficult machinery or software and provide a high degree of fidelity.

The third path is toward Web 2.0 technologies. People are beginning to understand that learning is a process and not a one-time event. Since learning is a process, many people are beginning to understand the value of creating communities to foster the exchange of information and to use tools like blogs for capturing expert knowledge, wikis for collaboration and RSS feeds to help manage the overwhelming flow of data inundating employees in organizations and students in classes.

Finally, I see a movement, not just in e-learning but in business as well, toward virtual worlds for collaborative learning, design and transactions. People are naturally attracted to 3D environments and many people are beginning to scratch the surface on what is possible in virtual worlds. This is perhaps the most "far out" of the evolution I see but it is on the horizon.

Also, I hope that e-learning is evolving out of the course construct and into the "learning as a process" construct. We need to think of e-learning as supporting business operations and part of work and not as a separate event.

2) Business need for e-learning (business perspective) for instance how it would effect or impact that field?

If we look at the world in terms of cost of travel, risk associated with travel, time lost and other factors, I think business need and want e-learning more than ever. No longer is it practical to bring a salesforce together every quarter to have a meeting. Online tools are needed. Information is doubling at an unprecedented rate, we need to provide information and actionable knowledge to people more quickly. E-learning is one way this can be accomplished as well as Web 2.0 tools. So the need for online learning is being driven by the needs of businesses to continually reduce costs and increase productivity.

3. How IT is growing and developing the way businesses work?

New technologies are creating new ways of doing business and are shaping the world of work. Business-to-business online auctions, 3D spaces for collaborative design, RSS feeds to inform customers and clients, online marketplaces for the ranking items by consumers and the concept of "the long tail" are all IT related factors that are driving and shaping business decisions, even things like self-service interactive web sites created by insurance companies to help you manage your diseases and health care are all shaping interactions and the way businesses work. As we find new ways to create technologies, some clever person will find new ways to leverage them for business. It might be the same day or it might be a few months or years later but new technologies will be leverage for new business models.

4. The growing business need for development and e-learning activities.

One constant with new technologies and new business models is that people need to constantly learn...or constantly have access to instructions, directions or performance supporting materials...thus e-learning as performance support and as a way to keep employees up-to-date and skilled. The need continues to grow and is only increasing with the complexities that are surrounding our global economy.

5. Benefits of hiring a contractor vs. hiring an employee.

This requires the old consultant answer "it depends." A contractor provides the greatest amount of flexibility for the organization, it can also be a lower cost solution because once a project or specific task set is over, the contractor can be let go and can move on to her next job. It also provide the possiblity of hiring the best person with a specific skill set because the skills don't ever need to tranfer to other parts of the organization when a person's job inevtiably changes.

On the other hand, an employee should be hired with skills in an organizations core skill set, they can then bring their years of experience with a certain company to the table when working on problems or developing solutions, full time employees also can develop relationships with customers and clients that can be invaluable and provide a sense of stability to customers. They can be groomed for future leadership positions and provide organizational insights not possible from a contractor.

Having said all that, I think modern organizations need a mix of full-time permanent employees as well as contractors and a degree of churn to constantly bring in new ideas. The best organizations are diverse in terms of people, backgrounds, beliefs, ages and gender, religion, etc. including full and contractor positions.

Thanks to Danny for the questions. Please feel free to add your comments and answers to the discussion.


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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not to Cause Trouble But...

An alumni of our program in Instructional Technology recently sent me this rant and I just had to post it....

I believe the alumni (let's call her J) is refering to the following post in her rant:
We Need a Degree in Instructional Design

I recently stumbled upon an exchange on your blog where you were rebutting someone's suggestion that formal or professional credentials aren't necessary in order to be an effective ISDer. I agreed with your retort 100%. It's unfortunate that people reduce the art and science of education to something that can be picked up simply by reading a few books and reviewing someone else's instructional materials (i.e. participating in a course).

Honestly, I find the assertion that the field is "easy" or "simple" (i.e. you can pick it up from a book) to be irresponsible and somewhat arrogant. It conveys to me that you don't have much respect for the industry, for the science on which it's based, or for the art required to make it come to life. I don't deny that someone may have the ability to design and develop great instructional events, but let's not manage to the exception....there are prodigies in all fields.....I would caution that person to be cognizant that just because they didn't need formal training, doesn't mean that most don't. Also, I might suggest that some humility be applied as well......I have a knack for interior design - lots of compliments, people seeking me out for assistance with remodeling, requests to provide home staging services, etc......but I'll be the first to tell you that just because I have a knack for it does not mean that I would consider myself on par with professionals....I would NOT be looking to become a contestant on The Next Design Star.

From day one on the job in this field I have battled with clients and HR departments to get them to appreciate the complexity of this field and the rigor that should go into education and training. People often wonder why training is the first to get cut from a budget...or why those working in training departments tend to be made up of eh hem....the island of the misfit toys....well, when you have people in the industry touting this sort of tripe, it shouldn't be a surprise!

I can't tell you how many times I've had to go into organizations and completely revamp entire programs - new hire orientation, security certification, career development programs - because in all the organization's wisdom...they put a subject matter expert and an HR generalist in charge. Someone who read a few books, someone who knows the subject...forget whether either of them can translate all of what they know into something meaningful.

If we don't bring some semblance of professionalism, rigor, and credential to bear, how can we expect to be taken seriously? Training funds gets cut because often times training events fail......they fail because the problem was misdiagnosed, they fail because no one knew how to gain strategic buy-in for the program, they fail because those in charge didn't understand how to communicate the event's value to the organization, they fail because the programs were often ill-conceived, improperly designed, and poorly executed.....all of which an educated, seasoned, instructional designer can/should have the ability to address, mitigate, and anticipate.

In reading the exchange, I realize that the conversation centered more around the tactical aspects of ISD - design, strategies, methods - I wanted to lend a more strategic view.


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Monday, August 25, 2008

Instructional Design Clients...Gotta Love'm

I have so totally been the vendor guy in this video...

Shout out to Mike Qaissaunee at Frequently Asked Q who had this video on this blog. Great find Mike!!

I think it was originally posted at Communication Nation: The Process#links (trying to cite the right heritage of postings.)__

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Friday, August 22, 2008

More Brain Research

For a long time people have thought of intelligence as a static item. You receive an IQ score and you are either intelligent or "not so much." You are either "gifted" or not.

I never really thought that was true and I always assert that the "real teachers" or educators are the ones who take average students and make them better students as opposed to a teacher or professor who teaches a class so those who "can't hack it" drop out.

I mean, really, anyone can teach smart, motivated students...a real teacher works with an average student who is at first not so motivated and transforms him or her into a high performing student (I had some teachers help me in that area and I've seen others do it.)

So now here is some research to back up my late night musings and anecdotal evidence. A study by the National Academy of Sciences indicates that it just might be possible to train people to be more intelligent, increasing the brainpower they had at birth.

First the researchers trained subjects in a complicated memory task, an elaborate variation on Concentration, the child’s card game, in which the subjects memorized simultaneously presented auditory and visual stimuli that they had to recall later. The result was that the longer the subjects trained, the higher their scores were. All performers, from the weakest to the strongest, showed significant improvement. So, why did the training work? The authors suggest several aspects of the exercise relevant to solving new problems: ignoring irrelevant items, monitoring ongoing performance, managing two tasks simultaneously and connecting related items to one another in space and time.

Sounds like a well designed learning event...No? Does your teaching, e-learning or training help people become more intelligent?

Check out the article for yourself, Memory Training Shown to Turn Up Brainpower

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Brain-Based Learning that has Gone Too Far!

This is an older article but is still kinda scary. Read the full article at Brain in a Dish Flies Plane

A University of Florida scientist has created a living "brain" of cultured rat cells that now controls an F-22 fighter jet flight simulator.

Scientists say the research could lead to tiny, brain-controlled prosthetic devices and unmanned airplanes flown by living computers.

...scientists placed an electrode grid at the bottom of a glass dish and then covered the grid with rat neurons. The cells initially resembled individual grains of sand in liquid, but they soon extended microscopic lines toward each other, gradually forming a neural network — a brain — that DeMarse says is a "living computational device."

The brain can learn, just as a human brain learns, he said. When the system is first engaged, the neurons don't know how to control the airplane; they don't have any experience.

[At first the brain doesn't know how to fly the airplane] but over time,stimulations modify the network's response such that the neurons slowly (over the course of 15 minutes) learn to control the aircraft. The end result is a neural network that can fly the plane to produce relatively stable straight and level flight."

This brain-controlled plane may sound like science fiction, but it is grounded in work that has been taking place for more than a decade. A breakthrough occurred in 1993, when a team of scientists created a Hybrot, which is short for "hybrid robot."

The robot consisted of hardware, computer software, rat neurons, and incubators for those neurons. The computer, programmed to respond to the neuron impulses, controlled

Ok, so can we grow a brain to create good e-learning?


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Monday, August 18, 2008

Games Used for Learning Across the World...but not so much in the US

Image from the educational game Immune Attack.

Here is an interesting article Game consoles remain classroom rarity and some key information from the article.

In one middle school in Japan took a leap in a pilot program and allowed students who were learning English to do some of their work last year on Nintendo DS handhelds. In turn, the teachers observed the students more easily mastering English vocabulary, writing and speaking skills.

In Birmingham England, the students at Holyhead Secondary School used the Sony PSP, courtesy of Sony, to study French, geography and history — working in groups or, when necessary, refining individual skills.

Eventually, however, the article does discuss some US schools using video games. So games are catching on and becoming "less a rarity." As we all know.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

A Unique Perspective on Video Games and Storytelling

Here is an interesting video exploring why more games aren't more "Story" focused. Take the concepts of the video and apply them to educational video games and I think many of the points will hit home (especially the part about good writing.)

Also, the video itself is an interesting look at presenting a message in a half-animated format.

Check it out


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Thursday, August 14, 2008

And You Thought Mechanical Engineering was Boring

Here is a great video from Northern Illinois University showing how mechanical engineering can be made fun by incorporating game elements, problem-based learning and real race cars into the course. I especially like the beginning contrasting a textbook with the video for thought.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Machinimia Guided Tour of a Guided Tour

Here is a machinimia done as a class assignment. It is on the topic of guided tours (a very popular topic in the Learning in 3D class for the machinimia project.)

Also, if you are interested in lesson plans for Second Life check out the class site wiki.


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Monday, August 11, 2008

Advantages of Immersive Learning

Why are simulations and virtual worlds so effective for learning? Here are some possible answers. These environments allow:

  • Practice of real world skills with rich feedback in a safe environment that does not impact real processes or customers.

  • Mastery of a technique, behavior or method through guided rehearsals again and again as many times as is needed.

  • An emotional connection of the learning event to the learner because of the realistic and immersive nature of the environment.

  • The learning to be embedded in the proper context by providing a simulation of the actual environment in which the employee or learner will be working.

  • Ability to practice skills and interactions when and wherever an individual has access to a computer.

  • Individualized instruction as a person progresses through the simulation at his or her own pace (This can be created in a virtual world environment as well as in a simulation).

  • Ability for geographically dispersed learners to meet together in a virtual environment to role-play, conduct meetings, and exchange information. (This is more appropriate in virtual worlds.)


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Friday, August 08, 2008

Learning in 3D Student Learning Archetype Video

Today, I received a video posted on YouTube created by one of my students that explains a learning archetype from my Learning in 3D Class. This summer one of the options of the machinimia assignment was to create a video based on a learning archetype. More videos will be coming soon.Enjoy.


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Thursday, August 07, 2008

More Educational Games

I had a lot of positive feedback on my list of educational games in my post It's All Fun and Games and Then Students Learn.

So, here are some more educational games that might be of interest. If you know of any more, please let me know and I'll post them.

Darfur is Dying

This game is a narrative-based simulation where the player, from the perspective of a displaced Darfurian, negotiates forces that threathn the survival of his or her refugee camp. It offers some insight into what it's like for more than 2.5 million who have been diplaced by the crisis in Sudan.


In this game, you learn about wolf ecology by living the life of a wild wolf in Yellowstone National Park. You can play alone or in a group in on-line multiplayer missions. The game lets you explore the wilderness, hunt elk, and encounter stranger wolves in your quest to find a mate. Ultimately, your success will depend on forming a family pack, raising pups, and ensuring the survival of your pack.


In this game, you play a secret agent infiltrating a top-secret neuroscience research facility. In the game, your mission is to track down and root out the Nanobots that have invaded the brains of the scientists there. If you fail as a player, the Nanobots and the secret entity that spawned them will take over the Earth, reprogramming the human brain into docile submission. The game teaches basic information about the structures/functions of the brain, it shows how brain cells and synapses work and demonstrates basic brain functionality. Ages 11-14.

Free Rice

This a simple game coupled with an interesting concept. The idea is that you play the game and provide free rice to hungry people around the world. To play the game click on the answer that best defines the word. Then, if you get it right, you get a harder word. If wrong, you get an easier word. Good for teaching vocabulary. For each word you get right, they donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Learning in 3D: Class Five

Here we are listening to a student explain how she worked with her Freshmen to create a house.

The fifth class of Learning in 3D covered corporate uses of 3D worlds. Specifically we discussed ProtoSphere. We also went over setting up a group. But the highlight of the class was viewing the shelters created by the Graduate Students and summer Freshman. There was some really exciting success stories about the cooperation of the two groups and the interaction and building was amazing. Other groups...not so much. But I think it was an interesting "cross" classes interaction.

The lesson plans and machinimia will be posted next week and I will point to the location so everyone can take a look. In the meantime, I had a great group of students and really enjoyed the class. We also had a visitor Light Sequent from the UK. It is a great medium in which a visitor from another country can just "drop in" on a class. The power of 3D virtual worlds.


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