Saturday, April 25, 2009

Uh oh. I've just set up mobile blogging. If you can read this post, it means I have no more excuses not to blog on the road.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Go Deep: Weekly Immersive Learning Example #3

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present in ThinkBalm's Innovation Community UnLecture event. While it was fun for me to present in Second Life, the best part of participating was seeing what Andrew Hughes from our partner company Designing Digitally had worked on with a group of high school seniors from Sycamore High School in Cincinnati, OH. The students had built an interactive science lab in Second Life, focusing on biology experiments that students could perform virtually.

Awesome concept and great execution. I have not been a big proponent of Second Life for learning, but I thought this was a great use of the technology: immersive, interactive, experiential. Although the island is not open to the public, you can contact Andrew Hughes for more information on the project.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Top 5 reasons I'm on Twitter

I'm not keeping up with my blogging like I should, and I blame Twitter. The conversation is so dynamic, it makes my blog seem slow and isolated. I like to think through some topics in more detail and so no, my blog is not obsolete. But if you want to really keep up with what's going on with business, virtual worlds, games, learning, or if you just want to see pictures of Tony Hawk skating (and sometimes his kids) should really be on Twitter.

What are the top 5 reasons I'm on Twitter?
1. It's a news source. I get information that I wouldn't have the time or energy (or even the know-how) to find on my own. Information, references, articles to read, the latest news...all streaming by for me to pull from. Hashtags (#) can help you sort through content to find topics of relevance, as can search tools.
2. It's a 24/7 networking opportunity. I've met the most interesting people. Networking is a skill, and in-person networking is tough. But on Twitter, you can find really smart, funny, and engaging people to exchange ideas with very easily. I'm learning from them every day. And now, having met some of my Twitter friends in person, the awkward first meeting isn't really awkward--I already know these people. Events like the #lrnchat live chats have allowed me to meet a lot of new people all interested in the same things I am. The development of communities of practice and learning through Twitter seem to be one of the ways the medium can be leveraged even more effectively for networking in the future.
3. It's a social outlet. Sadly, I work most of the time (I'm working on better balance though!) and the Tandem team is "geographically diverse" so work is sometimes a bit isolating. Twitter gives me a chance to take a break, exchange some banter, and build friendships along the way.
4. It's professional development. I've got filters and groups organized in Tweetdeck that allow me to keep up-to-date on the latest industry trends and events. I get inspired and challenged daily from my interactions on Twitter.
5. It's business development. Much has been said about using Twitter to market your services. Personally, I find Twitter marketers annoying. That said, people who demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in a particular area, I start to trust. If I needed help with a project now, I'd know a lot more people to contact. I've had people contact me through Twitter for my own expertise. And that's where I see the real value of Twitter "marketing."

So why aren't you there yet? Follow me @koreenolbrish

Friday, April 10, 2009

GDC 09 overview

Where to begin in my overview of GDC? So much I learned over the 4 days I was there, I'm just going to hit the highlights...funny thing is, its been a couple weeks, but some things still stand out. So here they are:

Serious games:
I was overall pretty disappointed with the Serious Games Summit track. There were some stand-out sessions; I loved the analysis of why there hasn't been a "serious" adoption of Spore. There was some good stuff in the session on the Chain Factor ARG. I was personally inspired to think about my business model by the session from Straylight Studios and their product Salon Star. But overall? Where were the technological advances? Where was all the learning data? I didn't get the sense overall from the Serious Games track that that's where the action is...and for me, it IS where the action is.

ARGs (alternate reality games):
Besides my obvious interest in virtual worlds, I think ARGs will be the next big advancement in learning/curriculum design. In fact, they may pass virtual worlds in pervasiveness because of their potential to be designed around technology instead of within it. I attended every ARG session I could. And again, wow, not impressed. OK, in defense of the ARG sessions--its REALLY new. Most of the people have done them have created something of a scavenger hunt that's tied to some entertainment media. The session that I attended as part of the Mobile Learning Summit was very focused on the technological capabilities currently available on mobile devices (or lack thereof, as the case may be). It looks like Nokia sees potential and is getting on board with advancements to support ARGs. But from my perspective, its not in the technology...its in the design. Designing for ARGs requires a completely different mindset than game developers or instructional designers or, well, anyone, has ever had to have for learning design. My prediction is that entertainment ARGs will dominate for another year or two...but eventually, ARGs will be an integral part of serious games.

Virtual worlds:
The Worlds in Motion Summit was surprisingly not that appealing in the overall offerings of sessions, at least for what I do. By far, the best session I attended was "Building your own zombie army" which was a clever way of framing engagement and using proven design features that increase people's motivation to participate. I don't want to call them psychological "tricks" but... ;) Instructional designers would do well to think about these types of features in their curriculum design to improve learner motivation and engagement, not to mention the opportunity to increase replayability for serious games.

What was the highlight of GDC for me? Jane McGonigal. Jane presented a keynote session titled: Learning to Make Your Own Reality: How to Develop Games that Re-invent Life as We Know It. You can see the slides for yourself here, but the session was a call to action for the game development community to think about how what we do can change the world, make it a better place. If I took anything away from GDC, its that what we're doing is important. It has the potential to reach beyond skill development or performance improvement. We have the opportunity to change peoples' lives at a micro and macro level. Whether or not we embrace these opportunities ultimately falls on us. But the opportunity is there. Its both a powerful and humbling message to be told you have the ability to make the world a better place. It was a wake up call that I needed to get a move on...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Researching the new

When I was in graduate school for speech pathology, I had a crisis of conscious. I was shocked(!) to find out that most of the therapeutic practices that speech pathologists used didn't have research to show their effectiveness and that the research projects that professors and graduate students were conducting were typically to justify the effectiveness of practices already commonly used. This seemed so backwards to could speech pathologists be charging for therapy they didn't know was effective? Shouldn't research be focused on examining new methodologies, techniques, and technologies??

I'm not as naive as I was back then, but I still believe that the most important research is research that focuses on new discoveries and practices. This is why I'm proud to be one of the sponsors for ThinkBalm's enterprise Immersive Internet business value study.

I'm firm in my conviction of the value of virtual worlds for enterprise and the effectiveness of immersive learning. If you, or someone you know, is utilizing Immersive Internet technologies for enterprise, please encourage them to participate in this survey or agree to be interviewed. The more stories are shared, the more data is collected, the more our practice will be led by the research and not the research justifying our practices.

Learning and ARGs (not just the sound a pirate makes)

I've been stalled on posting my notes on GDC because it was SO much. Honestly, I think I might learn more in that one week than in all the other conferences I attend combined, and trying to summarize it in a blog post is difficult at best. So let me start with one topic that has me excited, in that I can definitely see the possibilities for experiential and constructivist learning.

ARGs (which is confusingly the abbreviation for both Alternate Reality Games and Augmented Reality Games) was a topic discussed across tracks at GDC (serious games, worlds in motion, mobile technology). I love the idea that technology can be used to drive a storyline that participants play out in the real world. There are a range of ways of designing and developing ARGs and to be honest, I think we've only seen the tip of the iceberg. Up to this point, most ARGs have been developed for entertainment purposes. Here are a list of some ARGs that you can check out:

-i love bees (Halo 2)--also in Wikipedia
-Lost Experience (Lost, ABC)--also in Wikipedia
-Year Zero (Nine Inch Nails)--also in Wikipedia
-Chain Factor (Numb3rs, CBS)
-Sharkrunners (Discovery Channel)

One interesting development in ARGs is the use of mobile devices to play these games. Although camera phones for the most part do not yet have the fidelity to truly realize the potential, its just a matter of time and some devices are already making great strides for use in these types of games. I was interested to hear about Nokia and Tim Kring (creator/exec producer of "Heroes") partnering to develop a new project, code named TEVA, that they are coining a "Mobile Immersive Experience."

So how does this relate to learning? Here's where I see the potential. First, technological advances are making long development times and "heavy" platforms unnecessary. The ability to use real world as your learning environment and technology as your guide opens up tremendous opportunities for teaching collaboration, process improvement, effective communication, and leadership.

Second, learners are motivated by competition and challenges. People like puzzles. Making someone a character in the story line immediately engages them in the learning and motivates them to participate in determining the outcome. Oh, and its probably not a bad thing that ARGs can be fun.

Third, we're always striving to design experiences that mirror real-world experiences. With ARGs, the learning experience is in the real world. I've gotta believe that this would improve retention and application.

So, what would this mean to instructional designers? If you've been reading my blog, its no mystery that I think ID as a practice has in some ways lost its way. What I began to think about at GDC was whether being an instructional designer is enough of a skill set in isolation. How much more powerful is instructional design when paired with a skill like game design?

In order for ARGs to be useful for learning, they have to be designed with equal parts instructional design and game design. The real challenge for this type of experience is truly in the design--as technology becomes less of a limitation, the limitation then becomes the bounds of our own talent, skill, and creativity.