Saturday, December 31, 2011
Game on, 2012, game on.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Love means never having to say you're sorry
I've decided to stop apologizing.
It's not that I don't want to offer support or friendship or kindness, but just the simple act of apologizing misplaces responsibility when the apology isn't warranted and puts me in a position of constantly being responsible to everyone. Quite frankly, I make enough mistakes on my own without taking on other people's.
So I'm not sorry that you've made mistakes that have caused bad things to happen, or that sometimes bad things just happen, and I'm not sorry that my feelings, requests, or needs might make you feel uncomfortable or demand that you take some action and I'm not sorry that other people in your life have done you wrong...at least not to the extent that I'm willing to take responsibility for it. If you need me, I'm here. I'll listen and commiserate and maybe even make poignant dartboard targets to take out your aggression on. I'll be honest with you and if you ask for my opinion, I'll give it to you straight up. But I'm not going to apologize.
I'm pretty sure I'll screw up spectacularly and often, and yes, I'll apologize when I should. Heartfelt and with intention to not make the same mistakes twice.
But I'm not going to apologize for things I didn't do anymore. And if you do hear me apologize? You'll know I really mean it.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
You can't measure learning, but you can measure behavior
mHealth Summit in Washington, DC and 19 hours manning the Ayogo booth, talking to amazingly interesting people about the potential of games to improve health outcomes. What mattered to everyone? It wasn't what people know...amazingly, most everyone actually knows what they need to do to be healthier. The challenge is to get people to actually DO those healthy things that will help them better manage their diabetes, reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease, etc.
When it comes to health, but really when it comes to ANYTHING, there is a knowing-doing gap. We all know this...so then why are we as a learning profession settling for assessing knowing? Knowing is not doing. The proof is in the behavior, and behavior can be easily measured.
We live in an age where everything we do is tracked. Do you carry a cell phone? Your wireless carrier knows where you take that phone all day, every day. Do you use a credit card or bank card? All of your purchases are tracked. Do you log onto the Internet? Every site that you visit is logged and recorded (yeah...I know...you delete the history. That just means your kids won't see those sites your visiting...but your Internet service provider still knows).
All of that data, and more...everything you post on Facebook, Twitter...everything you email...anything you do is trackable now. And more ways to track behavior are being created every day...sleep monitors, pedometers, glucose monitors...there is data EVERYWHERE and its all about you. And me. And the guy sitting in traffic next to you who's using his gps.
With all of this data, we can start making predictions about future outcomes. We can target specific communities or subsets of employees, populations, learners. We can provide information to the most relevant audiences in the most appropriate places.
As learning professionals, we should be thinking more closely about the implications of that data and what it means to know so much about a person's current status and the implications for her future status. Can we change the future? Why yes...yes we can. We can observe current behaviors, predict future outcomes, and use our expertise in learning and performance improvement to change behavior to improve those future outcomes.
We have access to so much behavioral data. How do we get people to change their behavior, when we know that people operate in a world of short-term benefit over long-term reward? We're not going to change those behaviors through knowledge training...we'll only change them through behaviorally-focused training. Games, simulations, contextualized practice...immersive learning environments are the bridge between having access to data and changing behavior for better results.
We can, and already do, measure behavior in almost every aspect of our lives. Learning professionals need to stop focusing on knowledge and start focusing on behavioral change as the basis of our design practice or risk obsolescence (see: Instructional Design is Dead). Our jobs aren't about making sure people know things...they are about making sure people can do things better. We can design those experiences and measure those outcomes. If we aren't doing that, we're not doing our jobs.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Achievements: what games get right and most training doesn't
As with all learning strategies, design is the key. There is well-designed classroom training, and there is bad. There is really effective e-learning, but there is also a lot of crap. And...there are good, engaging, effective and (gasp!) fun games...and lots that aren't. At its essence, the difference comes down to design.
Achievements are one of the mechanisms used in games to help players gauge their progress. Sometimes they are called badges, sometimes they are in the form of rewards in the game (access to special content, etc.). Achievements are used in games as "mini-rewards" to let players know that they are making progress towards the end goal. Maybe its simply a level up...but achievements let the players know they are making progress towards their goal, often in this context its winning the game.
Why aren't achievements used more in training? How do learners know how close they are to achieving competence in applying their knowledge toward a goal? Why don't we view the stepping stones of a learning path as a series of small wins instead of series of completions?
see more Very Demotivational
Perhaps its because most training isn't provided in the context of behavioral objectives, or even business objectives. Perhaps its because training, courses and modules, and its completion, are actually viewed as the end goal. We focus very much on the battles, without communicating what constitutes winning the war.
Think about what we are rewarding when we track completion. The goal of training is to collect completion achievements. Sure, maybe you need to get 80-90% of the questions right, but then that is just some detail added to the completion goal. Our goals should not be to have people prove they sat in a class or finished an e-learning module. Our goals, the "boss level" of this game, should be performance goals, and our training opportunities simply steps along the path to support behavior change and performance improvement. If we aren't making the connections for our learners between the training they are asked to complete and how that training maps to steps of achievement as they are working towards their performance goals, how do they know what they are working towards, or how close they are to achieving it?
Have you identified performance goals for your organization's training curriculum? If not, what game are you asking your learners to play?
Thursday, November 10, 2011
We Are...Pointing Fingers
Bad people make decisions that hurt other people intentionally. Good people make decisions that hurt other people unintentionally.
Jerry Sandusky is a pedophile that molested boys that were already victims, abused his position of authority, and created an environment that allowed him to continue that pattern for years. He's clearly a bad guy.
Joe Paterno is a football coach to whom a really disturbing incident was reported, who in turn reported that incident, which resulted in inaction and subsequent offenses. He could have done more. But I'm not convinced that makes him a bad guy.
I've made decisions in my life that have hurt people unintentionally. I've always tried to do the best, be the best, with the information I have. Sometimes the information I have is incomplete, or flat out wrong...that has led me to make, in retrospect, some really bad choices. Some of those choices hurt people. I live with that every day.
When I was young, I knew something was wrong with my great-grandfather. If you would have asked me, I wouldn't have been able to name it. I just knew I was uncomfortable being around him and I never let myself be alone with him. I wouldn't sit on his lap; I wouldn't let him kiss me. I just knew something was wrong.
Then one day, the stories started to emerge about what my great-grandfather had been doing. In the end, I was the only one of the great-grandchildren who had escaped unscathed. When my parents and the other adults in my life started asking questions, I admitted that I knew something was wrong. Then the inevitable questions: "why didn't you say something? Why didn't you do something? If you would have said something, other peoples' pain could have been prevented." I know all of this is true. At the time, I didn't have the words to explain my feelings, I didn't have evidence to point to. I didn't want to cause a big drama focused on the patriarch of my family. And it WAS a big drama...many family members shunned him, one called the police, but many defended him...he was just a lonely old man, after all. A lonely old child molester, in fact.
Since then, I've had situations arise where I have stepped up. A friend in junior high who sent me a suicide note, which I turned in to my guidance counselors...another friend in high school who I reported to child protective services after I had to help her bandage the weeping open sores across her back from where her father had whipped her...when I became a teacher, a student in my class who showed up with one bruise one too many. Each of these incidences resulted in some tremendous backlash--I lost friendships, I was accused of lying, I took the heat for bad situations that people desperately wanted to ignore and deny. I like to think that I made the right decisions anyway.
There have been other situations in my life where I suspected something was wrong, but I didn't step up to stop it. I would tell myself its not my business; I'd think about the impact or fallout on me, or what it would say about me if my assumptions were wrong. I like to think of myself as a trusting person who sees the good in people, someone who is forgiving and gives second chances. It wasn't that I didn't want to make things right, it was just really unclear what the cost-benefit of shining the light on a situation would be. What if I was wrong? Would more people be hurt by my speaking out? What would the exposure mean to everyone involved? What if speaking my truth actually caused more harm than good? At some point you have to make a decision on what you believe, who you trust, and then prepare to live with the consequences of being wrong.
Joe Paterno will live with his decisions. It is so easy to Monday morning quarterback, to say what he should have done. There must have been a million thoughts that passed through his mind: are these accusations possible? If they are, who is responsible for addressing them? If they aren't, what are the repercussions of making false accusations? Who do I believe? Who do I trust? What do I do when I answer those questions for myself?
Maybe we don't recognize the monsters among us. Maybe we try too hard to see the good and ignore the bad. Maybe its just too hard to think "he's a pedophile." Maybe our inherent trust sometimes backfires spectacularly and then we're left to reflect on what we could have done differently to prevent the devastation.
Maybe we should cut the good guys a break for doing the best they can with the tools they have available, even when their best is an epic failure.
There is a difference between the man who chooses to betray trust intentionally, repeatedly, and only thinking of himself, and the people around him who, often unintentionally or with best intentions, allow that betrayal and abuse to continue. All have fault. All have responsibility. All have to live with the consequences of their actions, or inaction. But there are levels of responsibility, and there are intentions that drive decisions, that differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. Good guys screw up trying to do what they think is right. Bad guys don't care what is right.
The good news is there are a lot more good guys than bad guys. Let's try to keep that in mind.
**Additional thought (after original publication of this post): what Buzz said.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Today's announcement is all about winning.
I started Tandem Learning in February 2008 and started this blog at the same time to document my adventures as an entrepreneur. Some of my posts have been work-related, some personal, but everything I've written has represented my journey, up, down, and sideways over the past three and a half years.
Today's announcement is all about the next phase in that journey.
Ayogo Games has acquired Tandem Learning.
Can I get a Hell Yeah?!?! Woohoo!!!!!
And an OMG. Seriously.
There will be lots of information coming soon about all of the awesome things that will be happening with the merging of Ayogo and Tandem, how our skills and expertise compliment and enhance each other's and the cool work we're already doing together.
But this post is my celebration. My "in your face" to the haters. My happy dance, my victory lap, my WE DID IT!!!
I started a company, I built it up, and I sold it. I set a big scary crazy goal and I achieved it. I didn't give up, I didn't give in and I didn't listen to everyone who told me I couldn't have it all. I've learned so much, about so much...this was an awesome prelude to the next phase.
This is also a thank you, to more people than I can possibly name (except Jedd...how can I not thank Jedd?). I can't begin to express my gratitude, in different ways to different people. For now, for this blog...thank you for reading. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for following along.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
From when we are little, we learn to listen to what authority figures tell us and to do what we're told. Not only are we taught to obey, we are also taught not to question:
"Because I said so"
"You get what you get and you don't get upset"
We're taught that fitting in, behaving ourselves, and following directions are desired states. We're taught to color in the lines, line up and stay in line. We're taught that compliance is good and conflict is bad. All of this is reinforced through the systems we put in place in schools, including standardized tests. Different is singled out, normative is reinforced and rewarded.
|Print by VladStudio|
Instead of teaching people caution, fear of being different, and tempering their uniqueness, shouldn't we be encouraging courage, creativity, and risk-taking?
Can we reconcile wanting to be unique snowflakes and our desire for the comfort of belonging, being just one indistinguishable snowflake in a snowstorm?
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Shameless learning promotion
I am really excited about this workshop.
Over the past several years, I've worked with organizations on adopting new learning programs and technologies, including organizational adoption consulting of emerging tech like virtual worlds. Time after time, in organization after organization, new learning technologies are introduced with the attitude "if we have it, they will use it." Um....no. These initiatives aren't JUST a technology introduction...often they represent a cultural change. In the triad of organizational adoption (people, process, technology), most organizations focus on the technology first, sometimes on the process, and often the people are an afterthought.
For learning professionals, people are your customers. How can you make your customers happy? How can you gain new customers?
I'm excited about this workshop because I'm going to be talking about the part of what I do that most people don't usually get to see. Most of my speaking engagements focus on leveraging new technologies for learning and design strategies, but this session is going to focus on what happens after an organization says yes to innovation. Dare I say, great design is not enough?
I hope you'll join me in Vegas and practice some of the critical competencies that go beyond design: marketing, sales, first experience strategies, and data collection and analysis.
Its time to make like Don Draper and channel your inner sales lizard. Fedoras welcome.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Legends are people too
The thing that has struck me as I deal with my own very real emotional response to his death is this: he was just a man. He left behind a wife and four children who are grieving for the loss of their husband, father. He put his pants on one leg at a time. Although I didn't know him, I'm guessing Steve Jobs experienced the same range of human emotions we all do: fear, love, sadness, frustration, anger, joy, hope...in essence and in many ways, Steve Jobs was no different than any of us.
Sure, Steve Jobs was in many ways very different than us. But what was it that made him so different? What is it that differentiates "us" from those we consider legends, if all of us are, at our core, the same? I'm sure there are many potential answers to this question, but here are mine:
- Passion: Loving what you do, believing in it, not letting anyone dissuade you from accomplishing your vision
- Intelligence: An intuitive understanding of people, processes, systems...being able to solve problems that incorporate all three
- The ability to see "bigger": Legends focus big. Big problems, big solutions. They see things that don't exist yet
- Marketing: The ability to get other people to see and believe in your vision to help you realize it
- Knowing you can do it: There's an arrogance in people who truly believe they can change the world. I'm not saying the people are arrogant...they are confident, driven, and have an unwaivering optimism that they can make things better
- Doing it: Legends do more walking than talking
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Your prince isn't coming
Good night, Princess
And she giggles, and sometimes she answers back, Good night, Queen
She is my princess but not a caricature
I want to tell her, warn her
Your prince isn't coming
There is no knight in shining armor who will rescue you and with whom you'll live happily ever after
All the princes have mommy issues, daddy issues, insecurities and paralyzing fears
Princes these days are
Womanizers, addicts, liars, psychos, killers
Even the princes manufactured in the Disney machine
Prince Eric the dreamer, so easily manipulated
Prince Naveen, the modern day Good Time Charlie
Aladdin and Flynn, thieves
The Beast, so emotionally distant he was barely human
Prince Charming who would bore my sweet princess to death
You should not settle for a prince, I want to tell her
Knowing that one day, her prince WILL come
And he will be flawed and awkward and nothing like the man she dreamed he would be
So for now, my princess
Be a warrior like Mulan
Be a scholar like Belle
Be an entrepreneur like Tiara
Find your voice like Ariel
Your prince isn't coming
But you are a princess
Monday, September 26, 2011
Livin' La Vida Loca
Friday, September 16, 2011
Serendipity Versus History
|New blog: more content, less commentary. More blue.|
Considering that I only post to this one a few times a month, that may seem pretty silly. I was struggling with a problem I have, and for now, this seems like the best solution.
I really love Twitter. It provides me with continuing education and access to people to I value and respect anytime, and practically anywhere. I see pictures, read quotes, watch videos, and maybe most importantly, read lots and lots of articles, research studies and blog posts that in combination keep me informed and help me grow. I retweet a lot of these sources to share with others and to "save" as a record of the things that interest me.
But Twitter is a fast-paced, serendipitous stream. One of my biggest complaints about Twitter is that its really tough to review the history of what I, or anyone else, has posted. Yes, I use Favorites, but mostly that's for things that I want to come back to and read or review later. What I really wanted was more of a record, that could be tagged, archived, searched, of all of the things I come across that interest me.
I thought about just starting to add these items to this blog, but honestly, the thought of adding a stream of content to it violated my original intent: my blog is a focused area for reflection. I want to preserve what I've created for myself here and maintain consistency of content, structure and focus.
So I've set up another blog that will be a collection of things I find interesting, often (probably mostly) without commentary. I invite you to join me there as well :)
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Better Than Wonder Woman
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Curating digital identity: developing a personal social media policy
I had decided not to post the picture on Twitter, mainly because I thought it could potentially get me a bunch of "followers" (read: spammers) I'd have to block anyway. Also, my Twitter account is connected to my LinkedIn account, and I didn't want the picture posted there.
I did post the picture on Facebook. My rationale was that even if you know me professionally, if you friend me on Facebook and I accept, we're agreeing that we're sharing more of the personal sides of our lives.
Now, keep in mind, this tattoo is completely visible when I'm at the pool in my swimsuit. Yet I literally thought through the implications of posting it to any of the social media tools that I use and what the impacts could be.
After going through this process and making my decisions, I realized how important it is to start getting kids thinking about their own digital identities and what information is appropriate to be shared online. I'm not just talking about avoiding child predators; I'm even thinking more subtly than losing out on a potential job or ruining relationships. Everything you post online is a representation of who you are. What other people post and say about you is an expansion on that digital identity.
My 13 year old nephew illustrated that point to me with clarity this summer during my vacation in Michigan. As I took pictures of him with my kids, he said, pleading, "Please don't tag me on Facebook." As an early teen, being seen hanging out with his little cousins wasn't exactly the reputation he was interested in curating online. Since that conversation with him, I've started asking my kids' permission before I share online any pictures of them or stories about them. There is an element of respecting other people's privacy, not just your own, that is one of the critical competencies of using social media and an important lesson for kids...and parents. People who share out information about their children's medical conditions, educational struggles, or behavioral issues are making decisions about how those children's digital identities are being formed, with potential long-term implications and impacts on their reputation.
As a professional, I'm making decisions daily on what messages, content, and personal information I share online that builds and expands my digital identity. As a parent, I'm talking to my kids about how they can start making good choices about their emerging digital identities. Forget corporate social media policies...each of us needs to develop our own social media policy to curate our digital identities and reputations. To support our personal goals, we need to develop the skills to critically assess the content we share, the context we're sharing it in, the intended audience, the channels that we're using to communicate, and the potential implications for ourselves and others in what we choose to share. For me, this means if you want to see my tattoo, you'll have to friend me on Facebook or catch me at the pool.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Activity leads to...everything
Friday, August 26, 2011
Live events still rock & thoughts on the future of virtual events
|Geeks Celebrating Their Geekiness|
|The lovely Pamela Kucera & I geeking out|
|Cosplay Kids Category Winners at BCC|
What do both of these events have in common? They bring together busy communities for an opportunity to bond.
Granted, both of these events focused on people in creative industries...industries full of innovators, entrepreneurs and creators. They provided an opportunity for people who busy themselves making things a chance to look around and see what their peers are making. There is immeasurable value in that...in lifting up your head from your own work and seeing the success, hearing about the trials and failures, of others. I loved being a part of these events because they inspire me to look at my own goals and dream bigger.
Can virtual events recreate that experience of allowing creatives and creators to talk, share, bond and inspire each other? Yes. But they need to reach beyond their own user groups.
Right now, the most successful virtual events are focused on the communities and people engaged in virtual events. No surprise there, really, and its encouraging to see people eating their own dog food. But as a designer, I think about how these technologies could enable the extension of the communities that gather in person for events like the Philly Geek Awards and ComicCon on an ongoing basis. I don't think the live events will go away, nor do I want them to, but I see potential in extending out the connections made, information shared, and inspiration disseminated at these events on a more consistent and ongoing basis. We're not just a community for an annual event...we're a community all year round. We're not a community when we're face-to-face, we're a community that exists in interest and common goals no matter where we are.
Virtual worlds and event platforms can enable that type of interaction whenever you need it, not isolated to the scheduled dates and times. Pervasive community interaction already takes place in 2D tools like Facebook, but it doesn't capture the feeling of presence and engagement that 3D environments provide. It's really not possible to have a Facebook "event" and Twitter, although it provides the opportunity for live chats, is lacking the visual sharing that is such an integral part of creative communities.
Consider this a challenge to my creative friends. We push the boundaries and pride ourselves in creating new things. Shouldn't we be the ones to embrace the most progressive technologies for establishing and growing our communities?
Monday, August 22, 2011
And now for something completely different...10 women musicians you should listen to instead of Adele
- Amanda Palmer: I'm going to start with my absolute favorite, the artist who I'm fangirl crazy for, and who grounds me whenever I need a kick in the pants. Her solo work is amazing, but go ahead and listen to the Dresden Dolls stuff as well. Oh, and of course, Evelyn Evelyn. There's no one who can rock the ukelele like AFP. For a start, try Astronaut. Then watch In My Mind. And then maybe a little Map of Tasmania (if you're not easily offended).
- Bitter Ruin: I "discovered" this band at an Amanda Palmer late night cabaret show last fall. Their music is so good, and Georgia's voice is so hauntingly beautiful, that they've made it into heavy rotation on my personal playlists. Plus Ben is adorable in the best possible way. Their new video, Trust, is a good place to start.
- Feist: You probably heard 1234 on the radio, but listen to more of Feist and you get the sense that you're in the company of your best girlfriend who understands just how you feel. My favorite is How My Heart Behaves. And she's got a new album coming out...so get that too.
- Florence + the Machine: Soulful voice, amazing lyrics, and the ability to capture the essence of complex but hopeful emotion. Cosmic Love makes me happy happy happy.
- Regina Spektor: Probably the most underappreciated musician on this list, Regina's voice is phenominal and makes you feel her lyrics deeply. Start with Fidelity then keep going.
- Neko Case: To be honest, I need to listen to Neko Case more than I do. Correction: I need to listen to more Neko Case songs than I do. I'm stuck on This Tornado Loves You.
- Amy Winehouse: I'm so sad she's gone. Her songs represented themes as tragic as her life. Move beyond Rehab and listen to Tears Dry On Their Own.
- Zee Avi: If you haven't heard of Zee Avi, you're welcome. She's a powerhouse in a tiny package. Listen to Monte for a sample.
- Colbie Caillat: I had to include my guilty pleasure on this list. Seriously, she's mushy, chick pop wallowing goodness. My inner music snob is embarrassed to include her, but include her I must. I Won't will get Colbie added to your guilty pleasure list too.
- Patsy Cline: If you haven't listened to a Patsy Cline album, what is wrong with you? :) Seriously...this woman paved the way for heartbreak songs from the woman's point of view. No one does it better. No one. Listen to She's Got You right now. Do it.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
ARG Design: My session today at the Distance Teaching & Learning conference
While I don't think I'll be able to transfer everything I know today in the 3-hour time slot, I'm hoping to hit on some of the basics of learning game design: the issue to be addressed (learning or performance goal), storyline, character development, scoring, and user experience.
I'll be covering these topics in the course I'm teaching this fall at Harrisburg University in much more detail (and if you're interested in registering, its a mixed live/virtual class so come join us!). As I've been developing the curriculum for that course and for writing the immersive learning design book, I've been wondering...what would do learning professionals WANT to know about these topics? If you were taking a class, or reading a book, what would you want to walk away knowing and being able to do? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts...
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Coming in 2012: Immersive Learning Design (my first book!)
As I type this, my book contract with ASTD is in the post and I'm mentally preparing for the next few months of writing my first book to be published next year: Immersive Learning Design.
I've been blogging since starting Tandem Learning, I've written articles about the many shades of immersive learning (games, simulations, virtual worlds), and I've presented at more conferences than I could easily count. But a book is a different level of reflection for me and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to take on the challenge of documenting what I actually *do.*
The goal of the book is three-fold:
- define immersive learning as a category of design that incorporates elements of games, simulations, virtual worlds and other immersive technologies,
- describe the design process for immersive learning experiences and differentiate immersive design from traditional instructional design, and
- detail examples of how organizations have been applying immersive learning design to address business issues and corporate learning needs.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The F word as a strategic advantage
I want to talk about the "F" word. The one that makes many learning professionals cringe, the one that risks you or your ideas being taken seriously, the one that people want to say but imagine that by using it they will risk credibility and perhaps even look foolish. Yes, I'm talking about FUN.
We all want to have fun...I'd venture to say we all want to have more fun than we're having now. We dream of our work being more fun, of having fun on vacation, even just infusing a little fun into everyday tasks. Its true that fun is subjective; what someone may consider a chore, others might get great joy from (for example, driving...I love it! other people, not so much...).
Fun is also an attitude. You know that expression "you make your own fun"? Truer words never spoken. Everyone knows someone who's a killjoy...as soon as he or she walks into a room, all the air is sucked out. We also all know someone who is like a ray of sunshine, who we love to be around because of the energy and attitude that the person infuses into even the most mundane tasks. I had a cousin who could make even standing in line at the bank fun. We gravitate towards those people because we want to have fun, be happy, and enjoy life.
Within the last 9 months, I've seen a shift in the market. I get requests for proposals from companies who are specifically looking for games for learning. Many are still tentative, nervous; they've heard about badges and gamification but they aren't sure what that means for their training initiatives or how game dynamics might improve learner motivation and engagement. Most organizations approach games very seriously, sometimes to the point of taking all the potential for fun right out of them.
Fun can be serious and challenging and look an awful lot like work, just ask any athlete. The attitude, the expectation that even when we face our most difficult challenges and most serious subject matter, that human beings strive to be happier and have more fun...these ideas don't have to be in conflict. Nathan Verrill recently gave the keynote at LEEF titled "Work is not the enemy of fun." He talked about how immersive games can be designed to address even the most serious social and business issues while fostering opportunities for fun to get (and keep) people's attention. Jonathan Richman made one of the most resonating points about marketing in a presentation at ePatient Connections last fall: you aren't just competing for attention with your competitors...you're competing with LOLCats. These presentations reinforced my opinion that in a world where there are so many distractions, competing media streams, and ways that we can choose to entertain ourselves, our business goals, and for learning professionals, our learning goals, must be addressed with strategies that account for human motivational drivers and the environmental context that we're operating in.
My conclusion? Fun is the new strategic advantage.
Organizations should be embracing fun. Organizations who close their eyes to this necessity the will suffer for it because employees and even customers will seek out fun where it exists. You want to attract and retain the best talent? Create a workplace that they are happy to jump into every day. You want people to be engaged in learning activities? Design relevant training that people look forward to participating in. You want to attract and retain more customers? Create a company that's a pleasure to do business with.
After all, who doesn't want to have more fun?
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Air guitar as experiential learning
|Windhammer shot courtesy of Ben Hider|
Performances in the competition were scored (very loosely) on three criteria: technical merit, stage presence, and "airness." Technical merit is how well you played your air guitar (including remembering you've actually got an imaginary guitar in your hands, catching it if you throw it in the air, etc). Stage presence included use of the stage, showmanship, and performance aspects. "Airness," as it were, is that unexplainable quality that melts your face off as you watch a performance. Scoring was explained in figure skating terms, ranging from 4.0 - 6.0, although I think the lowest score actually given was a 5.0.
What struck me about the air guitar performances, which ranged from over the top, heavily costumed and prop-heavy to straight up rock 'n roll badassness, was how much playing air guitar actually reminded me of simulation and experiential learning design. Granted, none of the performers will likely ever go on to become rockstars playing actual guitars. But the air guitar competition gave them the opportunity to role play what it would be like to be on stage, rocking out a guitar solo. There were a couple performances during which I sometimes actually forgot that they weren't playing real guitars. That level of immersion, of getting learners into character and practicing a role, is exactly the goal of immersive learning design.
Immersive learning design requires technical merit and stage presence, but its the "airness" that is the key. Making the learners feel like they are actually performing and the "realness" of the learning experience is what we all should be striving to design.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Innovations in E-Learning 2011: Conference Reflections
With that caveat, I had some observations on the Innovations in E-Learning symposium last week that I wanted to document as a starting point for my evolving thoughts around where the training industry is currently, and where it might go.
- People are still all wrapped up in "devices": There are altogether too many people who are still focused on the "cool" technology. To which I say, get over it. If ANY of these technologies are going to be useful for workplace learning, their creation and design should be guided by business needs. As far as I can tell, most of them are still being led by "wouldn't it be cool if?" thinking.
- Invest in Windex: If many of the new technologies showcased really are the future of learning...be prepared for a lot of glass. ("What?" you say. "Glass??") Yes, glass. Evidently our future looks like big touchable screens all over the place. Its a germaphobe's worst nightmare. All joking aside...I don't buy it. From a purely practical standpoint, there's no way that I'm outfitting my house with "smart" technology that my 3 kiddos and adorable puppy are going to render useless with their grimy little paws. And I LOVE new technology. I love the futuristic thinking, but the practical realities of life may put the brakes on many of these ideas.
- Speaking of practical realities...: There was a session I attended during which I expressed my disbelief (on Twitter) that a systems model of learning, with interchangeable SCOs (shareable content objects), was being described as "the future of learning." I am admittedly completely biased on this subject: I do not believe that people learn through linear systems of interchangeable "chunks" of information that are linked together. Mainly, its because I believe that people learn through context, not content, and that the reason why we as a learning industry are moving towards immersive learning, games, social learning, etc. is because we have seen and realize the limitations of content delivery systems in changing people's behaviors. I do believe that there is a place for content delivery, but its a small, perhaps initial, part of the learning experience. I respected the obvious thought that went into developing a prototype of this SCO delivery system, what bothered me was the lack of explanation of how the system would work in context of broader learning goals and environments. Where's realistic practice? Where's coaching, mentoring, and communities of practice? There was talk of motivation, but the example shown looked like a scaffolded, incremental improvement model. At the risk of being the grumpy old lady shaking her fist and telling those darn kids to get off my lawn, we (the learning industry) tried to make purely SCO-based learning systems work in the late 90s, early 2000s. Its an appealing thought, for sure...developing a system that facilitates systematic learning for everyone. I just don't believe that's how we truly learn.
- How can we better bridge academia and workplace learning?: No surprise that I was thrilled to see Chris Dede's keynote on immersive learning environments in virtual worlds; the work he's doing is amazing. Unfortunately, there's a big bridge to cross between the work being done in academia and the business problems that new learning technologies such as virtual worlds can help solve. There ARE organizations that are designing learning and collaborative experiences in virtual worlds that are addressing real organizational issues. I'd like to see more of those stories in conjunction with the academic exploration of these technologies to help close the gap of understanding how new technologies can help organizations today.
- What is the problem you're trying to solve?: Here is the crux of my observations at the conference: it was like seeing a bunch of solutions in search of a problem. I didn't hear a lot about the organizational issues to be addressed, but did hear a lot about what the "future" looks like...mobile, social, virtual, game-based, augmented...these are all the waters I swim in with my projects and clients every day. What I think everyone struggles with is how to justify the "new" and that's because there haven't been a lot of case studies, examples, business problems that these new technologies have effectively tackled.
Show me THOSE innovations. If you can, I promise to pass them on.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Walking with a Purpose
|My jacket: Data Mind, with the artist, Courtney Mazza|
I met Regina at the ePatient Connections conference in October 2010. We talked at the first evening's reception about kids, single mom travel issues, and we started following each other on Twitter. Regina was attending the conference to create paintings during the conference that were to be auctioned off on the last day. Just before the auction, Regina spoke.
Maybe you've met someone like Regina before. Someone who you meet casually and like immediately, without any idea who they are and what they are capable of. When Regina took the stage, I don't think most people knew what was about to hit them. She is a powerhouse, a force, and no one in that room was immune to the power of her message.
Regina's story is everyone's story as much as it is uniquely hers. Her husband hadn't been feeling well, was repeatedly misdiagnosed, and when it finally became clear what was wrong, there wasn't much time. He had Stage 4 kidney cancer. They had two young sons, the oldest of which is autistic. They were repeatedly treated as less than human by a healthcare system that is cumbersome, expensive, and doesn't put patients and families first. Regina's story of her husband's diagnosis, treatment, and death is sad, tragic and could have been much, much different.
She could have accepted what happened. She could have fallen apart. She could have become angry and bitter. She could have just moved on.
Instead, Regina has taken her story, her pain, and her outrage and used the gift of her art to inspire others to action. The truth? We don't have to accept the status quo. All of us are patients, caregivers, and people. We don't have to accept callous treatment from a system that perpetuates our depersonalization, our dehumanization. Yes, Regina is advocating for changes in the healthcare system, but her message isn't limited to patient rights. In education, in practically any government agency...we accept the limitations of the system. We live with red tape and outdated processes and cumbersome systems and we drudge through, thinking we have no right to better. We all deserve better.
Regina has a powerful voice and message, but she can't do it alone. She asked me, and many, many others, to help her communicate this message as part of The Walking Gallery. We are all patients. We are all caregivers. We are all people. We should not settle for being treated like insignificant cogs in a wheel, like numbers on a spreadsheet. Her story is all of our stories.
I wore my jacket proudly in The Walking Gallery. I'll wear it proudly at other conferences and events. I'll tell Regina's story, and my story too. I will tell you not to accept the status quo. And I'll ask you to pass that message on. One story, one jacket, one person can start a revolution. Thank you, Regina, for reminding all of us that we deserve better and for sharing your story and message. You have stood up in the face of adversity and inspired us to fight for change. I carry that responsibility with honor.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Sometimes its tough to blog
Thursday, April 28, 2011
She was my first, and will always be my best, birthday present.
I've never taken my sister for granted. Over the years, maybe because we were so close in age, we really were friends, not just sisters. She's absolutely the funniest person I know. She's also unfailingly kind, insightful, and giving. She's thoughtful. She's loyal and protective of the people she loves. And she's mine...my sister, who I am so lucky to have in my life.
Today as I was getting ready to make the annual call to sing her our song:
I got a little nostalgic about what this amazing woman has done for me over the years. Despite the fact that she was a relentless tease when we were little ;), she was always the outgoing one, introducing me to new kids on the playground or encouraging me to try something new with her. As we got older, we stuck together...lots of moving meant that we always had each other, even as we each made our own friends and pursued our own interests.
|Amie painted this for me (that's me on a donkey)|
Although I am the older sister, Amie was always the scrappy one. When my on-again, off-again boyfriend in high school was suddenly "off" again, she waited for him to get out of work at his car with a baseball bat and informed him that if he ever messed with me again, she'd use it. When she finished Army boot camp and showed me the video of her in the gas chamber...I was in awe. That was my little sissy. I don't think she probably knows how proud of her I am, how proud I am that she is my sister. And how happy I am that she's stuck with me forever.
There are countless stories I could tell you about her, but she could tell those stories better herself, I'm sure. She's the family storyteller. There is something powerful about shared history, shared connections...family...that grounds you, supports you, makes you feel safe. Amie has listened to me, given me tough love, and made fun of me my whole life (minus that first year). She inspires me and I miss her desperately, especially today.
So happy birthday Amie...my sissy and my best friend. And yes, I know, I'll ALWAYS be older...I know you'd want me to add that in :)
Thursday, April 14, 2011
People can claim anything. I run into this a lot in my business...I've been working in virtual worlds for three years now, and I can count on one hand the number of people I know who are both experts in adult learning, organizational change AND virtual worlds. There just aren't that many people who have that knowledge and depth of expertise.
I do, however, run into people all of the time who claim they design for virtual worlds or immersive environments. If you knew what you were looking for, or scratched beneath the surface even a little bit, you'd find they don't know what they are talking about. But people LOVE to hear the marketing messages and see the shiny packaging, even if it turns out to be a lot of hype with no substance.
Do yourself a favor. If you are going to pay money for something, do a little research to make sure you're not just buying the marketing message. There are experts out there who actually DO know what they are talking about, have experience doing it, and aren't just saying the buzzwords in an appealing arrangement.
Oh, and do us all a favor and don't call yourself a thought leader.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Virtual worlds 2.0: don't call it a comeback
On the corporate front, I've just finished up Phase 1 of a consulting engagement focused on developing an organizational adoption plan for a large, global company that is utilizing a virtual world platform as an emerging tool for delivering immersive learning and fostering collaboration and idea sharing among employees spread around the world. It is extremely encouraging to see companies moving out of the "technology implementation" stage and into the "organizational implementation" stage; this signifies a movement of virtual worlds out of the IT departments and into human resources, training, and other departments focused on internal communication. Organizations who have been thinking about or starting to implement virtual worlds have spent a lot of time focused on getting the technology to work and integrate with their existing corporate systems for the past two years; we're moving out of that focus now and into questions of how virtual worlds can best be leveraged. That's an exciting trend for those of us who've been focused on immersive design and how virtual worlds can support different communication and collaboration dynamics.
Another sign that virtual worlds are headed for mainstream adoption are emerging best practice examples of their use for training and learning. Just today, Proton Media announced a partnership with PPD to develop a Virtual Clinical Trial training solution. I've been working with clients recently on virtual preceptorships, virtual apprenticeships, and developing virtual sales territories. There are more and more conversations emerging of using these "mirror worlds" for realistic practice and this trend will continue.
Aaron Silvers blogged this week about his experience at GameTech 2011 where there was more talk about virtual worlds than games. In February, Aaron and I had talked about the current state of virtual worlds at TechKnowledge 2011 (where I had presented two sessions on virtual worlds for learning). I had been arguing that they were re-emerging from a lag in interest and I think his observations on GameTech confirm that in the government, virtual worlds are certainly garnering renewed attention as a learning tool.
Earlier this week I did a quick search for "virtual worlds" on my blog and found that in the last three years, I've written 32 blog posts related to virtual world topics. I was pretty surprised. Although I've spent a lot of time thinking and speaking about immersive learning design since starting this blog, I don't think I realized how much I'd actually written down. In December 2009, I wrote a post titled "Virtual World 2.0...a few humble predictions" where I made some assumptions about the emerging characteristics of virtual worlds that would lead them to mainstream adoption. I did pretty good on my prediction scorecard:
- Browser-based: almost all virtual worlds are moving in this direction, with minimal plug-ins and more consistent web navigational standards
- Less user-generated content: the most successful serious virtual worlds have provided packaged experiences (eg. Protosphere, VenueGen, web.alive, VastPark)
- Open source: OpenSim continues to strengthen and expand its reach
- Integration with other tools (mobile, augmented reality, existing workplace systems like Sharepoint): this has happened on many levels and in different ways across platforms, but the system integration features may be the key to pushing virtual worlds to mainstream adoption
- More seamless user-experience and navigation: point-and-click navigation is practically standard in the most popular serious virtual worlds. Oh, and have you seen Kinect?
Monday, March 28, 2011
Learning, and the opportunity and risk of living publicly
Social media has enabled us to broadcast and publish our work, our thoughts, our pictures, and our "updates" not just to people we know, but to the entire world. This brings with it an enormous opportunity and also tremendous risk, sometimes at the same time.
Take, for example, Rebecca Black.
If you haven't yet seen the Friday video by Rebecca Black, or heard all of the news stories about her and the video, take a minute and watch it now.
Its not a good song or video (although I would bet you money you'll find yourself singing the catchy hook later today)...in fact, its pretty awful. BUT SHE'S 13. I never fancied myself a musician, but I did think I was a pretty fantastic writer when I was a teenager. When I look back on what I wrote? Wow, I was terrible. I'm thankful that all of my writing was confined to spiral notebooks and the broadest audience was my friends and family who encouraged me to keep writing, but never gave me false praise or soul-crushing criticism. I was allowed to practice and improve, and in some cases, realize that I wasn't all that good and I didn't have the passion to work harder to become good.
That's the beauty of learning. To really learn something, to become an expert, you have to practice. You have to have a safe place to try and experiment and fail and improve and stick with it and, eventually, get better. Becoming really good at something requires dedication and practice. Sure, some people start out with natural abilities or inclinations that might make learning something easier. But there are very few things that you can't learn and be really good at if you keep practicing.
Rebecca Black may have never become a great singer, songwriter, or musician. Maybe she would have (maybe she still will). But what impact has the public lambasting of her video had on her learning, her motivation, and her development?
Criticism is hard to hear. None of us really like to hear that we're bad at something...we thrive in environments where we get positive reinforcement. On the other hand, constructive feedback is necessary if we want to get better at something.
We live in an age that allows us to get instant, unfiltered feedback on anything that we do. It may be a realistic environment, but it can be hostile and often not constructive. Now, more than ever, we need the ability to practice, to find opportunities for constructive criticism in safe environments, and to refine and hone our skills before we put ourselves out in the public eye.
In learning terms, this means that coaching, mentoring, and communities of practice will play increasingly critical roles in our development. It means that immersive and experiential learning environments will become those safe havens where we can practice safely before we're ready for prime time. It means that we all need to develop the ability to manage our public versus private identities in ways that we haven't had to even think about in the past.
I hope Rebecca Black has a long, happy, and successful life in whatever she decides to pursue. At 13, she has learned, and illustrated to many, the power of social media. But with great power comes great responsibility...and we all need to be taking (and teaching) responsibility to ensure that the opportunities afforded by social media outweigh the risks.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Why more women aren't using Quora
I read a story this morning that came through my Twitter stream: Is Quora a Sausage Fest?
And it immediately clarified for me why I don't like Quora. Quora is actually designed for men.
Why aren't women's professional sports more popular? Why are first person shooter video game players predominantly male? Why aren't there more women politicians or CEOs?
When you design systems based on the way men interact and communicate, men will be more interested in participating in them and will be more successful in them.
So let's look at Quora...
Although some people might call it a social media tool, there's not a lot social about it. If you don't know what Quora is...the simplest explanation is that its a forum where people can post questions and people can post responses. That seems gender-neutral enough, right?
Except, its really not. Quora has one formula to participate: question and answer. If we think about this as a community where everyone has the opportunity to become an "expert" then all of a sudden, the dynamic becomes "who can post the best/smartest/most relevant answer." In essence, Quora becomes one big competition to be the most prolific, the most engaged, the most respected...by answering other people's questions "the best."
This isn't a format that lends itself to conversation or discussion. This is a format that is a bunch of people getting up on their pulpits and preaching. This is Senators presenting on the Senate floor, gladiators in the ring fighting for their lives, people climbing over each other to get themselves up the corporate ladder. This is a format designed for men.
If you look at the most successful social media tools, Twitter and Facebook, there's one overarching feature that makes them just as appealing to women as they are to men. Its the opportunity for people to engage and interact in different ways. These tools allow for people to create their own experiences. They allow flexibility in participation. They create lots of different opportunities for people to define their own "success" or value in using the tools. With Twitter and Facebook, what you get out of it is what you put in...you create your own experience.
Quora, on the other hand, is a defined experience and type of interaction. There are values already built into the design and dictated by the interaction style. And the interaction style is very masculine.
I talk a lot in my presentations on designing experiences to account for gender differences. There are some general guiding principles in immersive design you need to pay attention to: how you orient new users to the environment, how you reward behaviors, how well defined success is, etc. These gender differences impact how people perceive these environments, all the way from "is it useful?" to "is it fun?" and its important to understand how people engage with each other to design for different types of engagement.
Women are more communal, collaborative, and like to talk things out. Men are more decisive, exploratory, and willing to take risks (trial and error). I could tap into all the research that shows how our language, behaviors, and decision-making differs along gender lines, and how that contributes not only to how we are perceived and valued in professional settings, but also how that reflects how we think about ourselves as women and men. There are powerful cultural forces that have gotten us to where we are today; many of those cultural beliefs are what perpetuate gender stereotypes and inequalities. The fact remains...there are differences between women and men. That's a good thing, when those differences are acknowledged and accounted for.
So back to Quora. Its designed to post up a question and open it up to answers. This isn't a format like "Ask the Expert" where credibility and respect have already been established as part of the interaction design. This is a free-for-all of throwing yourself out there and making yourself an authority. If you look at just the basic differences between women and men, it makes sense why more men are engaged in this format. You're rewarded for having the most decisive language, strongest opinions, and taking a risk by throwing your opinion out there. Most women take one look at that and think "not interested." Then I'm guessing they go ask their question on Twitter or Facebook.
Asking questions and seeking answers are human characteristics that have nothing to do with gender. How we ask questions, who we seek out for answers, and they types of answers we value can be extremely gender specific. As we continue to explore social media tools as opportunities to engage people in new ways, we need to make sure we are aware of the differences if we want design to engage BOTH genders in the conversations. Perhaps before designing a tool that's whole purpose is to provide opportunities for questions and answers and then wondering why women aren't participating, it would be important to look at how women are already asking and answering questions and building those types of interactions into your design.
Unless you want, in the immortal words of Flight of the Conchords, "Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor":
Too many men Too many boys Too many misters Not enough sisters Too much time on too many hands Not enough ladies, too many mans