Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Air guitar as experiential learning

This past Saturday I attended the Philadelphia regional Air Guitar competition, the winner of which will be performing in the finals in Chicago on July 23rd (Congrats to Windhammer!).

Windhammer shot courtesy of Ben Hider
This was my first time seeing an Air Guitar show and I'd love to explain the awesomeness, but I'm not sure it can be captured in a blog post. I will say that my sides hurt from laughing and cheering for 3 hours straight and I would HIGHLY recommend if you have an opportunity to see a competition for yourself, you should go. Just go.

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.


  1. "Windhammer shot courtesy of Ben Hider" .... I don't remember courteously giving you a picture!

  2. Anonymously--if this was your pic, and would not like me to use it, I'll gladly remove it! Typically use with credit is ok, but if not, no offense intended, it was a great shot!