Friday, July 22, 2011

Gamification of Everything

This month's Learning Circuits Big Question should be near and dear to all instructional designers.

Teaching face-to-face or  always requires engagement first. Engagement leads to better attention, and retention. Fun is a major way to engage. So...

How do you make e-learning fun?

Thanks to folks like Clark Quinn games are receiving more mainstream acceptance and adoption in eLearning circles. More developers are looking to offer instruction through games. Games provide intrinsic motivation, peer recognition, opportunities to explore, individual accountability and choice.

I recently experimented with FourSquare. At face value you check-in to allow friends to know where you are. The value proposition for 4SQ is to mine the demographic goldmine by knowing where and how often people go places and allow them to be marketed to accordingly. Why do it? For the Points!! and the Badges. the recognition provides the motivation to keep one engaged and continuously checking in. Game mechanics like additional points for being a mayor rewards repeat behaviours. Competition with friends ensues...

Most recently Google+ launched and was adopted quickly. The supposed killer feature is to group friends and share information by those groups or circles. Other services have offered this but the g+ way of dragging and dropping is game-like being more fun which means people are more likely to do it.

My favourite anecdote on fun would be the Khan Academy. This story by Wired tells it best. One mans passion to teach is fundamentally changing traditional education paradigms of lecture and homework. His videos are casual in nature, he speaks simply  without speaking down to the viewer. Practice problems track the number of correct answers in a row, badges and stats are visible to motivate and show off.
 Games can provide a great template for improving the fun-factor and engagement of our eLearning. The skill will be to ensure as designers we don't go too far down the game spectrum and lose the instructional objectives.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

ebook readers : the next flip?

As an owner of a Flip camera, I was disappointed to hear that Cisco has decided to sunset it's Flip camera operations.At the same time I see the same writing on the wall that motivated this move.  The handheld video market has been sandwiched in two directions. First from smartphones and their increasingly better cameras in a highly portable multi-purpose device, and second from Digital SLRs shooting HD video in better quality. As an owner myself, with the wife's iphone and my android, the flip, continued to be forgotten at home. And most importantly, not missed.

It remains a great niche device, but I like many others I suspect are willing to sacrifice the user experience for portability. This was a  great device at home with a young baby, but newer smartphones and more critical things to pack like diapers, food and drink.  Despite our 1st world entitlement people make some (small) sacrifices in quality for portability (see mp3). In our disposable culture, many new tech devices are laid to waste very quickly with vastly improving physical technologies like SSD.

eBook readers share some very similar  traits. Their main highlights are readability, and portability. Very similar in form factor to tablets, which are the larger form smartphone. ereaders could easily end up as a temporary technology. The main hurdle would be some sort of eInk that can switch to a display capable of video. From anecdotes I haven`t heard complaints about reading from tablets, so that could be the sacrifice users will make for a more powerful multi-purpose device. While I`m very happy to see a Canadian company like Kobo doing well, I`m not looking to go long on Kobo unless they can successfully transition to becoming a marketplace or a platform.

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