Thu, 7 June 2007
Intro: Karl Kapp, a scholar, writer and expert on the convergence of learning, technology and business operations, holds a Doctorate of Education in Instructional Design at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a full professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA and Assistant Director of the UniversityÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½s acclaimed Institute for Interactive Technologies (IIT). Recently, Karl was selected as one of 2007's Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals by TrainingIndustry, Inc, joining a pretty diverse group in the Top 20.
One of the areas Karl has been very active in is advocating for gaming in learning, particularly with the release of his new book Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: Tools for Transferring Know-How from the Boomers to the Gamers. We'll learn more about the book from Karl. .
Visit his Web site at www.karlkapp.com, his blog at http://karlkapp.blogspot.com and the book's web site at www.gadgetsgamesandgizmos.com.
Mike: Karl, you're an associate director of Bloomsburg University's Institute for Interactive Technologies (IIT) - could you tell us a little bit about how this institute was formed, it's mission and what it does.
The Institute for Interactive Technologies is affiliated with the Department of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA. Bloomsburg University is one of Pennsylvania's 14 state universities. The department of Instructional Technology is a Master's level course that teaches students how to design, develop and deliver online instruction or e-learning. Our program is a year long with 33 credits. We have a face-to-face option for the program as well as an online option. You can learn more about our program at http://iit.bloomu.edu.
The IIT was formed in 1985 to serve as a place where students could get "real world" experience working on projects involving instructional technologies. Prior to that, they had always had a solid technical background but some times lacked an understanding of how to apply what they were learning in the classroom to actual projects. We create the IIT to solve that problem and to help generate monies to pay for the latest and greatest technologies.
We call the IIT the "commercial arm" of our academic program. The IIT partners with organizations like L'OREAL, Black and Decker, Toys R Us and others to help them create online learning. We include graduate students in all of our projects so they get the experience working with actual clients, the faculty stay up-to-date on the trends in industry and the clients get a quality e-learning product for a reasonable expense. The IIT also conducts workshops and seminars to help organizations develop the internal capability of delivering e-learning as well. Our mission is to educate corporations on the value of creating quality e-learning.
It's a win, win, win for everyone. The student gain practical experience, the company gains a useful, affordable product and the faculty remain up-to-date on what is happening in industry.
Gordon: Your new book is Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: Tools for Transferring Know-How from the Boomers to the Gamers - could you tell us the premise of the book?
Certainly, the book is built upon two simple ideas. One is that the baby boomers are retiring from the workforce and academic institutions in growing numbers and taking with them a large amount of knowledge. They aren't walking out the door, they are running. Second, the incoming generation of workers who are supposed to replace these baby boomers have very different learning styles and expectations than the boomers because they have grown up in an age dominated by video games and electronic gadgets. Kids born in the early 1990's have always had the Internet, cell phones and video games. In the book I classify four types of these kids...who I call "gamers."
Considering these two ideas means that we need new methods of conveying the boomer knowledge to these "gamers." The old ways of placing learners in a classroom and lecturing to them will not and are not effective.
So the book spends a lot of time discussing methods of conveying knowledge such as the use of instructionally sound games to transfer knowledge, the use of MP3 players like iPods, the use of blogs, wikis, podcasts and even RFID tags. The book provides examples of methods that worked and proven effective in many organizations. In what I think is a fun and engaging manner. Given the content, I wanted to have some fun with the writing.
Mike: How did you become interested in this approach to teaching and learning?
My two boys are definitely gamers and their joy at playing games got me interested in the topic. They would bring home a new video game and I couldn't get them away from it. Meanwhile, my consulting clients and fellow faculty members kept complaining about boring e-learning, irrelevant training programs, archaic teaching styles and the increasing pressure to transfer knowledge to this "new generation."
But what really made the lightbulb go off in my head was a comment an announcer made one night as I was watching poker on television.
Through half-open eyes one morning, I notice 21 year olds playing against 55 year olds - the grand masters of poker - and winning. How can that be? Why are these young guys - kids really - winning? How can they hold their own against such experienced and knowledgeable players?
Then the announcer, as if reading my mind, provided the answer.
One of the reasons relatively unknown poker players can defeat 30 year poker veterans is because of online poker. I thought to myself? Did I hear him correctly, online poker? What do you mean? How is that like real poker? The announcer explained that online poker allows a gambler to play as many as eight hands at once against unseen but real opponents. The experience of playing so many hands over and over again while receiving almost instant feedback on good or bad bluffs allows 21 year olds to gain as much experience in two years as someone who has been playing poker all his life.
So, at that moment it hit me. Maybe this generation of kids, my kids - my gamer kids, have a different expectation for learning, an expectation built on a framework of video games providing instant feedback and constant interaction. A framework augmented by constant access to gadgets and a comfort level with technology that boomers and Generation X'ers can only imagine. So that experience really got me into the topic and I started to figure out how to transfer knowledge and saw that is was already being done in a bunch of non-traditional methods and the book outlines those methods.
Gordon: What one thing do you hope people will take away from reading the book?
First, I hope they think it was a "fun read." I have read many books on the topic that are too academic and not practical, I really wanted to bring it to a level that everyone could relate. I tried to add some fun stories and interesting examples to keep it lively. At the same time it is well researched and based on what organizations are actually doing. I even had one of our alumni add some cartoon images to illustrate some points, they look awesome.
From a content perspective, the "take-away" is that transferring knowledge needs to be done in a manner consistent with how this generation learns. We can't keep using the old methods to transfer knowledge to a generation that is already learning differently because of video games and electronic gadgets.
Mike: Your doctorate is in Instructional Design, you department is Instructional Technology, yet the institute you run focuses on Interactive Technologies - why the distinction?
Wow, that's a great question. I've never even thought about that before. I'd like to give you some incredibly profound answer but I think it just happened. However, real learning occurs through interactivity and the focus on the institute is to leverage technologies to create interactive learning experiences. Instructional design is about creating those interactive learning experiences so the two work hand-in-hand.
Gordon: Is old style learning passive?
I don't think "old style" learning has to be passive. Small group exercises, discussion, manipulatives are all active. Unfortunately, many schools have adopted a pure-lecture mode and that is passive. Then, with a lot of online learning, the passive model was made electronic. So in many online, self-paced learning courses you have page-of-text, page-of-text,page-of-text and then a multiple choice question. Passive, a generation that has grown up interacting with content via goals, receiving immediate feedback with video games and using gadgets to stay connected to peers needs an active learning environment. We can't tell a student who has text-messaged his buddy all the way to school while listening to an iPod on which he downloaded his favorite music to put away all electronic gadgets because it is "time to learn." We need to incorporate technology into the classroom as much as possible.
Mike: We've talked a lot about active or interactive learning versus passive - as we move toward these new forms of learning how will this impact how we evaluate and assess our students?
I think schools currently are focused too much on individual assessment and memorized content which I view as passive. When a person graduates from school, he or she will be working on some type of team. In today's world, teamwork, collaboration and working with others is essential. This is an interactive exchange of ideas, comments and content. Interaction spurs more learning.
Yet, students are taught that individual accomplishment are what is valued. We need to adopt group assessments, it is not easy and it is fraught with complications but group evaluation is necessary.
Also, we need to focus curriculum on problem-solving by utilizing various resources. I read an article about schools banning iPods because students were using them for cheating. The article stated that, in one instance, students were using the old "School House Rock" songs on their iPod to cheat on a test. In my blog, I wrote "the kid who is clever enough to understand the value of the information contained in the School House Rock songs, download them from the Internet and put them on an iPod for a test is EXACTLY the person I want on my development team. Someone who can think outside of the box, maximize resources and who understands how to utilize technology to get the job done. " He was problem-solving with available technologies.
However, I am not sure this view is shared among all my fellow educators. In fact, I received a rather passionate response indicated how off-base I really was in advocating technologies like a cell phone or iPod in the schools. There is a big learning curve for the boomer generation in terms of technology and, again, I address a lot of that in my book.
So to wind up a rather long answer, technology impacts assessments in that they should be more focused on group problem-solving with technology as an enabler.
Gordon: If you were to look to the future, which technology do you think will have the greatest impact on education in the next 12-18 months? 3 years? 5 years?
I think it will be the technologies that allow the learners to create their own knowledge. Schools need to create the parameters in which learning occurs but you can't teach anybody anything, they need to learn it themselves. When you allow a student to create a podcast on a certain topic, you are empowering her to discover how to learn, how to communicate, how to structure knowledge and how to contribute to the collective wisdom. Technologies allow for the easy creation of knowledge and then for the portability of that created knowledge.
So things like podcasting, YouTube, and shared social networks will propel knowledge to new levels.
Mike: As a professor of instructional technology and design what's the most important lesson you try to impart to your students?
Always be learning. The field of instructional technology does not stand still. Students, anyone, must commit to life long learning.
Gordon: Now a quick take on some current technologies (maybe quick ratings like [love it, hate it, can't do without it, never heard of it, etc])
- powerpoint (love it/hate it this tool has the potential to do so much good but is often poorly used - Karl you've in fact developed a great resource - a ten-minute video http://breeze.bloomu.edu/powerpointtips/ that explains how to transform poorly designed powerpoint slides into more engaging and effective slides - Avoiding Death by Powerpoint, I think you called it)
- email (can't live without it, prefer it over the phone)
- IM (like it)
- SecondLife (love it, in fact I am teaching a course this summer in it called "Learning in 3D" focused on the educational aspects of the software)
- Youtube (like it, great potential for short educational clips)
- Blogs (I love my blog, it really clarifies my thinking and is a great online "memory box" for me)
- Wikis (Love it, great tool for collaboration)
- MySpace/Facebook etc (I use LinkedIn but my social networking skills could be honed more finely)
Anything else we missed? How about iPod...love it, And Google Documents...awesome.
Anything from the 2007 Horizon Report?
- Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
- Online Collaboration: Easy, Accessible, and Virtually Free
- User Content: It's All about the Audience
- Social Networking: The Reason They Log On.
- Can You Hear Me Now? The Resurgence of Audio
- Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
- Your Phone: The Gateway to Your Digital Life
- The New Video is Smaller than You Think
- Virtual Worlds, Real Opportunity
- Mapping Goes Mainstream: It's Not What You Know, It's Where You Know
- Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
- The New Scholarship and Emerging Forms of Publication
- Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming
- Personal Learning Environments
- Internet-Wide User-Centric Identity Systems
To learn more about Karl please visit his Web site at www.karlkapp.com, his blog at http://karlkapp.blogspot.com and the book's web site at www.gadgetsgamesandgizmos.com.