Tuesday, December 30, 2008

7 More Things You Didn't Care to Know About Me

The first 5 from 2006 are still true - but I've managed to get my golf score consistently in the 110s.

I think I participated in another one of these too - but I can't put my finger on the post.

Thanks Cammy for tagging me.

1) My best friend from middle and high school contacted me last week. I haven't been called "Boggy" since 1988. It's because her brother (who was a toddler at the time) couldn't say Wendy. Thinking back....Boggy is not such a bad descriptor....

2) My nickname at Virginia Tech was "Bat". Short for Ding.... My college buddies still call me that occasionally.

3) My colleagues at Georgia called me "the Duchess". This was the result of a conversation about our respective geneologies and likely more than a few beers. Not entirely certain how this one stuck....

4) Most of the other nicknames I've gone by are unprintable in a family blog....

5) Managed to get a 161 bowling last Sunday. Shame I can't seem to translate that into league play.

6) Successfully parlayed my new knowledge of Fantasy Football into a solid 5th place finish (among 8 teams). Definitely beats 9th place out of 10. Next year the (unprintable name here) will make it to the playoffs!!!!

7) I have the following motivational poster at my cube, to remind me to play well with others. (image courtesy of Despair.com)

Hey - if you want to play along and don't want to set up a full blog - go ahead and put your 7 things about you in the comments! Just keep it clean and let me know who you are.

No point in letting the bloggers have all the fun!

Game 6: Mario Kart

Game: Mario Kart
Platform: Wii
Cost: $49.99

With the untimely death of our Xbox 360 - the SO has become significantly more open to playing with the Wii and experimenting with games outside of Wii Bowling.

Is the game fun? Why? It keeps us entertained for about an hour at a time. Each session runs about 10 - 20 minutes, depending upon the length of the track and the amount of time we spend falling into out-of-bounds areas. Definitely more fun playing together than individually. Choose the track together, then spend quality time trying to kick each others' butt. (I won 5 out of 7 last time around.) After an hour, we both found the gameplay a tad repetitive. We both like racing games, but we seem to have a shorter attention span for these than for other genres. Not entirely sure why.

Do I want to play this repeatedly? As a party game. Not by myself. I am looking forward to the Manager getting the Wii she got for Xmas set up so we can play online. This is a game I know we both have - so maybe it will get more play.

What did I learn playing it? Certain types of games work better with people there with you. I haven't figured out yet what makes a game work better cooperatively vs. solo play.

What element(s) can I use when designing a game at work? If I decide to design a game for classroom use, designing a game that has strong cooperative play would be useful. I need to look more carefully at what makes a strong cooperative game.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Game 5: Mah Jong

Picture from Kristanix Games.
Game: Mah Jong Epic 1.31 (Kristanix Games)
Platform: Mac
Price: Free - Shareware. There are apparently more features if you pay $20.

My Macbook Pro is my internet portal and occasional multimedia development tool. Playing games on it is not the first activity that comes to mind.

Is the game fun? Why? Mah Jong is essentially a sophisticated pattern-matching game. Very popular with the chinese. This game is gussied up with a soothing loop of Enya and pictures of gorgeous landscapes. The Enya started aggravating me after 4 loops.

Despite the soundtrack (I can only tolerate being "soothed" for so long), there is something meditative about Mah Jong. Match 2 tiles. Repeat until the board is clear. The boards are different enough that each one presents its own challenge. The game is simple enough that you can put your brain essentially on hold and waste hours picking through each of the boards.

Do I want to play this repeatedly? It takes me about 5-10 minutes to get through a board. I could easily see myself turning to this if I needed something to keep myself entertained while watching football or if I needed an activity while I formed my plans to take over the world.

What did I learn playing it? What element(s) can I use when designing a game at work? I'm not sure this game really translate so well to a serious games environment. Unless I figure out how to use it as a form of meditative brainwashing.....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Game 4: Pathwords

Game: Pathwords
Platform: Facebook
Price: Free

Karyn Romeis is an evil enabler. There....I've said it on multiple platforms.

Is the game fun? Why? LOVE this game also. Make a path that equals a word. Combination of the find a word puzzle and tetris - two personal faves.

Wound up wasting an hour trying to get my score up. Because my friends are smarter than me. And, dangit, I want to be smart too!!!!

Do I want to play this repeatedly? Each segment is 5 minutes. Problem is....those 5 minute segments add up. And seeing that some friends have scores in the 4 digits is motivation for me to keep playing. 1 hour later, I am typing this (and still procrastinating from getting REAL work done).

What did I learn playing it? I have underestimated how motivating it is to play against other people. Even asynchronously. I am quietly practicing so that I can DOMINATE! Bwahahahahaha! (sadly, this may take me awhile.....)

What element(s) can I use when designing a game at work? I could incorporate the competition element into whatever I design. Show the scores of others. Create an unlimited "best score". Plus, build it so that if someone "games" the system, the effort they have expended still means something.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Game 3: Shaun White Snowboarding

From GamerNewsBits.
Game: Shaun White Snowboarding (Target Edition)
Platform: Xbox 360
Cost: $49.99

Our Xbox 360 has decided to stop reading discs. We don't even get the satisfaction of the red ring of death.

Thankfully, we had a chance to play this before the Xbox 360 gave up the ghost.

Is the game fun? Why? LOVE this game. The controllers are appropriately responsive and easy to use. Each run is short (between 5 and 20 minutes). You have infinite ways to interact with the mountain. Fantastic variety in the terrain. SO (who happens to be the resident snowboarder / skateboarder) loves that the tricks and reactions are more realistic than most of the other games in this genre on the market.

Also has one of the best soundtracks I've heard in a skateboarding / snowboarding game. Or as the SO put it "This is the stuff we ACTUALLY LISTEN TO when we are going down the mountain."

Must be nice to be able to snowboard confidently enough to listen to music...

Do I want to play this repeatedly? I would play this more repeatedly if the Xbox worked. Try new tricks, explore other areas of the mountain, see if I can't get into the little house at the middle of the hill....

What did I learn playing it? First - a good soundtrack makes a huge difference. The Loading practice half-pipe is a great tutorial in a place where people are normally waiting.

What element(s) can I use when designing a game at work? I need to figure out how to make the "loading" screen more useful. How can I get people to participate during the loading process, not just during the game itself. Soundtrack is a bit trickier because of the audience I work with. Shaun White highlights how good sound can impact the perception of a game.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Game 2: World Series of Poker

From Midlet Review
Game: World Series of Poker
Platform: LG Dare / Verizon Wireless
Cost: $8.99 unlimited (I've got an unlimited data plan, so I'm not paying data charges)

I've never been much of a card player. And watching poker on TV completely escapes me.

So why did I downlad this? Because I know that each hand takes only a couple of minutes, poker can be interrupted at any time between hands, and I needed something to do while I was on the train to work.

Plus, I'm trying to figure out why poker is so danged popular.

Is the game fun? Why? OK - not being much of a poker player, it is fun for what it is. There is some perverse thrill when you get a good hand, or when you manage to win a hand. It gets a bit dull when you are getting the snot kicked out of you or when you keep getting bad hands. I think what excites most poker players is the uncertainty of what will be in your hand next. Then - what will the river bring. Then, what does the other person have.

Do I want to play this repeatedly? I play this pretty regularly because it fits so darned well into my commute pattern. And I love the fact I can stop at any time.

What did I learn playing it? Well, I'm learning more about poker. Getting a stronger familiarity with the percentages between hands. I don't feel confident enough to try to translate any miniscule success I've achieved with WSOP mobile into a real game. Besides, I've already taken money from my brother playing poker during a party one year ago. :')

What element(s) can I use when designing a game at work? Big fan of the very short segments (hands). The ability to pick up and put down whenever. Also - simple, repeatable gameplay where the crux of the gameplay is in the important decisions. WSOP gives you control of the 2 important decisions - fold or play. If play - how much do you want to bet?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Game 1: Holiday Chicken Invaders

Game: Holiday Chicken Invaders
Platform: MSN Games
Cost: Free

Oh yeah! Space Invaders + Chickens in Santa Suits = potential, entertaining time waster.

This game comes in online and download versions. Oh yeah, and it's free. As long as you sit through an ad for smoking cessation meds.

Is the game fun? Why? As fun as Space Invaders was. Move around, shoot things with the mouse, avoid the stuff that drops from the chickens. This game was also super-intuitive. Move the mouse around, use the left mouse button to shoot. Practically no instruction needed - though the instructions on the introductory page helped.

Do I want to play this repeatedly? No. The novelty wore off after a couple of games and 4 levels. I wasn't feeling particularly driven to figure out what was going on at the next level. Plus, if you move your mouse too low, you wind up clicking the ad link. That opened up a new window and interrupted your game play. As a result, you get hit by a chicken. I DON'T SMOKE - I DON'T NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHANTIX!!!!! I SAW YOUR $@#*$&#* AD THE FIRST TIME!!!!!

What did I learn playing it? Controller and interface design is key. A small aggravation (like the ability to click an ad and interrupt gameplay) makes a huge difference in the perception of "fun" and whether I would want to go back and play.

What element(s) can I use when designing a game at work? I will need to keep a close eye on usability. As intuitive as I can make the controls, the more likely the student is going to focus on the content of the game.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Odds and Ends

Time to dump some mental clutter before the holidays....


I am working with one of our soft-skills training groups to develop a tutorial on goal-setting. I'm just consulting on this project. The person actually doing the work is new to instructional design and eLearning. I think her background is in administrative work. She's smart enough (and conscientious enough) to have been promoted into her current position.

I didn't realize how much work it took to develop just a one hour course. Developing objectives, documentation, making sure it all makes sense. Wow!

Her boss has given her a HUGE project with this tutorial development. And I've been impressed by her willingness to learn and her ability to absorb.

So happy to bring another person over to the dark side with us!!!!

And it sounds like we have profiteroles!!!! (Thanks Cammy!)


A follow-up on the group who is implementing a very large IT system without the IT department.

Turns out the IT department put together a proposal to help them with this project. The group decided that they didn't want the IT department's help and that they can do this themselves.

The IT department is currently giving the group enough rope to hang themselves with.

In the words of the mid-level IT manager I talked to:

Keep an eye on how much time you spend on them. We've got a rescue plan. Just waiting for the inevitable.

The IT manager then gave us a mischievous look. I think we both know when that "inevitable" is going to occur. It is going to be a very expensive lesson.


My family celebrated Xmas early. Coolest gift I received - Mom's hand-me-down slow cooker.

What works - Red cooked chicken. Essentially - a whole chicken cooked in a couple cups of soy-based liquid. Fantastic. Moist. Excellent chicken flavor.

Requiring further experimentation - Pork and Sauerkraut. Pork tenderloin in the slow cooker for 10 hours reduces to slightly dry shreds. Sauerkraut in the slow cooker for 10 hours dissolves into a strange pool of indeterminate vegetable matter. Potatoes in the slow cooker for 10 hours cook beautifully. I'm thinking I need

a) a LOT more sauerkraut
b) less time - 8 hours should be enough to cook the pork and the potatoes
c) a little more salt - I KNEW I forgot something when I put the pot together.

The SO and I will be eating many slow cooker meals as I continue to experiment with this new tool.


"socially-networked virtual game-based blended mobile cloudy-learning 4.0" delivered on a portal for your iPhone.

(Conversation best followed from Cammy's Twitter stream)

I plan on doing that this week. But I'm platform-independent. :')

PSA: Don't "mobile" and "cloudy" at the same time.


Have a fun and safe holiday.

The 12 Games of Christmas

Since we are gearing up to do some game design ourselves, and not being a lifelong gamer, I figured I'd investigate what makes certain games compelling.

Gotta do research, right?

Since we are planning to build shorter games (5-10 minutes), I figured I'd focus my investigation on games that can be played in their entirety in short chunks.

Is the game fun?
Do I want to play this repeatedly?
What did I learn playing it?
What element(s) can I use when designing a game at work?

Feedback and recommendations for games to look at are welcome.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What I Learned This Year

An attempt to tackle the end-of-the-year "Big Question" is an opportunity to reflect.
I'm getting a lot more out of the conferences I've been attending through my live-blogging. I've always taken copious notes - but the resulting feedback on those notes have been invaluable. Thanks!
The gap between theory and application is sometimes wider than it appears. Pounding out some baseline assumptions about education and learning from one's practice is proving to be incredibly challenging. Especially the "teacher = expert" assumption. Easy to talk the game. Much harder to do it. It's an assumption held by BOTH sides of the adult learning equation. And I am SOOOOOO not there yet.
Adding a bit of cognitive dissonance to my tutorials (slightly different narration vs. text caption) seems to be improving the effectiveness of the stuff I write and the positive feedback.
Very short chunks = happy students.
Big Ah-ha moment of the year - finally figuring out the relationship between Web 2.0 Technologies and Social Networking. Thanks Stephen Downes!!!!
I'm realizing I need to get more active in the greater e-Learning community and figure out ways to network. I've decided to take that on as Work Literacy project for next year. Especially since "people" is not an area where I'm particularly strong.
Over the past year, I've come to realize that I have found a comfortable niche among the greater eLearning community. All as a result of making my personal processing more public. Though I still write the blog for myself, I am incredibly thankful for the feedback, comments and friendships that have developed this year.

Thanks for reading this blog. I hope we can continue learning from each other over the next year. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Crisis of Problematic Expectations

How to deal with the Gen Y learners coming though our institutions continues to be a hot topic.

Tony Bates (who covers international developments in the eLearning space) links to a summary of thoughts on this topic from the Online Educa Berlin 2008 conference.

With the rise of the Internet age, a social and a cultural revolution is taking place right in front of us. But at the same time, a "crisis of significance" is occurring in our classrooms. Learners want to be active, just like they are in the world wide web. When surfing on the Internet, they filter, comment, rate, as well as create knowledge and thus take an active part in gathering information and knowledge. On the other hand, in our classrooms they are still forced into a passive role, merely consuming the information that is offered to them by others.

- Dr. Michael Wesch, Cultural Anthropologist, Kansas State University

This was labeled a "problematic expectation" in the summary.

In my mind, the only way this expectation is problematic is that it creates more work. Much easier to drift along using old materials and processes than it is to create new materials. Furthermore, it's easier on the instructor to just tell people what to think / do than it is to actually engage the student.

The fact that our current generation of students and new workers are no longer tolerating the "old ways" of doing things can do nothing but help the rest of us - as students and as instructional designers. Think about the amount of material that needs to be repurposed!!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Food for Thought

From Confused of Calcutta

I spend a lot of time thinking about education, about what it really means. Not dictionary definitions, not semantic arguments. What does “education” mean to me?

It’s not about “committing to memory and vomiting to paper”.

It’s not about learning to sit tests. It’s not even about learning to pass tests.

These things are useful, but they are neither necessary nor sufficient for us to be able to be anything, do anything.

So what is it about?

Read the entire post for his answer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gaming Tool Decision Made - Next Steps

It only took us 3 months, but we have finally decided on a tool and vendor that can help us start building instructional games with the Firewall Group.

I'll reveal who we chose in the next few months or so.

Now that we have made the decision regarding which tool and vendor we want to use, the next step is convincing senior management that this is a good investment.

We are going to create a short presentation with the following information:

- The time spent (and $ spent) repairing computers.

- The types of issues they see repeatedly

- Why we are choosing a "games-based" approach.

- The requirements we set up for our decision.

- The vendor analysis (pros and cons)

- Our final decision for the vendor and why.

- Expected cost for the tool - including training, licenses, maintenance

- Anticipated results (reduction of the time spent repairing computers as a result of the issues they see repeatedly)

It helps that Leader is pretty high up there in the organization. It also helps that she is highly respected in her professional circles outside of the University.

Is there anything else you think we should add to the short presentation?

For those who have tried to implement a games-based approach to training in your organization - what was the information that most excited your senior management? What pitfalls did you run into?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

IT is your Friend

I received a phone call a few weeks back to reserve our training rooms for a special training with a vendor. A special piece of software needed to be installed on the training room machines. The installation went smoothly and the technical staff from this department performed the most thorough testing I've seen any of our clients perform.

The guy doing the installation and I looked at each other when we got together for followup and said:

That was too easy.

Famous last words. So we both made sure we had some flex time in our schedule when the vendor was scheduled to arrive. Because when things go that smoothly - bad things happen at the last minute.

Yesterday morning, I received a panicky phone call from the client.

We can't get into our databases! You all said this was tested! We have to do this workshop!

The issue - just because the software is installed doesn't mean that it is configured. No one gave us that part of the equation. And it's not fair to expect the client (who is NOT a member of the department's technical staff) to know that they need to ask what other configuration steps are required to prepare for the session. Even the department's technical staff was caught off guard. Because they DID thoroughly test the application based on the information they were given by the vendor and based on the knowledge they had at that moment.

As the installation guys and I worked to resolve the immediate issue, something became very clear: this is a rogue project and the department is way in over its head. Furthermore, they are expecting IT to save them when they start drowning.

Another alarm in my head sounded when I discovered that the department expects the new software to be able to connect to and communicate with our enterprise application. They hoped to do this with minimal IT participation - other than as informal "favors" between friends.

And we all know how time-consuming those "favors" become.

The third alarm sounded when I realized they are building a parallel database hosted outside of the organization (with potentially sensitive information). Not only does this potentially make our "system of record" inaccurate, we may be dealing with an information security issue. From talking with them, there did not seem to be any plan to figure out how to reconcile these two systems.

Bells are ringing.....

Oh, and did I mention that we are about to embark on a major upgrade of that "system of record" that directly impacts their shiny new system. They never bothered to ask if anything would impact them. The departmental director's and the vendor's eyes got really big when I provided that little piece of information.

So I got to spend the past couple of workdays being the bearer of bad news. I'm hoping we caught this in time before real damage was done. The decisions are now being kicked upstairs.

The department may be seeing their pet project's timelines change dramatically.

And I'm going to try to lie real low while the storm passes overhead......


It is a case-study in why you need to talk to the IT department FIRST before embarking on projects that impact organizational computers and networks.

The IT department has expertise and resources that (if you go up to them nicely and well BEFORE you start) can help you implement whatever it is you are trying to do.

Yes, I KNOW that many IT folks have a knee-jerk "No" response.

Within that "no" response, however, is a love of problem-solving. They may have a better idea.

Sell them on what it is you want to accomplish - not necessarily HOW you want to accomplish it. Ask them nicely for advice early (like when you are even THINKING about possibly implementing the project) and often.

IT folks love to play with new tools. They may have information on tools that fit within the existing system or, even better, that already exist in the organization. As a result, they will better be able to support you.

If nothing else, asking their advice along the way will save you a tremendous amount of headache.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

From the "How Cool is That?!?!" File

Rumblings at the Verizon Center when I arrived yesterday.

'Theodore is a scratch!'

We knew Johnson, our other goalie has been playing with a hip injury. This after losing 10 players to injury who are just now coming back. For what seemed like forever the Washington Capitals consisted of the Hershey Bears (the minor-league affiliate - kudos to the callups!!!) + Ovie's Line (Ovechkin, Backstrom and Kozlov / Nylander) + 2 goalies + a few other dudes.

Did you see who they called up?
Didn't recognize the name.
It wasn't Varlamov was it?
Nope - not Neuvirth or Machesney either.
Who is that guy?

In an illustration of why it's good to work in an industry you love - the Capital's Web Producer suited up as the backup goalie for last night's game with the Senators.

And he got the biggest ovation in the rink.

Varlamov finally arrived 1/2 way through the 1st period.

Brett Leonhardt - you have just made the day of dreaming cubicle-dwellers everywhere.

(BTW - after his moment in the spotlight, he had to go back and edit his OWN POST-GAME INTERVIEW VIDEO! How surreal is that?!?!?!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This can't come fast enough....

Captivate 4!

Which includes the #1 most important feature I've wanted since I started developing with this thing almost 5 years ago.


Two recent posts from the Adobe Insider on the new upgrade
Final Countdown
Final Countdown 2

Those who have read this blog for any length of time know that I'm pretty cynical about most upgrades. This one will (if all goes as advertised) solve a myriad of issues I've had with this tool.

No release date yet - but it sounds like they are mighty close.....

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sifting through Mental Rubble

You know that feeling.

You are in the middle of a creatively fertile period in your "professional" life. The response and feedback you receive has been constructive. You feel "productive". Certain puzzles are beginning to make sense.

You go on a lengthy vacation - long planned and looked forward to. Leaving behind multiple bits of unfinished mental business. Away from the computers and cell phones and social media tools. Away from anything that reminds you of "work" or "profession" or career

You return, only to find yourself staring at the bit of rubble wondering how you were planning to put it all together.

Oh yeah, I'm sooooo there.

It's gonna take me some time to make sense of it all.


I've been doing an informal survey among the folks in my immediate work world who have implemented wikis as part of their day-to-day work. Informal findings:

- The groups using and editing the wiki are small and know each other from their day-to-day work.

- No anonymous posting. And since they already know each other, they have found no reason to have some over-arching "editor". The closest thing one group has to an editor is the guy who provides wiki access to the team.

- It is an expectation among them (encouraged by each group's management and driven by peers) to update their portions of the Wiki as needed.

- Other folks update the wiki as they find information, whether they are responsible for that section or not. There may be an informal face-to-face vetting of the information with the wiki article "owner" before the information goes into the wiki. Just a feeling this happens because of the culture of the organization, I need to ask more questions about this.

- To give you an idea of how these wikis are used among the folks I talked to: 2 groups use a wiki to document help desk information (information and links to support various computer models, how to's for troubleshooting, etc). 1 group uses a wiki to keep track of building configurations.

- For all of the individuals who adopted a wiki, the wiki solves a problem. The problem of tracking and accessing constantly changing information.


Karen nailed my main goal for many of my projects on the head: Just-in-time performance support.

Because learning happens best when you actually need it.

Too bad it don't look like a "course".


On vacation, found out that another one of my "real-world" friends actually reads this thing. He's a working historian.

Hi JP!!!!

Despite my stated desire to avoid thinking about anything smacking of education, instruction, or e-anything (OK, nevermind that I brought Deborah Todd's Game Design with me as "recreational reading") JP and I kicked around a couple of ideas for developing online history material.

During our conversation, I was reminded of the importance of copyright, publication and courses as an appropriate educational structure among the professoriate.

I'll let the rest of you argue the pros and cons of those beliefs.

That said, I wondered if there was a way to straddle the old and the new. Hmmm....what hooks people about history to begin with?

From the sessions on gaming at DevLearn, I remembered "Let the student make the important decisions."

So much of historical study centers around cause and effect and the arguments surrounding which variables were more important. Many historical writings (sometimes despite themselves) engage in the "What if..." game.


Still thinking this one through. What advice would you give?