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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Stephen Johnson at Training 2006

I just saw a post on Clark Quinn's Learnlets where he talked about Stephen Johnson's presentation at Training 2006. As it turns out, I was sitting about 7 chairs down the same row from Clark, but have a pretty different take on the keynote than Clark.

Clark is basically arguing the point that coaching and support is required to build the results that Stephen Johnson claims:

Stephen Johnson's argument is that playing such games develops new and necessary skills like systems-thinking (which I support as a curricular item) and

I agree that such games require them, but not that they develop them. I cited two data points in a question to him, that there’s much evidence that kids ask around for solutions rather than solving them, and normally reflective kids will turn ‘twitch’ in the presence of a computer game. He responded that they’ll only ask about the tough questions, and that there are some concerns about twitch but you can’t succeed well in the complexity of modern games.

Both true, but they sort of avoid the point. I’m willing to wear that (some) kids will develop such skills, but I also want to suggest that they won’t develop and transfer without support.

I would agree that it IS somewhat hit or miss whether users of these complex games will develop skills without specific coaching/support. However, Stephen's point in the keynote is that the richness and complexity of games and TV has grown significantly and provides the opportunity for users to develop these skills which you don't get from playing Pac Man and watching Dallas. He cites as counter examples SimCity and Civilization IV as game examples and Lost from TV.

Like Stephen, I also play Civilization IV and the complexity and richness of this simulation is incredible. Small choices early in the game can have major impact throughout the game. And, it is hard to be able to think through and understand the impact of these choices. He points out that large communities emerge to help users talk through the potential impact. He also mentions how there are vast discussions around these strategies to help people think through what works in what situations. Take a look at this thread: Representation vs. Universal Sufferage. And then maybe click on the link to go up a level or two and you'll realize the size and complexity of the conversation, decision making required. It really is quite amazing.

Stephen also pointed out that the complexity in TV has greatly increased and points to the social complexities in shows like 24 and Lost. He also pointed us to this great post on a Lost Forum: Complete Analysis of Hatch Interior (+Maps) which you truly have to see to believe.

Having seen my children grow up with more complex games, I am very thankful they aren't playing PacMan - which WAS a waste of a lot of quarters and time when I was growing up.

One last point - and I'm going to write about this shortly:

Where are the rich forums for Corporate Training?

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