Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How useful can an article be?

So lately I've been studying and studying all those theories, frameworks, methodologies etc, as part of my PhD requirements. Today, I have reached a "DUHHH" moment just by reading this article on learning and case based scenarios...

The author said NOTHING new! 30 pages, all examples that are self explanatory. Of course learning by doing is useful! Of course we learn through experiences better than just reading abstract knowledge... Why does it have to be so repetitive? Or is it just me studying too much? :P

Monday, December 27, 2010

New website

At last, I have my new website up and running... I wanted to have it done a couple of months ago, but.... oh well, better late than never, right? :)

I think it looks ok... of course, additions will come as time passes. Hopefully, this will be a good year, with exciting accomplishments...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Role-Playing-Games can enhance effective knowledge transfer in marketing situations.

Within the latest two decades, computer games and virtual worlds have occupied a significant part of everyday life. Primarily for fun, people play, from strategy games, to action, racing, to shooting games. Virtual worlds have generally become spaces where people meet for virtual communication and other interactions. Specifically role-playing games (RPGs) are nowadays of the most powerful virtual spaces that afford fortuitous interactions between the player/avatar and the environment.

At the same time, there is significance rise in the expansion of games in formal educational settings, training contexts, and other learning and professional development spaces. This blog illustrates a model for effective knowledge transfer training in marketing settings. Specifically, it focuses on the relationship between the person and its interactions with the environment and its affordances in order to understand marketing scenarios that can occur in real life.

The increasing value of RPGs lies in the fact that they immerse players in narratively rich experiences; they take up roles and are active agents of change in the virtual context. For example, by taking up the role of a reporter, marine biologist, doctor, executor, shooter, seller, etc., in a RPG game, players can interact with avatars and acquire objects, that push the narrative forward in ways that every choice becomes significant for the continuation of the story (Gee, 2003, Barab et al., 2010). If the player chooses to invest a lot of their in-game money to buy a big amount of products, they might lose the game, as the real-life “laws” will apply; the player will run out of money if there are not enough buyers to buy the products, the bank might charge more interest, etc.

It is evident that RPG games can successfully simulate real life situations; the effects of certain causes are expected and the consequences are realistic, as much as the virtual setting seems to be. This realistic simulation seems to be what enhances knowledge transfer, especially in educational settings. There has been a lot of talk lately about the educational value of games and this exact simulation of real life can afford learners to assimilate knowledge more naturalistically and therefore, transfer it. The fact that learners can experience the effects of their actions is crucial when they are to rearticulate their knowledge to a new setting because they are equipped with the knowledge, and at often times with the skills to respond to new problems.

As learning is considered to be lifelong, and as companies aim to train their employees to respond to different problems, it is significant that they adopt adequate practices for their employees’ professional development. In the business world, training is a significant component for success and growth. A successful company has well-trained employees that can respond to the demands of the clients, and those of the company in extend. However, training does not happen once; on the contrary, a successful company provided opportunities for professional development and training at frequent times.

Either face-to-face, or online, training sessions aim at introducing new trends, providing solutions to newly raised problems, as well as ensuring their trainees’ successful course. As games are becoming a new trend for learning, it seems vital to adopt such practices in the training sector. Specifically, marketing is a business field that requires fast reactions from the seller who promotes a product, and competes with others in the field. At often times, being able to react quickly and provide the client with what they need can lead to successful marketing strategies by having the competitive advantage in the market. Training the marketers for dealing with such problems can significantly raise the sales of a company. A model for such training is proposed in this paper, aiming as identifying the components of a successful virtual training for marketing businesses.

As shown in Figure 1, the model emphasizes on the interactions between the trainee, the context (the virtual world of the RPG game), and the content (several strategies that the trainee is exposed to in order to resolve the problem in the gaming situation). The transactive relationship between these three components is crucial for effective knowledge transfer in real life settings, as the strategies will be applied in the narrative provided in the RPG by the trainee, in their attempt to respond to several simulated situations they are likely to encounter in the future.

Extending this general form of the model, there are other factors to consider in the overall process, like the trainer and their role, the nature of the interactions between the marketers and the buyers (these can be virtual characters in the game). Also, two factors that derive from this model, and that need to be taken into consideration are the legitimacy and the consequentiality of the components’ relationships. Since RPGs provide immediate feedback to the players’ actions, the design of an RPG for the particular purposes must have the same affordances so that the trainees’ agency is reinforced. The trainer should monitor the overall process and challenge the trainees’/ players’ thinking. This way there will be more critical engagement in the overall process.

In order for an action to be legitimate, it must satisfy the rules of the game. Therefore, an action is legitimate if the player successfully completes it and moves further in the marketing training process. For example, if creating a campaign for a product that has successful outcomes for the uptake of a product, then that action is considered to be legitimate and the consequences are encouraging and provide fertile ground for the next steps. Upon legitimacy, consequentiality is enhanced as the player becomes aware of their actions and the consequences a strategy might have in the marketing process.

All these components contribute to acquiring the knowledge and skills to respond to real life situations. Being able to realize and understand the consequences of an action in marketing, the trainee will be more ready and equipped to respond to projects and problems in the marketing process, as they will have experiences similar virtual experiences and they will be able to avoid possible mistakes. Associating similarities between virtual and real life scenarios enhances effective knowledge transfer, and as we base our actions, usually to our prior experiences, it is more efficient to respond to the demands of the market and come up with the right strategies for successful marketing.

In applying the particular model, trainees can practice their company’s strategies in a virtual context and understand how they work is different situations. For example, the RPG can provide a series of scenarios from a database that indicate successful applications of strategies in specific situations. The same can happen for unsuccessful applications of strategies and then provide opportunities for reflections and discussion around what could have gone wrong, or what could have been done differently. Further, this model supports safe experimentation of several strategies in various situations, as mistakes do not have real consequences and the immediate feedback provided trains for adequate responses to marketing scenarios.

This type of training can optimize the marketing world in terms of training the employees. Having virtual contexts to use, businesses can direct their employees for professional development at any time – the employees can have access to the training sessions at any time as well. The quality of training could be potentially optimized through this model, as trainers will focus more on the aspects of consequentiality, legitimacy and the interactions that shape the dynamics if the model’s system and knowledge can be more effectively transferred in real life situations.

Overall, this paper has proposed and described a model for training that situates the trainees in a context and immerses them in a simulation of real life, a combination that affords rich interactions that enhance better understanding of how marketing strategies can be applied and work in specific situations. The overarching outcomes of such naturalistic immersion is the effective knowledge transfer in real life and in extend the more successful application of strategies in the world of marketing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

ITHAKA by Constantine P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find the things like that on your way
as long as you keep thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony.
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Blended Learning

I am participating in a blended course that aims at advancing instructional methods and investigating the dynamics between the participants, the reactions to the tools as well as the motivation. During the first steps of the course, the issue of incorporating blended learning in academic institutions was discussed.

The academic institution I work at provides good opportunities of teaching through innovative methods. For the past year, I have been teaching an online class to undergraduate, pre-service teachers, where the contend was on learning theories and ways to apply them in the class to improve instruction. Next year, I will be teaching the same class, but in a different format; I am planning to use blended methods, similar to the ones we briefly talked about. This would involve face-to-face, and online meetings, but through a 3D virtual world, where people can see their virtual characters and interact synchronously.

Indiana University is an institution where several instructors apply blended instructional practices, involving videoconferencing, skype meetings, 3D in-game meetings, as well as face-to-face meetings throughout a semester. I believe this is a great way of incorporating teaching practices in diverse settings, as it can facilitate learning in various ways, and in accordance to lea learners' needs. For example, when we teach our pre-service teachers about ways of incorporating technology, it is necessary to expose them to the different types of technology, so that they can experience how they work and become confident in using them later on. Our society, being technologically oriented for a while now, demands such use of technology in classes. Teachers need to be prepared to respond to such a demand.

It seems, however, that some learners do not react positively to such innovative instructional practices. Not being tech-savvy, many students enter courses hesitant about whether they can keep up with the pace, the nature and the challenges of a blended course. This is where the instructor's role becomes significant; we need to provide all kinds of support to our students and scaffold them throughout the course so that they become confident, and competent. Also, the instructor should provide a safe environment where experimentation should be promoted. I personally really like this method because I believe it provides opportunities to students to discuss their thoughts at any setting they feel comfortable.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

Habermas and games? Hmm...

From an ontological lens, the objective, subjective, and social realms that Habermas elaborates on are not very different in the two worlds, except from the type of participation that takes place in each context (virtual and physical participation). Like in the physical world, norms are being established within virtual spaces that support the use of symbols for effective communication. Symbols in both physical and virtual groups are associated with implicit meanings, which are usually the same in both kinds of contexts. Therefore, for example, the handshake is a symbol of salutation (an introduction) in the physical world; when we meet new people, salute people that we know, etc, we tend to shake hands. Similarly, when a person joins a guild in World of Warcraft (WoW), the virtual handshake is a symbol that serves the exact same purpose, with the same legitimate way. It is implied by the cultural norms that people in a group can use the handshake to salute. In virtual worlds, this is implied only when the design allows it. If the designer does not create the affordance of a virtual handshake, then the gesture does not exist and the virtual participants create a new norm for salutation to serve their purposes.