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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Opening Discussion

This will be the last message that I will re-post from what I expect will be a lively discussion. This is Dr. Reeves', the author of this week's discussion paper, first message to the discussion.

Hi Bev,

Thank you for kicking off the discussion of my paper titled “Do Generational Differences Matter in Instructional Design?” Let me remind participants in this discussion that this paper reports my review of the literature concerning generational differences and instructional design, not my own opinions about the importance of generational differences in education and training.

The bottom line of my analysis of the existing literature is that the generational differences “research” is quite weak (based largely on dubious surveys) and that this research provides an inadequate basis for differential instructional designs or the use of alternative training delivery systems for different generations. That said, there are people in the industry who are convinced that things like virtual reality and multiplayer online games have enormous potential for training and educating the “Net Generation” (i.e., those born from 1981-2000). It is an appealing notion, but not one that has sufficient substantive research underpinning it.Â

As your comments indicate, Bev, the important thing for instructional designers to remember is that any project we undertake is only as good as the needs assessment, learner analysis, and other front end analytical activities that we conduct. We cannot afford to abandon our most important tools under the assumption that “Oh wow, my workers are mostly from the Net Generation, so I need to develop an interactive gaming environment for them.”

Are the people investing heavily in training games and simulations making a mistake? No, as long as they have done an adequate analysis of their target audience. I hope that the U.S. Army has done such an analysis because they have spent millions developing an advanced video game to attract new recruits. According to the official website for the “America’s Army” game (http://www.goarmy.com/aarmy/index.jsp): “America's Army provides civilians with an inside perspective and a virtual role in today's premier land force: the U.S. Army. The game is designed to provide an accurate portrayal of Soldier experiences. The game is an entertaining way for young adults to be educated about the U.S. Army and see some of the career opportunities available to Soldiers in the U.S. Army — all this as a virtual Soldier. America's Army emphasizes teamwork, values and responsibility as means to achieving the goals.”

The U.S. Armed Forces are also developing sophisticated interactive simulations for the what they view as the unique training requirements of 21st Century warfare. For example, Verton (2005) describes how the Department of Defense is investing millions of dollars in efforts to develop highly realistic battlefield simulations to train troops for the types of urban fighting that they will increasingly face in countries like Iraq. These simulations are being developed for what is known as “fourth generation warfare” in which enemies are embedded with civilians and there is no clear cut frontline.

Fuhr (2005) reported that the U.S. military services are requesting industry and academia to engage in advanced research and development related to 3D visualization for training simulations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is also investing in high fidelity training simulations to train first responders such as police, emergency medical personnel, and fire fighters. Clearly, some people believe that there is a future in games and simulation. Personally, I agree, but I am concerned that corporations, government agencies, and others are not investing in the right kinds of research and development efforts.

Bev, you expressed concern about the lack of attention to the unique needs of Baby Boomers. There certainly are plenty of us still in the workplace, but more and more of us are retiring everyday. (This trend may slow if stock portfolios continue to shrink!) Baby Boomers possess a huge proportion of the expertise in today’s workplace, and I think we need to pay much more attention to how that knowledge is going to be managed and handed off to the Gen X and Gen Y workers. This is another area where much more research and development must be done. We cannot afford to lose the hard-earned knowledge, skills, attitudes, and drive of the Baby Boomer generation. (I must confess to some degree of self-interest here….I am a Baby Boomer….born in 1947.)

Fuhr, J. (2005). JFCOM wants “more advanced” visualizations. Military Training Technology Online. Retrieved May 23, 2006, from http://www.military-training-technology.com/

Verton, D. (2005). Simulating Fallujah: Graphics engines, supercomputers, and real gunpowder. Computerworld. Retrieved May 3, 2006, from http://www.computerworld.com
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