contentgrrl

I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Posts Tagged ‘learning’

writing about policy using ABCDEs of performance objectives

Posted by contentgrrl on December 20, 2007

As part of my rather broad work in writing, I’m often asked for policy statements or alerts. In an effort to communicate completely about a policy, I like to concentrate on the ABCDs of performance objectives (interlaced with the 5Ws and the H from newswriting interviews):

  • A is for Audience: Who is required to perform a task or comply with a new rule?
  • B is for Behavior: What skill, task, or operation is required?
  • C is for Conditions: How are tools involved in performing the task or complying with the rule? Are there prerequisite procedures that must already be completed in advance? Are there certain deliverables, inputs, or variables that need to be given?
  • D is for Degree: Why, Where, and When is it critical? What are the measurable constraints (in time, place, budget) that determine whether the behavior is successful? Is there a minimum and/or recommended criteria? What resulting benefits and consequences may be persuasive motivating factors?

I come from an instructional design background. There, the standard ABCDs of instructional and performance objectives are used to design lessons and identify the criteria for testing whether a student actually learned the new skill. It’s based on the work of Mager, Gagné & Briggs.

The ABCD formula works in everything — from basic math drills to complex software troubleshooting labwork to sales techniques to regulatory compliance training. But it may not be obvious that the performance objective typically comes from an organizational need. The objectives are measured so that the people in one stage (such as a Kindergarten class or a network engineering division or a marketing team or a safety inspector) do their jobs well enough for the rest of the organization to take it from there and fulfill expectations.

But I’d like to take it one step further:

  • E is for Exceptions: Are there exceptions to the rule? How do you know if a rule or issue does not apply to you, or that you are outside its scope? Are there special situations that may apply, and if so, how do you proceed?

Understanding exceptions takes a level of expertise that may not always be available when writing policy or alerts. But if you can nail that down, it’s one way to set your communications apart and be truly helpful to your readers.

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Posted in citizen, heroes, learning, performance, persuasion, reading, tools, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: honorable mention

Posted by contentgrrl on December 16, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Here are our honorable mentions, which don’t get visits from us every week:

Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge site:

Over The Hedge site

Great characters, great animation. But not the most creative games: There’s a maze, a matching game, a “collect-the-nuts” game, and so on.

NickJr Playtime for Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go.

Funschool for a fairly engaging curriculum for many ages, and lots of variety of games for each level.

BoowaKwala for games up to age six, on a site that also offers games and craft activities up to age 10.

The Land of Cyke for games that focus on healthy emotional development for children.

Meddybemps for simple activities designed to prepare young children for learning across many different concepts and skills.

Posted in games, heroes, learning, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 5

Posted by contentgrrl on December 14, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Fifth on my list is Hasbro MonkeyBar TV:

Hasbro Monkeybar TV site

Between Star Wars Jedis, Transformers, and Spider-Man, this is fast becoming my boys’ favorite site. The older brother likes when Spider-Man gets shocked while climbing up a building of boobytraps.

But I was most impressed with the Video Mash-Up, where you can drag-and-drop video clips, sound clips, transitions and stills to create your own Transformers video. What a great skill to have!

Posted in heroes, learning, marketing, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 4

Posted by contentgrrl on December 12, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Fourth on my list are two similar sites from HiT Entertainment: Not the most creative of games, but nice brand-wise.

Thomas Train

Thomas Train site

Of course my boys love trains, and play with their cousins’ set at Grandpa’s. This site has their favorite characters, and like my brother at their age, they love to learn the parts and vocabulary of trains and other vehicles.

So there’s a race, jigsaw puzzles, a matching game, building with drag-and-drop Legos, and more.

I like the fact that this brand emphasizes the value of being Really Useful.

Bob the Builder

Bob the Builder site

Of course my boys love those big construction machines!

Again, there’s a race, a “collect-the-sunflowers-for-points” game, more jigsaw puzzles, building with drag-and-drop Legos, and so on.

Posted in games, heroes, learning, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 3

Posted by contentgrrl on December 10, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Third on my list is PBS Kids:

PBS kids site

Like Playhouse Disney, PBS is also high on my list, but not as popular with my boys. Curious George unfortunately keeps getting in trouble, so I’m not sure I want to encourage sneaky unsafe behavior; but some of the games are nicely challenging in terms of pattern recognition (skates) and animal-sound matching. Much to my husband’s chagrin, they discovered Teletubbies, which plays on my boys’ love of babies to a cloying extent. But then there’s the Sesame Street, Between the Lions, and Mister Rogers. There are dozens of other show-related subsites for older kids too.

Posted in culture, games, heroes, learning, reading, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 2

Posted by contentgrrl on December 8, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Second on my list is Playhouse Disney.

Playhouse Disney

When we watch TV or record shows for the kids, typically it’s from Playhouse Disney because they don’t have to watch third-party commercials for things they don’t need like toys that make noise and junk food. Little Einsteins is for learning about music, instruments, composers, dancing, and art. Handy Manny is about being helpful, solving problems, and using the right tool for the job, with some Spanish sprinkled in. Of course, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is a new classic. And Captain Carlos is my hero, for encouraging my kids to avoid junk food in favor of a healthy diet, so they can have more energy, sharper thinking, and better sleep. Some of the games on this site are really creative, and that’s why it’s high on my list.

Posted in games, heroes, heroines, learning, reading, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 1

Posted by contentgrrl on December 6, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

First is Starfall.

Starfall site

My neice-in-law turned me onto this site, after her daughter learned to read on it. It is absolutely the best program I’ve seen for teaching regular* kids letter sounds and letter combinations, building skills along an excellent curriculum with fun games, songs, stories to click around, and more.

There’s even a lesson on the alphabet in American Sign Language. And there are activities for every season and holiday on the Calendar: Earth Day’s cleanup is one of our favorites.

The lessons may be low in production value, but it’s very lightweight bitwise, so it can work in low bandwidth, while still being very colorful and full of great animation. I don’t know how they fund it (well, there’s a store with games, books, journals, plush dolls, and phonics packs), but bottom line, it’s a wonderful site, and I give a lot of credit to Starfall for making it easy for my sons to learn phonemes.

* The exception is one of my former employers, Creative Education Institute, which has the best program around for evaluating people with special learning needs and tutoring them in reading, English as a second language, and mathematics from number recognition to fractions. But unlike the Starfall site, the CEI systems are not free.

Posted in games, learning, reading, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

13 elements that appeal to this gamergrrl

Posted by contentgrrl on November 28, 2007

I ran links to a gamergrrl’s manifestos in my post about misguided gift shopping lists of games. But what appeals to gamergrrls about actual gameplay? Developers and fellow gamers, I can offer my own likes:

  1. I love customizing my avatar. Oblivion has some great tools to customize facial features and other characteristics that make up the personality. Even the Tiger Woods game did a fair job with avatars, and gives you the option to buy new clothes. The faces, hair, and physical proportions still need work, and the wardrobe is definitely appropriate for the golf course (not in a good way). My dear husband recreated himself, me, and our young sons in his game. I kick total butt on all courses onscreen, even if I refuse to pick up a putter in real life.
  2. I love building a well-rounded character. In Baldur’s Gate, I hated when my husband focused on one characteristic like strength to the detriment of charisma and agility. That may be the influence of my time management training, between Franklin-Covey and the Paul J. Meyer system. Even though Diablo II had a rather limited set of characters, I loved building up points so I could use some of the treasures. Lara Croft seemed fairly well-rounded already (;^), but I would have liked to build more than just quest stats, and build skills. A well-rounded character should be rewarded; I think Oblivion did this well, as did Torment.
  3. I love an intuitive interface. I keep seeing these getting better and better: navigation through movement and physical skills, interaction with the environment, talking with other players and non-player characters, selecting spells and weapons, and shopping for stuff. Oh, and thanks for letting me customize the keys I use. Now if only I could use those Lara Croft or basketball moves in real life.
  4. I like beautiful gamescapes, but not to the detriment of gameplay. It’s another thing that makes a game immersive. I won’t say I love beauty and art and graphics, because lately a lot of engines favor looks over substance.
  5. I love clever music. Portal’s closing credits are a hoot (see it on YouTube). Diablo’s themes for various levels haunted me all the time.
  6. I love allies. In Planescape Torment, they gave me much more than your standard fighter/wizard/archer mix of allies. I could actually have conversations with these allies, learn more about the world, discuss the pros and cons about what our troop was doing and could do next. I could even learn new skills (like thievery, weaponry, magic, eloquence, and so on).
  7. I love a story with a good plot. I want to immerse myself in a story. Again, I’ll use Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Longest Journey, Dreamfall, and the Myst series as good examples. Actually, Star Wars Academy was another. You move the plot forward by the choices and actions you make.
  8. I love both laughing and crying. This may be an extension of plot, but it comes up with dialog as well. Planescape Torment actually moved me to both laughter and tears, and not just because I’d been awake for far too long. (BTW, laughing and crying are my litmus tests for a good movie, and extremely rare in a game).
  9. I love dialog that moves the plot. Not the “Wait, I’m a Medic” or “Thanks” and “You’re Welcome” of the new Crysis that Morgan reviewed last night on G4TV. I have to admit that I like the multiple-choice dialog from Baldur’s Gate II, where you made friends and enemies and affected your charisma points by the dialog choices you made. And I’ll say again about Oblivion, while I love using humor, flattery, boasting, or coercion to win over non-player characters, I’d much rather have a good Whedonesque screenwriter write the actual banter, which would give me some better examples that I might want to try out in real life. Oh, and the voice acting has to be good. Sure Lynda Carter (of the original WonderWoman) can do well as an Orc in Oblivion. But some sound bytes are downright annoying.
  10. I gotta touch everything. I want to explore every square yard/meter of a level or landscape for treasure, and clean it up by killing all the Big Bads and their minions. In that, I differ markedly from my husband (and young sons). Have you seen that comedian, Defending the Caveman? It’s the difference between Hunters and Gatherers, and I am the latter.
  11. I love puzzles that make me think and apply what I already know in new ways. Go Portal. Go Myst. And, to some extent, go Tomb Raider, in terms of using Lara’s skills to get to where she needs to go. But most games are still limited when it comes to what you can pick up and use in the environment; a recent exception is Half-Life, where you could break all sorts of things, lift them, push and pull, with a very user-friendly interface.
  12. I love when the game’s karma rewards or punishes moral choices. Baldur’s Gate punished you for selfish choices by dropping your Charisma so low you couldn’t get anybody to give you information or sell you stuff. Oblivion lets you explore being a thief, an assassin, a soldier, a mage, and so on, all in the same game, but completing each faction’s quests definitely has its rewards, and I’m not sure I want immorality rewarded so much; I’d like to see something decremented like your ability to restore life force or mana when you disrespect property, life, or earth. As much as I like Grand Theft Auto as entertainment, it puts a knot in my stomach for how rude Tommy & CJ are, the foul language they and their NPCs use, the disrespect for women, and oh, yeah, the stealing, killing, and outright destruction. There are games where you get to play the cop, but he’s usually an anti-hero, one who’s out to get speeders or break all the rules. Are there any good detective or FBI profiler or spy games? I haven’t really looked.
  13. I love learning something that reflects real life. I’ll say again, my absolute favorite RPG is Planescape Torment (1999) for its exploration of philosophies (such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on) through gameplay, dialogue, and plot. I also learned about biology and ecology in an old Gaia simulation. I actually learned a thing or two about using golf clubs from Tiger Woods. I’ve even learned a few things about combination shots and English from the old Virtual Pool. It’s too bad that Guitar Hero is only a dumbed-down version of the Dance steps. It doesn’t actually teach you how to play chords. If it did, I’d be all over that. I could really get into a sim for learning how to sail or fly a small plane. I was even lucky enough to be involved in developing simulation training for telecom field network troubleshooting for SBC, now at&t.

Any other manifestos around?

Posted in culture, games, grrly, heroes, heroines, humor, learning, marketing, persuasion, What They Play, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

quantifying personal IP

Posted by contentgrrl on November 11, 2007

Management likes to be able to monitor employee performance and development. And to do that, sometimes they need to be able to quantify personal IP. By “personal IP” I mean personal Intellectual Property, and not Internet Protocol. ;^)

It’s simpler than you think, especially with a team of people who know their jobs. Make a list of measurable skills and competencies, assign a value, assess your people, and add it up. It helps identify skill gaps, training needs, expertise, and compensation rankings.

You’re looking for concrete behavioral objectives, using verbs and objects and success criteria as needed. What should they be able to do, using what tools or methods, (and maybe under what conditions or limitations)? For example,

  • “Given a corrupt file or file needing conversion, runs XXX program to compress the file into fields based on Data Dictionary”
  • or, in the project management arena, “Explains the criteria of selecting a stakeholder or subject matter expert to approve various deliverables throughout the life of a project.”

For the software help desk at DDMS, we’ve made a list of the concepts, procedures, and troubleshooting methods that our techs should be able to explain and do, and assigned a value to a group of skills related to the software we support. Some skill groups are for Level I or II techs, and some are for specialists at each level. Our managers currently use a spreadsheet as an annual assessment checklist, reviewing calls, self-assessment, and asking spot questions.

Ideally, you turn those competency items into test questions or lab activities, assess your people’s performance, and periodically monitor their individual advancement. There are systems out there that incorporate a database with user rights and more objective assessment tools, such as online tests or 360-degree peer & workgroup feedback. I have used such a system for a former company’s clients.

And two organizations in particular have helpful resources on this topic:

Posted in learning, performance | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

scoop on new parent site reviewing games kids play

Posted by contentgrrl on November 9, 2007

Yesterday, LA Times reporter Alex Pham asked (LinkedIn members click here for all answers), “As parents, do you ever wonder what exactly is in those video games your children are playing? How do you go about finding whether a game is appropriate for your child?”

I responded as follows:

I wouldn’t leave my kids completely alone to do whatever they wanted on their computers. Parents are responsible for their children’s welfare, offline and online.

There are cyberstalkers who may show up in online games sometimes known as massive multi-user games (MMUGs), which include online chat functions. Some of those deviants can persuade a child or teen to reveal information that could result in dangerous consequences.

Also, keep in mind that in addition to whatever the original game designers released, there are folks out there who offer skins, hacks, and cheats for download. I remember one first-person shooter where you could change the monsters into snacks like ice cream cones. I think I remember a story about another hack that allowed the San Andreas guy to see more skin than clothes on his “dates”.

Otherwise, I agree with most of these comments: Read others’ reviews, check the ESRB rating, and play it, or at least watch while your children do so. I rely heavily on Amazon.com’s reviews, as well as Gamespot.

Pham followed up with a few questions:

Q: Do you think that there are adequate resources out there for parents to make informed decisions about games their children play?
me: For all the games on the market, there are a multitude of resources. Perhaps not all in one place, which may make it difficult for parents. Opportunity may knock here.

Q: Do the ESRB descriptors tell you much of what you need to know as a parent?
me: I wouldn’t rely wholly on ESRB. ESRB is not likely to review anything outside of the game per se. But since cheats, hacks, and skins are not always tied to the game producer, it’s difficult to monitor them to standards. There is a lot that remains out of the control of the ESRB.

Q: Are traditional game reviews informative in that regard?
me: To an extent. Most reviewers follow a certain structure of software or game review, and most modern review sites offer community features such as user ratings and comments.

After that, it turned into a phone interview for an article on a site Pham said was called What They Play (I now have the link), to be launched Monday by (correction: former) executives of Ziff Davis.

I’m a long-time fan of ZDNet’s reviews for all sorts of software and technology products. They already have a site, 1up.com, that includes the latest game reviews, news, previews, codes, cheats, contests, guides, and q&as. But 1Up is mostly geared for the gamer.

Apparently, What They Play is for the parents. I’d say it’s also good for grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, and other caregivers. Anyone who may be concerned about objectionable content and other details that would help them make decisions about whether to buy a particular game for a child. Anyone who wants more detail than what they find on the ESRB label on the retail box.

I’m hoping it will include information about the educational value of certain games. Sure, I’ll watch for objectionable content for my nephews aged 8 and 12, but more importantly, what will they learn? Will I find everything I need to make a decision in one place? Will games be filtered or categorized according to content appropriate for different age groups? Will that be more detailed than E for everyone, T for teen, and M for mature?

I’m also interested in more specific violence statistics or descriptors. On Buffyverse‘s episode synopsis, you could see how many humans, vampires, and demons were killed, as an indicator of just how violent Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel the Series was. I know that a game is not that static, but some kind of rating for each kind of violence would be helpful. Assume it’s more disturbing to see a human killed than a big Bad. Is bad behavior rewarded in various quests, as in Grand Theft Auto, Thief, and Oblivion? Or is heroism rewarded, as in Spider-Man and Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Is it easy to find games that encourage reading, moral decision-making, applications of what you learn in school, creative problem-solving, environmental stewardship, and political activism?

I wonder, who else has heard of What They Play? I’m looking forward to the launch, and to the LA Times story on Monday.

Posted in community, culture, games, heroes, heroines, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »