I say “tomato”, you say “redvinegrownvegetableation”

Posted on Aug 9, 2011

Let’s be honest as Learning Folk who have an interest in using technology to add value to our organisations and our learners, we have a tough job on a number of fronts. Not least of which is the challenge in positively influencing those people in our organisations who are responsible for giving the ‘nod’ or putting their hands in their pockets.

So why do we make it hard on ourselves by (at times it seems) making up words or at best picking an existing word to explain what we are doing i.e. curation and gamification???

Surely a couple of words or even a sentence to explain what we are doing is better than trying to cram our plans into a single word?

I have been working with a published author Fiona Talbot for a few weeks now and she has been telling me of some work she has been doing with Corgi/Gas Safe to rewrite their manuals by putting them into Plain English. Interestingly the rewritten version is slightly longer than original version.

Why?

Because sometimes in order to make things clearer to people we need to take the time (and word count) to explain things in Plain English as opposed to using jargon or overly complex words in a vain effort to sound ‘with it’ or dare I say it…. ‘buzz wordy’!

I’ve been thinking about this for some time, however a recent blog post from Saffron Interactive prompted me to respond to. I suspect that there may be some problems with Saffrons commenting system as I left the comment over 29 hours ago and it still hasn’t been moderated so I though it best that I reproduce the original post (and my comment here)

  • Gamification in eLearning
  • Friday, July 29th, 2011
  • Written by Alex Webb

This is a report back from my first day working at Saffron Interactive. Apologies for the short delay, but you’ll understand that I have been very busy for the last month! In an exciting start to my Saffron career I spent my first day attending the Learning and Skills Group (LSG) conference at Olympia a great way to be introduced to the world of e-learning.

I do not come from an e-learning background but I have always had a keen interest in technology and games and one particular talk really captured my imagination. I’m sure most people are familiar in some form or another with the world of video games whether through PCs or a range of consoles covering all ages and tastes. Gaming however is now beginning to have an effect outside of our leisure time and is becoming prevalent in everyday life, for example the way we shop, network and learn.

For those unfamiliar with Gamification a new and growing concept in the world of e-learning the idea is based on the use of gaming mechanics to increase user engagement whilst delivering key learning objectives. For those still somewhat mystified by the term I have included a definition below;

Gamification works by making technology more engaging and by encouraging desired behaviours, taking advantage of humans psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

Radoff, Jon (2011). Game On: Energize Your Business with Social Media Games. Wiley. ISBN 9780470936269.

At the LSG conference, this was explored in depth with a talk from Alicia Sanchez who has been appointed Games Czar at the US Defense Acquisition University (DAU).

Alicia’s talk presented some interesting examples, in this case based on military procurement, an area that apparently requires regular and incredibly stringent compliance training. By using the setting of a game, a far more positive response was generated from the workforce in digesting the necessary content for their roles. One such example was a simulation where the user would carry out compliance checks on weapons on the premise of preventing an alien invasion.

What’s more as gaming has begun to take on a social aspect, this can be incorporated into e-learning for even higher levels of engagement. For example, in the same way that Xbox players use gamer scores to celebrate achievements and relate to their peers, the DAU allows players to build online profiles giving added value and a social element to their learning achievements. This is also great from a learning provider’s perspective as it provides a method for demonstrating the impact that its courses have on user groups.

If you take this social aspect in combination with a Gamification style of e-learning further, it is also clear how learners working together could gain huge additional benefits in terms of organisation and teamwork given the right environment. In a previous organisation I worked at, the Sales Director actually mused:

If teenagers can work together in World of Warcraft to be organised and achieve common objectives I do not see why our sales force cannot do the same!

It will be interesting to see if many of the positive side effects of massively multiplayer gaming would become increasingly prevalent as an additional benefit for this type of delivery. Although I would add a caveat here that had the sales force assembled itself into a 30 man raid group and stormed customers offices (a la World of Warcraft) it may not have gone down well. I do hope however you can see the point I am making In terms of cooperation between departments and employees.

Of course there are limitations to the Gamification of learning. Budgets are always under increased scrutiny and is there as one of my colleagues put it an assumption that if its fun it can’t be good for you? Even taking these issues into account it will be interesting to see if this is a view that shifts if Gamification style courses begin to build up a backlog of case studies with quantifiable results. The other long term factor here could be as younger generations of the workforce come into management positions with a greater familiarity with the culture of gaming there will be an increasing appetite at senior levels to champion this as a style of learning.

As a final note I would like mention one of my favourite solutions of this type currently on the market: a revision of House of the Dead which is not only guaranteed to improve users typing skills but also looks like great fun!

I look forward to giving some further updates on Gamification from the Saffron perspective in the coming months.

 

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This article was written on Friday, July 29th, 2011 by Alex Webb

  • Craig Taylor Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    August 8th, 2011 at 11:28 amHi Alex,Thanks for the blog post and I hope that you’re settling in well at Saffron.I would like to hear your thoughts about the complex language that we (the L&D community) are wrapping around old, new and emerging terms the most obvious one being ‘gamification’. I see more and more ‘one hit’ words being created to describe something that a Plain English sentence is more than capable of describing. Let’ s not forget, those of us in this niche industry *may* understand the terms that we are coming out with (or we *might* take the time to research them) however the business leaders with whom we are working with/for have no idea what these terms mean, they have no time to research them and all we have succeeded in doing is wrapping yet another layer of complexity or jargon around a term within the ‘elearning’ world, which many people are *still* having trouble coming to terms with from a holistic perspective .i.e. a few years ago we coined a new phrase ‘e-learning’ that has become synonymous with self-paced, (sometimes interactive), page-turners and still isn’t widely recognised as including podcasts, videos, screencasts, forums, Wikis, blogs etc. Let’s not start jargonising (see what I did there) everything that we do, let’s stick to reliable Plain English.
  • Craig_____________________________________________________________________________
  • S0 folks, what do you reckon?

Have we fallen into the trap of overcomplicating our language to explain the next big development?

Have we used 1 word to explain a concept when a couple of words or even a sentence would have stood a much better job of being understood?

Am I way off the mark and ‘is‘ the way to win over those who doubt or don’t understand our desire to utilise learning technologies to use vague, confusing words.

Let me know what you think…..

5 Comments

  1. Hi Craig……great post and I completely agree….well you know I do, we already had a lovely debate on twitter last week with @JaneBozarth @burrough & @stipton …culminating in additions to Jane’s Bullshit bingo card of e-learning jargon. How much jargon do we need? Both the L & D and Techie communities had their own jargon long before the ‘creation’ of Learning Technologies now we have L & D jargon, Techie jargon and Learning Technologies jargon which is likely to be joined very soon by Gaming jargon ….after all if we are going to ‘gamify’ everything, we will start using some of their buzz words as well. Give me plain English anyday…jargon does not add value and more often than not it over complicates simple concepts.

  2. Hi Craig……great post and I completely agree….well you know I do, we already had a lovely debate on twitter last week with @JaneBozarth @burrough & @stipton …culminating in additions to Jane’s Bullshit bingo card of e-learning jargon. How much jargon do we need? Both the L & D and Techie communities had their own jargon long before the ‘creation’ of Learning Technologies now we have L & D jargon, Techie jargon and Learning Technologies jargon which is likely to be joined very soon by Gaming jargon ….after all if we are going to ‘gamify’ everything, we will start using some of their buzz words as well. Give me plain English anyday…jargon does not add value and more often than not it over complicates simple concepts.

  3. Hi Craig,

    I think you’re right – there’s so much confusion over what those buzz words REALLY mean – and it may be something different to each person, that it would be much more clear to just spell it out. Especially when talking to non-L&D people, particularly when trying to “sell” your services or deliverables. 🙂

  4. Craig, IMO you are spot on, as you will know if you’ve read my reply to you about the term instructional designer, only you have said it far more eloquently here! I wonder how long it will take before you get a response but I do hope most sincerely that you do get one.

  5. Hi Craig, I’m with you here. A great post by the way.

    Do we do it to blind people with science? Is it to make something that may be considered too much fun into something more serious and more likely to be acceptable in the workplace or learnplace (there – I’ve just gone and done it now!)? I totally agree that in order to get our message across, we need to speak simply. After all, this is how we have persuaded people to communicate in e-mails and in their training materials now.

    It makes sense that using such terms will take more time to process. Any new and unfamiliar phrase will have the same effect. Why should we expect busy people to spend more time than is necessary to conjecture, investigate, research and ponder over such terms? Perhaps it’s because it makes us sound clever or perhaps it might be that we want others to ‘need’ us – have to rely on us to then explain. The liklihood is that using such ‘un-words’ (there I go again!) will mean the technologies or interventions will be dismissed out of hand without any serious thought in how good they are.

    I have the same hurdle regarding the term ‘e-learning’.

    Now I’m off to see how many words I can make up to scatter out to my next unsuspecting group to convince them to enter the world of SoMeTwitterifications. They may be so intrigued they might not be able to help themselves!

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