Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chimp see, chimp do: Clues to empathy

This made me yawn. Says a lot about me.

Chimp see, chimp do: Clues to empathy: "

The researchers used contagious yawning to test empathetic response. “Yawns are contagious in the same way other emotional responses, like smiles, frowns, and fear, are contagious,” says lead researcher Matthew Campbell.(Credit: Devyn Carter)

EMORY—Researchers have documented the first example of a chimpanzee empathizing with 3-D animation—in this case, a yawning ape. The findings could help in the design of animation therapy for children with autism.

“We know humans often empathize with fictional displays of behavior, including those in cartoons and video games, even though the displays are obviously artificial,” says lead researcher Matthew Campbell, a post-doctoral fellow in psychobiology at Emory University.

“Humans experience emotional engagement with characters, empathizing with happiness, sadness, or other emotions displayed by the characters,” says Campbell. “Previous studies have suggested this type of emotional engagement may be to blame when children mimic violent video games and cartoons, so we thought it important to learn more.”

The researchers used contagious yawning to test empathetic response. “Yawns are contagious in the same way other emotional responses, like smiles, frowns, and fear, are contagious,” says Campbell.

He and his team at the at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center showed chimpanzees 3-D animations of chimpanzees yawning and showing control mouth movements. The chimpanzees yawned significantly more in response to the yawning animations than they did to the animations showing control mouth movements.

“Yawning in response to the animated yawns showed an empathetic reaction to the animations,” says Campbell. “Because they showed only involuntary responses to the animations, we believe they empathized with the animations, while knowing they were artificial.

“This is important for us to know because we can present animations in future experiments knowing the chimpanzees will identify with the animations as if they are other chimpanzees. This opens up the possibility of using animations in many other types of studies,” Campbell adds.

Researchers next plan to show chimpanzees improved and degraded animations of chimpanzee yawns to see how they respond to more and less lifelike animations. This may help researchers understand whether different aspects of animations make them more or less likely to be imitated.

“Such knowledge could tell us how to design animations for children to promote imitation when used therapeutically, as with children with autism spectrum disorder, or to limit imitation when used for entertainment, as with video games,” says Campbell.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Emory University news:


What Your Playlist Says About You

From Richard Florida's Creative Class blog:

What Your Playlist Says About You: "

What does the music you listen to say about your personality, and what determines the kinds of music we like? Watch this video by path-breaking Cambridge University psychologist Jason Rentfrow and find out.


Is the Internet melting our brains? | Salon Books

Salon's book review section has an interview with the author of a book that seems to sum up my thoughts on the whole fear of technology thing.

By now the arguments are familiar: Facebook is ruining our social relationships; Google is making us dumber; texting is destroying the English language as we know it. We're facing a crisis, one that could very well corrode the way humans have communicated since we first evolved from apes. What we need, so say these proud Luddites, is to turn our backs on technology and embrace not the keyboard, but the pencil.

Such sentiments, in the opinion of Dennis Baron, are nostalgic, uninformed hogwash. A professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Baron seeks to provide the historical context that is often missing from debates about the way technology is transforming our lives in his new book, "A Better Pencil." His thesis is clear: Every communication advancement throughout human history, from the pencil to the typewriter to writing itself, has been met with fear, skepticism and a longing for the medium that's been displaced. Far from heralding in a "2001: Space Odyssey" dystopia, Baron believes that social networking sites, blogs and the Internet are actually making us better writers and improving our ability to reach out to our fellow man. "A Better Pencil" is both a defense of the digital revolution and a keen examination of how technology both improves and complicates our lives.

Recently, Salon spoke with Baron by phone about emoticons, the way Facebook and MySpace make us better friends and a not-too-distant future when everyone is a writer.

It’s reality - high school classes are going virtual

Online classes are pretty close to ubiquity.

It’s reality - high school classes are going virtual: "Sean O’Brien attends Concord-Carlisle High School, but at least once a day he checks in with a teacher he’ll never meet face to face.

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Sleepless in Academic Affairs

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting take on the opportunities offered by the newest economic realities:

Sleepless in Academic Affairs: "

To get through today's economic travails and what's to come, writes Jeff Abernathy, college administrators -- working closely with their faculties -- must try things they've never done before.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Brent Schlenker: Marketers and Game Developers Know More About Learning Than We Do!

From the blog Learning Visions comes this interesting take on gaming and education:

Brent Schlenker: Marketers and Game Developers Know More About Learning Than We Do!: "

Live session with Brent Schlenker: Marketers and Game Developers Know More About Learning Than We Do! hosted by Training Magazine Network.


Disclaimers: “I am not a marketer or a game developer.”  (Although he plays a LOT of games).

When he listens to game developers talk, feels like they’re in the learning prof.

Everything IS about learning. 

Brent’s background:

What I am:  15+ yr learning professional, lifelong learner, player, consumer.

  • news – using media to tell stories.
  • Masters degree in Instructional Systems Design Process
  • 10 years at Intel working in tools.

How do we use new and emerging technologies in the learning space?

We don’t typically create the new tools in eLearning – that innovation is happening in other places – e.g., marketing.

What’s coming down the pike so we can prepare our learners for them?

Point of today’s conversation: talking training, design and development if a marketing person were doing it. Or a game developer.  What cool things are other areas doing that we can leverage to make us better designers and developers?

Comment (Julie S):  “My first boss said that training is very much selling.”

Marketers are REALLY good at understanding who their target audience is.

People, Context, Content

Corporate ISD:

  • When working with a Subject Matter Expert (SME), they have a tendency to put everything into the training.
  • In corp learning space, we have a tendency to give in to that.  We bow to the will of the SME…
  • Little room for creativity

New technology gives us new tools. 

Marketing Depts:

  • Marketing dept always has the money.  That’s where most creative talent in organizations go.  This is where business finds the value, which is why marketing is where the dollars go.
  • They also get the resources to analyze the data.
  • What are they doing that’s different?
  • How do they measure success?  Are the expectations on marketing depts greater than on training? 
  • Marketing brings in the money.
  • A big part of marketing IS education --  what is the product? how does it add value?  why should you buy it?  This is the greatest connection between what we do…

Learners need to change behavior…which is what marketing does. 

Event-based learning vs. Learning Campaigns

Marketing talks about a CAMPAIGN. Learning talks about a curriculum.

A campaign is a series of events/operations/continuing storyline – not just a “set of courses”.

A campaign that’s a continuous storyline involving a set of adventures and characters (learners) to achieve a set goal…

Design and develop learning campaigns that involve storylines, adventure, social media, people – every campaign has a structure to it – there is a formal development/design process.  But there’s room to move. Different media involved in an ad campaign.  Let people engage with others in the learning process.

New tools make this easier to implement from cost perspective, but still a big time cost to developing/designing learning campaigns.

A learning campaign is different than a marketing campaign.  It’s not about t-shirts and email blasts – it’s about providing more ways for learners to engage with and access content.

World of Warcraft:  getting people into a shared space to figure out together how to get the boss (the bad guy).  Someone in comments wrote “sounds like a business strategy meeting!”

Get the Learner’s Attention

We use a lot of “fake” ways to get people’s attention…fun flash movie and then slide into the boring content…but I got their attention!  (Yes, we need to sustain that attention.)

Each person’s individual desire to learn something is what makes for engagement.  We’re not talking about “dressing up” content to fake that it’s engaging.

Book Recommendations:

Made to Stick (idea of attention – marketers do something shocking and unexpected, “unexpectedness”.)

A Theory of Fun (“games are puzzles to solve, just like everything else we encounter in life”)  The most serious issues we have to approach are puzzles.

Don’t just read learning design and pedagogy books.  Extend what you can do – think outside of your field.

Common Craft Videos

Great at explaining.  Now companies are coming to them to do marketing – to explain their products.


Why are these so memorable?  What can we learn from these infomericals?  What are they doing – how do they display information and what' they’re teaching us about their product?  Seems like an ID at work in there.

YouTube – videos – short hits to educate.  30-90 seconds.  A whole lot of info, but the right info when you need it.

Production costs have dropped – we can start adding a lot more media/engagement to our programs.

Quickly produce short tips.

Attention – ways marketers and game developers get our attention.  They do this well.

Analysis – really know their audience.

Objectives --

Measurement --

What you can do?

  • Keep it quick
  • Make it short
  • Be really creative
  • Make something that actually affects behavior (marketers want people to change their behavior – drink pepsi not coke, drink coke not pepsi)
  • Make it truly memorable

Don’t just need IDs on your staff – get some creatives in there who look at things a bit differently.

Understand gaming theory and gaming design. 

Put the customer/consumer/learner first.  We say we do…but we don’t often do it.

The best stuff is not trickery – it’s an engaging game; it’s a great product or service.  That’s all.  (Jeopardy is really kind of lame…)


Forget Gen Y: Gen X is Making Real Change

From the blog "Read Write Web":

Forget Gen Y: Gen X is Making Real Change: "

gen x.jpgSometimes even the best researchers forget that the answer you get depends entirely on who you ask. A new Forrester survey of 2,000 information workers has revealed that despite the hype, it's not Gen Y that's getting business to adopt collaborative technology. Gen X, those who are 30-43, are the ones leading the charge for social computing.

Forrester's analysis is that despite their different view of technology, Gen Y, Millennials, or whatever you want to call those 29 and under, don't yet have the clout within organizations to make real change. The same Gen X employees who are the fastest growing demographic in Facebook are the ones getting management to accept new technology as more than a fad.


Just Ask Employees

A common method for researching about how people use technology is to ask industry experts and management about what they've provided to workers and how they think it's being used. That's how many market researchers go about their business.

But Forrester has decided to just ask the employees directly in their new 'Workforce Technographics' survey. Despite the imposing name, it's basically just asking people who work with computers about how they use technology, instead of going over their heads to IT and management. The survey of 2,000 individuals was conducted online in April, and was limited to those who work in companies with more than 100 employees.

It's All About Influence

A favorite argument among those who talk about the gap between Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y is that the youngest demographic is more adept with technology. According to the survey results, that's just not true.

Gen X employees contribute to discussion forums and social networks just as much as their Gen Y counterparts. The use of blogs and wikis was either equal or different by just a couple percentage points.

But the most significant difference was not in usage stats. It was how effective employees are at getting new software to be accepted. 22% of Gen X said they felt they have the 'clout in their organization' necessary to introduce new technology, while only 13% of those under 29 said the same.

Even if Gen Y was significantly better at using social software, it wouldn't matter at this point. Obviously younger employees will increase their stature within organizations as the years pass. But the idea of Millennials at the vanguard of innovation in the enterprise is a myth.



Next Up For Disruption? College - TechDirt

From Online Learning Update. Dare I say r'uh r'oh?

Next Up For Disruption? College - TechDirt: "The article in Washington Monthly discusses a company called StraighterLine, which offers online college classes, but it totally disrupts the traditional business model of university learning. In the opening story of the article, a woman completes four full classes in just two months -- for a grand total of $200. Taking those same classes at either local universities or online would have cost thousands, and would have taken much longer to complete. And, it's not as if the StraighterLine courses skimp either. According to the article, they use the same materials found in many college courses.


Game Within a Game: Freedom and Control in Assassin's Creed

The Video Games and Human Values Initiative is an interesting effort to foster a meaningful dialogue on video games' place in our society. They've published an article on the game Assassin's Creed that's worth a look. It's entitled "Game within a game: freedom and control in Assassin's Creed" by Justin Keverne

The Video Games and Human Values Initiative are pleased to publish here our first proceeding. This article is the pilot of what we hope will be a new approach to scholarly publication in the interdisciplinary discourse on video games. Readers are invited and encouraged not only to discuss the article, but also to provide the benefits that traditionally have been in the hands of peer-reviewers--that is, generally, assistance in ensuring that the article makes a genuine contribution to its fields. One very important part of those benefits will be, we hope, the unstinted flow of suggestions of a bibliographic nature--in terms both of specific citations and background readings. Your comments are therefore most welcome, in particular if they take the form of suggestions for improvement.

At regular intervals, the article will be updated here and on the archive at the VGHVI wiki, in response to the discussion here. We believe that this arrangement could well represent a significant step forward in the development of the form of the scholarly article.

Mentoring Is Overrated. Try Tutoring Instead

From the Harvard Business Review web site.

Mentoring Is Overrated. Try Tutoring Instead: "

The idea that the best way to learn a subject is to teach it may be the bane of undergraduates left to the mercies of graduate teaching assistants, but it's remarkably true. In medical school, the cliché 'See one; do one; teach one' has become a dominant pedagogical principle. In fact, George Bernard Shaw's notorious anti-educational quip gets flipped &#8212 instead of "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach," it's "Those who teach effectively learn how to do."

The power of this practice was recently reinforced at a statistical software customer conference I attended. A participant complained that one of the training sessions was really more of a 'technical demo' than a class. The session leader was less a teacher or facilitator that a presenter. The collective frustration was palpable. This seminar's attendees could 'see' what the presenter was doing and observe the outcomes but they simply couldn't 'get' the underlying principles. You really couldn't divorce getting business value out of the software from understanding the core statistical techniques.

So what happened? Three participants &#8212 each from different companies &#8212 got together during the break to teach themselves (and each other) how to marry the software to the statistics. Intriguingly, this ad hoc group had synergistic skills: One knew the software but had a shaky understanding of the statistics; another understood stats but had only a casual acquaintance with the software; and the third had a problem he thought the software could solve. Fifteen minutes of explanatory give-and-take around the keyboard later, everyone had clearly "learned" more about their own skill and competence by attempting to "teach" their colleagues. The software jockey gained greater fluency with the package as he demo-ed how to integrate the problem with the statistics. The stats geek got a better sense of the math in the course of helping translate the problem into the software. The guy with the problem better understood its underlying challenges in the course of defining it for the statistician and the software.

Of course, they each came away with a better understanding of their colleagues' expertise too &#8212 a win/win/win. My opinion: None of these individuals could have succeeded on their own. Just as significantly, the challenge of "teaching" their particular expertise to their two other partners had really pushed their own understanding of their particular skill. I was impressed. I wasn't surprised.

Nobel laureate physicists such as Enrico Fermi and Leon Lederman took pride in teaching bright undergraduates because it forced them to keep in touch with the fundamentals of their field and express themselves simply and clearly. Teaching wasn't merely imparting knowledge &#8212 it was a learning experience. I see this all the time in software and finance: The 'power user' isn't the individual who has spent the most time digging through and learning the intricacies of the code; it's the person who is teaching others how to use that software to solve unusual problems. Similarly, the 'quant' designing a novel financial instrument typically discovers details, nuances and substantive insights in the course of 'educating' colleagues about what makes that innovation special.

When I observe how communities of practice and expertise evolve in entrepreneurial firms or global enterprises, I'm struck by how often the designated 'teachers' get so much more value from the experiences than the fledgling 'learners.' Indeed, what really creates critical mass and momentum is a surge in those small three-or-four person 'study groups' where it's delightfully unclear whether the individual participants learn more by teaching or by collaborative learning. That's one reason I believe "mentoring" is overrated as a human capital investment. I suspect that there are CMOs and CFOs who would become far more expert &#8212 and effective &#8212 in their roles if they took the time to explicitly teach people core skills and competencies in their specialty. Better yet, the scalable impact would come when those "students," in turn, sought to reinforce their learning by teaching others. See one; do one; teach one.

It would be a wonderful &#8212 if appropriate &#8212 irony if the new paradigm for "executive education" emphasized that the best way for executives to learn well is to insist they teach well. When you look at what Jack Welch did with Crotonville, you can't help but wonder if the best way to have a 'learning culture' is to invest in a 'teaching culture.'

A researcher at MIT Sloan School's Center for Digital Business and a visiting fellow at the Imperial College Business School, Michael Schrage is the author of Serious Play and the forthcoming Getting Beyond Ideas. His research focuses on the behavioral economics of innovation through models, prototypes, simulations and experiments.


“The Ten Worst Teaching Mistakes”

From Larry Ferlazzo's site:

“The Ten Worst Teaching Mistakes”: "

The Ten Worst Teaching Mistakes is an excellent post by by Richard M. Felder, North Carolina State University and Rebecca Brent, Education Designs, Inc.

It’s geared towards college-teaching, but much that’s discussed in applicable to K-12.

Thanks to Jason Flom for the tip.