Archive for November, 2006

Is it MAKING the game — or is it the GAME?

November 29, 2006

Nancy White asked a key/provocative question in the discussion section of the Poll on our wikispace.  Nancy asked: “Is it ‘making’ the game that is important? Or is it the ‘game’?

My theory is = its MAKING the game.  Thru the very process of making the game together, we learn.  Then, when we finally end up with a game other people can play — it must retain that player/learner-made feature that made it valuable in the first place.  So the GAME will ALWAYS be MAKING the game together.

Then she posted on her blog about the nuanced differences between team collaboration, community collaboration, and network collaboration.  By the time we get to “network” collaboration, everything we thought we knew about working together gets busted wide open:

Network collaboration starts in individual action and self interest and accrues to the network. Membership and timelines are open and unbounded. There are no explicit roles. Members most likely do not know all the other members. Power is distributed. This form of collaboration has been busted wide open with the advent of new online tools, a response to the overwhelming volume of information we are creating and number of people we can connect with. The tools both expose us to possibility, remind us of the overwhelming volume and offer us ways to share the task of coping with that volume.

So.  Some of us who make the elearning game together to solve the mystery of social enterprise profitability will BE nonprofit social entrepreneurs, some will understand nonprofits and social entrepreneurship.  Others will understand game-making and games for learning.  And NOT vice-versa.  And then, sort of intersecting both, folks who understand nonprofits and are working to engage nonprofits with web2.0 tools.

Can we collaborate to bring in what each of us knows and combine to make something powerful?  Can we keep that combination going, even after we make and release our first “version” of the game?  Can we change the way good things get done in our world?


Take the Poll: Can making an elearning game together solve the mystery of profitability?

November 28, 2006

Take the Poll.  Tell me what YOU think.  Can making an elearning game together help social entrepreneurs solve the mystery of earned income profitability?

See the results to date after you vote.  You can make further comments beyond yes or no after you vote.

Even more FUN — you can submit your own poll question suggestions

I’m thinking that this Poll Widget might be a handy, quick way for us to get at our common questions and common solutions.  A quick way for us to begin to identify the meta-patterns that form the essence of the game we make together.

Anybody can submit a question.  You can even create your own poll to embed in our wikispace.  We can have multiple polls running at the same time.

Social Entrepreneurs as Game Makers – What role do YOU play?

November 26, 2006

As I suggested in a previous post  – social entrepreneurs making an elearning game together is really just a structure for us to use.  We can use the game structure to discover and apply the patterns of earned income venture profitability hidden in our collective experience.


Most of us are thinking – we don’t know how to make a game.  But my theory is: we DO know what we want to know.  We do know HOW we want to learn.  And we do know what makes learning FUN for us.


Each ONE of us has something unique and critical to contribute.  Each one of us plays a special ROLE in evolving our learning game-making community.  Take a look at what some other folks think such roles look like.  What role do YOU play?  If you don’t see your role in the list already – ADD to it!  This is OUR game to make.

 With what we do know as our basis – let’s just have at it and see what happens! 

The game we make will probably not be something we might normally think of as a “game.”  Not necessarily like, but maybe partaking elements of, Chutes & Ladders, Bridge, Chess, or World of Warcraft.  When we make the game ourselves – the game can be anything we want it to be.  The rules of the game are whatever WE decide they are.  What we DO in the game is what we decide is most useful to us to accomplish our real-life goals.  And then – the rules and boundaries of the game can change while we play!


I see this game as a way for us

  1. to ENACT our Community of Practice
  2. to VITALIZE our collaborative Knowledge Management efforts
  3. to use Web2.0 tools (such as wikis and blogs) to exponentially expand our resources


The game we make is just an “artifact” of our learning together.  This game artifact is just the thing within which we capture and redistribute what we learn together – so that others can learn and contribute too.  Our game never ends.  We just keep on learning together.

Roles, Funcions, and Skills – what part do YOU play?

Malcolm Gladwell told us (some time ago) that a world-changing idea can TIP from the few to the many, and spread like wildfire.  Epidemic-like spread is due to the contributions of certain types of people who play certain ROLES.  Gladwell’s three role types are:

  1. Connectors (people who know alot of people, and have a special skill of bringing people together)
  2. Mavens (people who know alot about alot of things, and have a special skill of synthesizing information so it’s digestible for others)
  3. Salespeople (persuasive)

Robert Paterson tells us that tipping changes occur “on the margins.”  The slightest push – in just the right place = TIP.


The Overseas Development Institute (ODI)  tells us that there are six FUNCTIONS for rapid evolution within a social network:

  1. Conveners (bring us together);
  2. Facilitators (make it happen);
  3. Community Builders (promote, sustain relationships);
  4. Filters (research & organize information);
  5. Amplifiers (spot relevance & shine spotlight);
  6. Investors (commit & channel time, $$, resources to develop the network)

Henry Jenkins, of MacArthur’s Digital Media and Learning initiative, tell us that there are 11 SKILLS that individual players bring to the mix:

  1. Play — the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving
  2. Performance — the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisationand discovery
  3. Simulation — the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes
  4. Appropriation — the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content
  5. Multitasking — the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details.
  6. Distributed Cognition — the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities
  7. Collective Intelligence — the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal
  8. Judgment — the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources
  9. Transmedia Navigation — the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities
  10. Networking — the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information
  11. Negotiation — the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.


MMORPG (massively multi-player online role playing games) traditionally feature a “Guildmaster.”  The role of the Guildmaster is, among other things, to: a) create a vision, set of values that attracts players; b) find & recruit new players that fit.  Altho the guildmaster role is entrenched in a hierarchal organizational ideology — these functions of the role seem to me to mesh some traditional gaming concepts with the tipping point concepts that are worth exploring further.


A new book, the Starfish and the Spider      (unstoppable power of leaderless organizations), tells us that a decentralized organization — where these skills and functions are spread thruout the organization, not lodged in any one individual — makes it possible for the organization to literally “grow a new head” if one head gets cut off.  A decentralized organization “never dies” but continues to grow and expand and spread its good work.

 Constance Steinkuehler’s dissertation:    on MMO’s eloquently describes the process by which “newbies” are brought into fuller participation in the game.  “Apprenticeship” is a process by which the “teacher” and “learner” engage together to complete a task.  The more experienced player provides just enough information, just in time, for the new player to practice applying that bit of information to the task.  This “practice” – in the context of use – resulting in success or “failure” – followed immediately by feedback — creates the circumstance where new players learn to play the game better and better as they test their new skills in the company of the more experienced player. 

Post a comment.  Tell us what part you think you play.  Add to the lists if you think some key ingredient is missing.

MASHUP: Learning Game Design Principles – Web2.0 Adoption

November 21, 2006

Learning game design principles can foster Web2.0 tool adoption.

Web2.0 tool adoption can foster learning by making games.

It’s a beautiful story.


Recently raised questions about engaging the nonprofit community in using Web2.0 tools may be answered by learning game design principles.   At the very least, learning game design principles and Web2.0 adoption issues have provocative similarities. 


The key Web2.0  “must have” = bring real world value to users. 

Two key questions raised:

  1. how to stimulate imagination

  2. how to trigger inventiveness


Learning game design answers:

Design the “experience” (as opposed to “content”)

     The experience is what player/learners DO in the space.  Designable experiences are: a) knowable, and b) reproducible.  Experience design elements:

  • player/learner-made content (derived from real world experience)

  • collaboratively-made content (access to collective experience, common problems, common solutions)

  • activities (chunked down, small, “doable”); trail by error problem-solving practice opportunities; feedback loops

  • emergent processes for above

  • artifact production and preservation methodologies


     When what player/learners do is CREATE CONTENT, then that content is organically derived from their real world experience, based on the real world problems they want to solve, and the experience of engagement naturally has real world value.  When content is created COLLABORATIVELY, then each player/learner has access to and benefits from the collective intelligence of a community of practice.  Since WE made this stuff ourselves – it will be really useful to each of us.  When we produce and preserve this stuff in the form of a GAME – it is FUN to use!  


Learning game designers have “control” over the tools — let go of the rest.

The “tools” are WHAT the player/learners DO it WITH.  Web2.0 tools are:

  1. designed to foster community of practice collaboration 

  2. designed to facilitate player/learner content creation

  3. designed to enable social construction of knowledge

  4. designed for use, reuse, remix of existing content/knowledge

  5. designed to be out of designer’s control 🙂

     Even how much control designers have or should retain over tools is debatable.  Nevertheless, point is design “tools & rules” to capture an experience strategy — as containers for player/learners to fill.  Throw it out there and see what they/we make of it.  Embrace the chaos.  We shape the experience to be useful for our own purposes.


Are we having fun yet?




Line Rider — OMG — You gotta play this

November 15, 2006

In beta.  Game maker has provided us with the tools.  Making the game is up to us. It will just about break your heart if you can’t make it so the little penguin on the sled doesn’t crash. 

First, check this short video: 

Then, try it yourself on the wikispace (sorry can’t upload here in the blog) 

So what does this little “toy” teach us about making a learning game?

Please post a comment 

What does an Elearning Community look like?

November 13, 2006

How would elearners themselves express what it looks like?  Here’s one:

LCWhiteboard   One of my all time favorite images.  This image was constructed synchronously and collaboratively by a cohort of online learners — and well nigh ‘furiously’ I might add.  Along with the Chat running below the whiteboard image – running so fast and so far to the right that you couldn’t keep up.

The starter image presented was the intersecting circles inside the box.  Representing the interaction among ‘course’ content, other learners, external resources, etc.  Clearly – the elearners are saying most of the learning takes place outside the box.  Most of the learning takes place is unstructured ways.  The learning process goes back and forth among content, other learners, external resources along unpredictable, often frustrating, definitely nonlinear pathways.  Learning one thing leads to another question leads to another learning…and sometimes to something concrete you can put in another box.

I’ve shared this image with a few other people – they don’t even think its interesting, let alone feel the powerful emotions and insights expressed in this imaage.  Now that its static and preserved – so much of what it really means is gone – and we can only get that back if/when we do it again.  When we got done making this picture — I absolutely had to preserve it — I was on such a euphoric high over what we had just made together.

What have your experiences been with elearning communities? 

What have you captured with regard to what they look like, how they work, how it feels to be a part of such a community? 

Tell me.  Leave a comment:)

Community MAP

November 13, 2006

A number of folks are actively working in the overlapping arenas of nonprofit social entrepreneurship, elearning, learning games, and web2.0 tools.  As I have been discovering this Community, I felt I wanted a MAP.  So I could see who we are, and how we are connected.  Such a map would be useful to US – to uplift and extend our networked work.  Such a map would be useful to our USERS – to follow and benefit from our networked connections.  So — I started a MAP.  Here’s a static image of what it looks like so far:

CommunityMap     What I really want is a WHITEBOARD for us to build this map collaboratively.  But I haven’t found one yet.  So here’s a link to a collaborative shared document – the good old fashion way.  CommunityMap 

We can build the map collaboratively, we just can’t SEE it as it evolves.  Open the document, use the draw tool, add hyperlinks.  (It would be so much more FUN if we could see it — but for now, maybe this is better than nothing.  One of us will figure out how to enable us to see it :))

Those of us who work to engage Web2.0 tools and use these tools to promote social good — are ourselves a Learning Community.  We are learning how to use these tools ourselves; how to promote the use of these tools within the nonprofit community to do more good better.  The more we can learn about and from one another, the more effective we will be in our common work. 

Elearners respond favorably to, and increasingly expect, visual presentation of content and graphical, as opposed to text-based, interaction.  Yet, many of the Web2.0 ways for connecting and organizing learning networks are text-based.  For example, Technorati or tags and folksonomies.  Via tagging systems, we can find like-minded folks who are working in related areas — but the connections are represented by words. 

I believe our effort to work together more effectively would be greatly aided by a similar grassroots collaboratively built VISUAL system of connecting and a VISUAL representation of who we are and what we do.

Web 2.0 tools and Learning by Making Games

November 11, 2006

A slide show by Nancy White, called Online Collaboration: Second Wave, and her blog

Discusses some of the challenges we face in adopting Web2.0 tools and making them truly useful to us in our work.  Web2.0 tools – such as Wikis and Blogs – are not business as usual (especially for those of us over 40!). 

It’s not just (dis)comfort with the technology.  It’s discomfort with what these tools can actually do for us.  Wikis and Blogs empower each one of us to take charge of our own learning and change the future for ourselves.  Wikis and Blogs enable us to share power and distribute shared power over a wide network of like-minded people whom we may never “meet” in the “real world.”


A Wiki is much more than a “shared document.”  A Wiki is LIVE, REAL-TIME, collaborative content creation.  The content we create is permanently accessible to us.  And it evolves as we evolve.  We change the content we create as our experience in the real world changes.


A Blog is much more than my private online journal.  A Blog is a captured running CONVERSATION between you and me.  I tell you what I think.  You tell me what you think.  We spark ideas in each other.  We build on and refine what came before.


The ideas we refine in our running Blog conversation can be summarized and plugged into the long-lived content we are creating in the Wiki.


“Making a Learning Game” together is really just a way for putting structure around our use of Wiki and Blog tools. 

For the purpose of creating a knowledgebase to accelerate nonprofit earned income venture profitability.  Game making is a very fruitful structure for our purpose because games are built on PATTERNS. 

A pattern is a set of solutions to common problems that have proven effective over and over.  The solutions to the profitability problems each one of us faces are hidden in our collective experience.  During the process of making the game together, we share our common problems, and common solutions will organically emerge.  As we apply and test solutions in the real world, we refine a set of the most effective.  Together, we discover and redistribute useful strategic patterns accelerating nonprofit earned income profitability!

This is a SERIOUS GAME.  Making a game with Web2.0 tools can actually help us do better what we already want to do.  We already recognize that we can’t do it alone.  We already recognize that there is great value for each of us in the experience of our peers.  We already spend a lot of time attending conferences, workshops, and other professional development activities – trying to find what we need to improve our own earned income venture’s profitability.  All too often with disappointing results.  How many times have you returned from a conference totally inspired and psyched up – and then within the week when you haven’t been able to apply your inspiration, nothing has changed, and the high wears off.  The technologies of conferences and workshops are limited in their capacity to capture, organize, and redistribute useful knowledge.  The technologies of Web2.0 tools, on the other hand, are expressly designed to do just that.  

And why shouldn’t we have FUN using these tools for our serious purpose?

For further discussion of these points: see also: Michele Martin, at the Bamboo Project; and Beth Kantor at Beth’s Blog.

Adult Learning and Learning Games

November 10, 2006

     Alot more is being done with games and learning for kids than for adults.

Alot has been learned in the past few years about adult learning.  Alot of what we understand about how adults learn applies directly to making learning games.  Adults can learn by making games together!  (why should kids have all the fun?)


       A few days ago, Beth Kanter posted about online collaboration and adult learning.  Beth’s post incorporated a slide show by Nancy White, about how to make social networking and online collaboration relevant to nonprofits.  Point: nonprofit social entrepreneurs don’t have time to play round — our networking and collaboration has to generate a valuable result.  Point: it is in OUR power to make these tools useful to us.


Also check out “Power of the Newbie” from coolcatteacher.


     In fact, one of the primary things we’ve learned about adult learning is that adults ONLY want to learn stuff that is practical and that can be directly applied to our work in real life.  Social entrepreneurs who are striving every day to generate earned income to support their missions want to learn how to do it more successfully.

     We know that adults want to build on what they already know.  Adults want to share what they know.  Adults want to learn from their peers.

     We know that we possess tacit knowledge (stuff we don’t know we know) derived from our experience.  Adult learning is accelerated in collaborative environments where tacit knowledge can become explicit, recognized, shared, repurposed, and reused.

We know that adults learn well what they have to teach.


     The latest theories about learning tell us that learning is a dynamic social process in which learners themselves construct useful knowledge.  When people who share a common real life interest, common purpose, common challenges get together on purpose to overcome those challenges – magic happens!  We form connections and make meaning from our common experience.  We recognize the common solution patterns to our common challenges that appeared to be hidden.  Each of us is both teacher and learner, when we do this together.


     What we are coming to understand about games for learning highlights the fact that when we play a game, we are participating in a community of practice for learning.  As we play the game, we are learning how to play the game more successfully.  Learning within the game takes place “just in time” in the context of use – you immediately apply what you learned to your next move in the game.  You cycle back through practicing what you learned and getting immediate feedback on how it worked.  Within the game culture, “failing” is good –  “trial by error” — you “fail forward”.  Recycling through the content is not failure, but in fact it is deeper learning.  You learn from every failure and get better at playing the game.


     Game-playing engages higher order meta-cognitive skills and asks us to relate to the situation along multiple parallel lines, not liner.  We see and act on things we already know, or things we know in a different context, transfer knowledge and see how it applies in a different context.


Game playing is a social experience. (hmmmm …. and ‘learning is a social process’) (hmmm…together, we know everything each one of us needs to know) (hmmm….sharing what we know and learning from each could be FUN)


     Games are a tool for us to think with, together.  Games are a tool for us to explore solutions with, together. 

If playing a game can do all that for our learning – imagine what making a learning game can do for us!  Making a game together is literally a tool for us to change the real-world profitability landscape for nonprofit social entrepreneur earned income ventures.


     Game industry stats indicate that gamers spend an average of 20 hours per week playing games.  What if YOU spent even a smidgen of that playing at making a game for social enterprise profitability?  Would we all be generating more revenue to support our missions by the end of a week?


Please leave a comment.  Tell me what YOU think.

Social Entrepreneurs Learning Game Manifesto

November 2, 2006

I’ve been thinking about nonprofit social entrepreneurs making a learning game together for so long, I finally decided to blog about it.  A game that will solve the mystery of earned income profitability.

And, not just blog about it.  I have set up a wikispace for us to DO IT!  Its called “selearninggames” too. 🙂


There are over 550,000 social entrepreneurs in the U.S. – nonprofit organizations who are starting and growing earned income ventures to support their missions.

Surveys indicate that slightly less than half of these ventures are profitable. That’s good news – and bad news. It’s good news because so many are profitable. And its bad news that so many are not.

A bevy of “consultants” (I confess, myself included) has grown up around the nonprofit social entrepreneur movement. Many of these consultants (myself included) take an educational approach to assisting nonprofits to start and grow a venture successfully. Several formal educational institutions have established social entrepreneurship courses or programs to teach nonprofits how to start and grow venture successfully.

At this point, my theory (grounded in my professional experience) is that the strength of the nonprofit social entrepreneur movement has evolved a depth and breadth of experience that is sufficient for us to ‘teach’ ourselves.

The, by now classic, principles of knowledge management within a community of practice suggest that through conversation, sharing, and collaborative content creation – we can discover the tacit knowledge (stuff we don’t know we know) hidden in our collective experience, and make it explicit. From that collective knowledge, we can identify patterns that are effective solutions to the challenge of profitability. Then, each one of us can apply those solutions to our own venture’s success.

The emerging principles of learning games suggest that discovering the hidden strategic patterns that lead to social entrepreneur venture profitability can be FUN!

Game playing and – even more so – GAME MAKING – are activities grounded in discovering and applying pattern solutions to common challenges. All we have to do it do it. We can make a learning game together that will accelerate profitability for each one of us.