Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"I'll Take Learning for 500" Book Review

Review for "I'll Take Learning for 500: Using Game Shows to Engage, Motivate and Train"

Reprinted from Training Media Review

I'll Take Learning for 500, by Dan Yaman and Missy Covington, Book, 2006, Pfeiffer & Company.
Support: CD-ROM. Review by Travis Russ Rating: 3 and a half stars

Field trainers and instructional designers are always looking for innovative techniques for engaging their learners and motivating them to retain training content. Game shows have proven to be particularly useful at accomplishing training objectives.

For years, classroom trainers have used game shows like Jeopardy, Family Feud, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to review course content. These nontraditional learning methods have proved generally effective at helping participants retain the material as well as fostering exciting and motivating learning climates. Until now, few books have been available to help trainers use games shows to their fullest potential.

Fortunately, Dan Yaman and Missy Covington have written I’ll Take Learning for 500: Using Game Shows to Engage, Motivate, and Train to fill that gap. The book is a reference guide for trainers and designers that allows the reader to quickly locate information and tips about creating and hosting classroom game shows.

The text is divided into four sections. The first, “Game Shows and Learning,” includes frequently asked questions, a list of critical differences between classroom game shows and TV game shows, a description of brain-based theory that underlies game shows, and the busting of popular myths about game shows.

The next section, “Designing a Game Show for Learning,” includes the nuts and bolts of design, including brief descriptions of popular shows, an explanation of how to select and customize a TV game show for the training classroom, and how to establish rules for the game.

The third section, “Writing Effective Questions,” highlights the types of questions that can be asked during a game show, tips for writing effective (and fair) questions, and strategies for writing questions with multimedia clues. The last section, “Conducting a Game Show,” gives valuable tips for being the host of a classroom game show and maximizing participant learning, logistical details regarding game show setup, game show software and hardware peripherals, and criteria to evaluate success of the game and your performance as the host.

The book also contains a “Resources” section chock full of helpful books and sources for software, hardware, and professionally produced materials for game shows. Finally, one of the most attractive features of this book—the biggest selling point that is also the most underplayed—is a CD that contains a demo of Gameshow Pro, software for creating professionally designed electronic question boards and scoreboards.

This book exhibits several positive characteristics in critical categories. First, it is generally quite effective at holding the reader’s interest. Game shows are a hot topic as trainers are frequently using them in the classroom and always looking for and better ways to leverage this learning methodology. Yet, few resources inform trainers how to use them appropriately and to their fullest advantage. The authors have made a concerted effort to close this gap.

The authors have written a readable text by minimizing technical jargon and writing in an accessible manner for a broad training audience. They are quite effective at dispensing advice that can be easily understood and used by the intended audience.

Second, the self-study value of I’ll Take Learning for 500 is quite high. The reader learns what the book promises to teach. It is generally quite successful at helping readers:
(1) correctly choose and design/modify a training game that will help their participants achieve the training objectives;
(2) integrate multimedia into the game show for superior creativity and innovation; and
(3) learn the ins-and-outs of playing a fun and entertaining game show host while also being an educational classroom trainer.

Third, the content of this book will likely be quite valuable to new as well as experienced field trainers and instructional designers. The authors provide a large number of practical best practices, strategies, and suggestions that are extremely action-oriented and realistic to implement in the typical training classroom and will enhance learning outcomes.

However, the authors primarily talk about how to use established game shows (e.g., Jeopardy) in the classroom. Experienced trainers and instructional designers would benefit more from the introduction of new, innovative game show formats. Chances are, veteran trainers are already using (or have used) well-known game shows. And students may perceive some of these “classic” game shows as outdated.

Newer game show formats could reinvigorate the energy and enthusiasm of trainers and participants alike. So the instructional value of this text will likely be higher for new trainers versus those more established in the field. However, I should note that I’ll Take Learning for 500 does include a helpful section for customizing a game show to fit one’s own needs and offers a number of hints and tips for using game shows in the classroom that experienced and new trainers will find helpful.

Although new trainers and designers will find I’ll Take Learning for 500 more useful than veterans, I strongly suggest that all instructional practitioners have this reference guide on their bookshelves. The depth of quality information as well as the accompanying CD makes the price of the book commensurate with its value. All readers—novices and veterans—will learn something they didn’t know about designing and hosting classroom game shows. The Gameshow Pro software demo introduces readers to a tool that can create professional-looking game shows as a capstone to learning events—a benefit to both trainers and participants.

Title: I'll Take Learning for 500
Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 4

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Using Game Shows as an Instructional Tool

Using Game Shows as an Instructional Tool

As more and more corporate and K-12 instructors gravitate towards interactive and attention-grabbing instructional techniques, many are starting to see the intrinsic benefits of using game shows. Our experiences, and those of hundreds of instructors, have shown that when learners play game shows their energy levels surge, they pay attention, and they remember more of the instructional content.

Game shows are an appealing medium—they provide healthy competition, have entertainment value, and are a cultural staple both in the U.S. and internationally. However, many instructors are unable to come up with a practical and justifiable way to use them. They are sometimes met with resistance from skeptical supervisors and financiers. What follows are a few of the most frequently voiced objections and our time-tested responses.

"Game shows aren't serious enough-they're just for fun." Training and teaching is a serious business. It's critical that learners absorb and retain content. Game shows are fun, but they're not just fun for fun's sake—they can engage learners so instructors can get serious messages across.

Using game shows can be a way to convey sensitive or serious material in a way that doesn't intimidate learners. This informal training tool opens up discussion around a topic and can "break the ice," making learners feel at ease in the training session and with the material at hand.

"Our employees or students would never buy into, or get excited about playing a game show." Game shows appeal to learners of all ages. We've personally conducted game shows that were "expected" to fail because the audience "just won't get into it." We've never had an experience (with any audience, ever) where the game show didn't appeal to a majority of the audience. There are a few reasons behind this:

  • Everyone loves to compete; people love to show what they know and see if they can answer given questions.
  • Game shows are a medium that people of all ages can relate to—nearly everyone has seen a game show in some format. They're easy to understand and pick up without complex instruction.
  • Game shows appeal to all learning styles—they allow visual learners to see the question and surrounding information; auditory learners to hear the question and discuss answers; and kinesthetic learners to ring in, cheer, and participate.
"Our content is too complex to fit into a game show format." Information is more readily absorbed when broken into smaller chunks and information groups—as is required in a game show format. We've seen game shows used successfully in every type of training situation—from learning about the American Revolution, to rocket science, to OSHA standards, to general corporate policies and procedures.

"We just don't have time to do this with all the other information we have to teach and assessments we have to give." Any type of training and instruction requires a method of review. Learners need to hear information multiple times in order to retain that information. Game shows can be used in place of an "ordinary" review, or can supplement an already existing review process. Game shows can incorporate pre-existing review exercises like role-plays, quick question-and-answer sessions, and learner demonstrations.

Game shows can also take the place of a formal assessment—many game show software programs allow instructors to record results by individual learners. This method of assessment can be less stressful and more accessible than traditional paper-and-pencil methods.

How to Use Game Shows
Game shows are used most frequently in three basic ways: previewing information, reviewing information, and as an energizing event. How an instructor uses a game show depends on the type of content they're presenting and the structure of their information session.

Using game shows as a preview mechanism in a training session can make trainees aware of their gaps, generate curiosity for an upcoming topic, and let instructors know what they need to cover in depth (and what they can skip over). "Family Feud"-style game shows work well for previewing information since you can ask questions that have multiple answers. For instance, you could build interest in a topic like customer-service policy by asking: "What are our customers' top-five complaints?" When previewing information with game shows, be "forgiving" about right or wrong answers, and consider eliminating (or minimizing) penalties for wrong answers.

Game shows are among the most powerful content-review tools around. They're great for assessment and test preparation, or for just a quick recap. Use game shows as a quick review immediately before an exam to alleviate test anxiety and refresh learners' minds. Review after a long training session to "cement" the content in trainees' brains and to provide an emotionally compelling final event.

Almost any game show can be used to review information, but for a quick-fire review session we like to use a Jeopardy!-style game show. This rapid question-answer format allows instructors to cover a lot of information in a short period of time, and as point-levels increase, they can increase the difficulty level of their questions. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", Tic-Tac-Toe, College Bowl, and "Wheel of Fortune"-style game shows also work well for reviewing information-and most can accommodate both short-answer and multiple-choice questions.

There's nothing wrong with using a game show to simply raise the energy level in a classroom or training session. Play a quick, fast-paced game show (like "Jeopardy!") with content that may be one level easier than you would usually use. The purpose is to "warm up" your audience and give them a positive, successful experience—not to stump them. We've also played ice breaker game shows that have nothing to do with the content at hand-using current-event or pop-culture trivia.

A Unique Experience
However an instructor chooses to use them, game shows provide learners with an experience unlike anything else. They motivate learners to pay attention during a training session, they engage and captivate the audience like no other training method, and—most importantly—they are a tool with which instructors can deliver and elaborate on their content. Most instructors know that teaching isn't just about standing up and lecturing anymore—today's learners crave interaction and excitement. As a result, game shows are a practical addition to an instructor's toolkit.

About the Authors
Dan Yaman, CEO, and Missy Covington, Communications, of LearningWare, Inc. have created and consulted on thousands of game shows in hundreds of training scenarios over the years. They are also authors of the book, I'll Take Learning for 500: Using Game Shows to Engage, Motivate and Train.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Top 5 Reasons to Use AllPlay Web!

The Top 5 Reasons to use AllPlay Web in your Webinar

  1. Adults need to be re-engaged every 5-7 minutes.
  2. Competition captivates and motivates learners.
  3. Team play builds camaraderie and fosters networking--even in the virtual space.
  4. Specific, measured interactions makes attendees accountable for their attention.
  5. Game formats have been proven to increase content retention and comprehension.
But don't take our word for it. Sign up for a webinar and see AllPlay Web in action today!