Karl M. Kapp is a professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University, and this new book, due for release in mid-April, takes on a very important topic in learning/training – namely, how to move knowledge from one generation of workers (the Boomers) to the newest generation (the Gamers), when there is a gap not only in age, but also in learning style.
The book (I was forwarded an advance copy for review) is quite well written, full of interesting anecdotes and helpful insights drawn from personal experience. Karl, like many of us, is part of the Boomer generation, and as we see our kids take to technology like fish to water, we struggle to enter fully into their thoroughly connected/always-on/multi-tasking world.
Further, we face what the main thesis of this book underlines – a new way of learning. Gamers are digital natives – they’ve only ever known this connected world of technology. Kapp accurately calls those of us who still remember black and white television “digital immigrants” – we entered into this techno-world from another time and place and don’t always “get” how the natives think!
The Foreword, by John Beck (co-author of the book Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever), contains this telling paragraph about the new mentality:
- The Gamer Generation has grown up in the video game world of immersion, unlimited do-overs, and instant feedback. The result is that they have verifiably different mind-sets, attitudes, and behaviors, regarding business, education, and culture from those who did not grow up playing video games.
The business challenge, from a succession planning perspective, is clear to Kapp:
- Over the years, the boomers have “built up a tremendous amount of knowledge about how things work, how to get things done, and who to go to when problems arise. In some cases, this practical knowledge will be extremely hard to replace because it has been developed in an era of unprecedented technological and scientific advances.” The knowledge is starting to walk out the door and will soon be sprinting toward the exits…Muddying the water is the fact that the incoming gamers have grown up in a vastly different world that the boomers did. Gamers have different ideas about connectivity, reporting hierarchies, learning, and communication, all forged while playing games, manipulating gadgets, and surfing the Web…Organizations that successfully transfer business acumen and hard-earned experiences to the incoming gamer generation will see tremendous leaps in productivity, quality, and profitability. Organizations that cannot transfer knowledge will experience dire results.
This generation can be decidedly non-linear in thought process, having a high comfort level with multi-tasking, and Google-driven expectations of instant information retrieval. Through early exposure to gaming, the upcoming group of workers is used to strategic thinking, creating their own paths, and immediate feedback. When viewed in this light, we have to question many of our current training methodologies, which are based on a different learning style carried over from a different generation.
A very helpful snippet from the book is a chart (on page 16) showing how games have evolved in four different stages, with ever greater levels of interactivity, immersion, complexity, and collaboration. This was an eye-opener for me, as the level of mental dexterity has ramped up over the years, requiring higher-level thinking and learning patterns.
From a corporate training perspective, the case study of visual job aids as a replacement for printed SOPs (pages 136-138) was a fascinating application of technology to a real training problem. This was one of many illustrative stories sprinkled throughout the book that increased its practical value.
For any serious training professional dealing with the issue of incorporating the newer generation of workers into a company, I highly recommend this volume. It is not overburdened with academic abstractions; in fact, the book is loaded with practical suggestions, including ways to introduce these new styles of learning into a resistant corporate culture.
I found only one frustration with the book, which is that its overall length and thoroughness (a real strength!) may restrict its readership. That’s a shame, because there is some very valuable insight here, and if one were to remove a number of more overt references to corporate training per se, and cut down on the number of examples, that streamlined version could potentially reach a much broader and larger audience. For instance, if much of the material from the first chapter, then a sprinkling of the insights and examples from subsequent chapters, were to be re-purposed into a 40-page downloadable e-book, distributed for free, I think the net effect would be to get this vital message in front of a lot more eyeballs (corporate, academia, and even parents!), and would undoubtedly lead to increased (not decreased) sales of the full book.
But if you’re a training professional in need of ammunition to argue for new modes of learning, look no further. Gadgets, Games and Gizmos will give you everything you need to make your case! Or at least, as Kapp recounts, to be able to justify your purchase of various technological toys to your spouse as “research” expenses!
(Karl Kapp’s website, by the way, is here.)