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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Interview with Lindsey Hill, Evanced Solutions: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Game-based learning continues to be one of the most engaging methods of learning for childing (as for adults), and fun, engaging learning apps can be very effective as well. Welcome to an interview with Lindsey Hill, Lead for Reading Engagement Innovation at Evanced Solutions and Evanced Games.

1.    What is your name and your relation to elearning?
Hello, Susan. My name is Lindsey Hill. I’m the lead for Reading Engagement Innovation at Evanced Solutions, LLC and Evanced Games. My 14 years of teaching experience has provided me with a unique perspective on previous and current trends in improving reading proficiency.

We’re empowering children to be creative thinkers and problem solvers through today’s e-gaming technology. This enables me to shine a light on the real issues around children and reading and other learning deficiencies. Even though I’ve left the classroom, I visit classes regularly to help kids take ownership of their intellectual growth. I have noticed that when kids identify and embrace their particular interests, they can break through reading proficiency barriers and experience real success. I spend time with parents, teachers, librarians, and students in and out of elementary classrooms to demonstrate this.

In the modern classroom, digital games are a powerful platform for motivating student learning. That’s partly because we know that games tied directly to students’ interests drive frequency of use. Also, if a game offers achievable challenges, kids will have success. This, too, drives frequency.

If this seems a little vague, let me give you an example. I met a third-grader who told me he didn’t like to read, but he loved playing zombie-related video games. His interest in zombies led us to a discussion of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps mystery series. I followed up my classroom visit with an email to his teacher about his interest in mysteries.  Not long after, she told me he had been reading the series and writing his own zombie comics that he shared with the class.

2.    Tell me more about Evanced Games.

Evanced Games is a division of Evanced Solutions, LLC. We’re a technology company that empowers children to pursue learning outside of the classroom and develop closer relationships with the people around them. Our dedicated team of educators believes that gaining and sharing knowledge through children’s keenest interests is the best path for learning success. We introduce kids to the world of technology, while helping them to uncover their interests further, with special consideration to their individual learning styles.

We have partnered with Demco, our parent company, and have gotten great inspiration from our sister company, Edupress, to create digital versions of its award-winning educational content. We offer edu-gaming apps for children in grades K-6 that encourage learning beyond the classroom walls. Our three mobile apps—Froggy Phonics, Tic-Tac Bananas, and That’s Baloney—offer a fun way for children to practice a variety of Common Core skills, from phonics and algebra to cause-and-effect and simple problem-solving.

3.    What is your area of expertise?

As a former elementary teacher and my school’s two-time Teacher of the Year honoree, I’m able to bring my first-hand experience and perspective to Evanced. Each new school year gave me an opportunity to foster relationships with my students. Making personal connections with my students valdidated who they were outside the classroom, as well as inside. Through a daily Community Circle, my students had the choice to share their fears about a sick pet or last night’s winning touchdown, for example. This process proved their two worlds could coexist, showing school was a safe place to use their imaginations and discover who they were.
Leaving the classroom was one of my toughest decisions, but I knew I was joining a team to impact even more kids with Evanced. I think my role as a parent of two young boys also brings another interesting perspective to the table. My real passion—my favorite thing in the world—is to help kids to experience a love of learning that goes beyond the classroom walls. They do this through self-discovery and creativity.

4.    How did you go about designing an elearning game? How, in your experience, does game-based learning offer special advantages to teachers?
The Evanced Games team is made up of designers, teachers, artists, and developers. We work closely with kids as our experts. They help us create games that they will want to play without being told to. We invite them and their families into our design studio to play prototype games and give us their thoughts. We make changes to characters, sounds, story lines, and other elements based on what we hear from them.

Game-based learning helps resolve some of today’s educational issues. Classroom practices are changing all the time. With the initiation of the Common Core State Standards in 46 of our 50 states, the classroom atmosphere will, no doubt, change slightly. But, the impact of those changes will be minimal. Classroom teachers will focus more heavily on the conceptual understanding of skills as opposed to procedural proficiencies alone.

Teachers will feel confident in their approaches, when they see results from their students. The students’ interest in the activity will soar, because it is related to what they tell us they specifically want.

5.    Is there such a thing as a *bad* elearning game?  What are some things to avoid?

Any game that is designed for children—including e-learning games—should be fun. Plain and simple. If kids don’t think a game is naturally fun, they won’t play it.

“Bad” games tend to miss the mark on the story behind the game. The story line needs to be compelling to kids. They need to be interested. They need to care. “Bad” games provide unachievable challenges, and they offer very little autonomy, or choices, for the players.

Only after a game is considered enjoyable to play by children, should it be made to include the content that parents and teachers want. In other words, if you first start with the educational elements you want players to practice and become proficient in, and make fun an afterthought, you will have a significant failure on your hands.

6.    What is the relationship between motivation and game-based learning?

Kids are motivated to play games of all types because they provide them with choices, achievable challenges, and they allow for social interactions with their friends and family. For older kids, they may even have some social interaction with other online gamers in other parts of the world, if they’re playing something like Clash of Clans or Minecraft, which are both very popular.

When playing a well-designed game, kids feel that there is a purpose to it—whether it’s meeting all of your froggy friends in Froggy Phonics or beating your little brother at tic tac toe in Tic Tac Bananas.

7.    Who are your favorite authors who are writing on game-based elearning?

In order to understand a variety of perspectives on learning proficiencies, I’m currently enjoying How Children Succeed by Paul Tough and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.
I’m also reading The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens by Stephen Apkon. He discusses the concept of “screenagers” and the challenges of raising a very different generation of kids.
Each of these authors, however, explores building confidence in our children by using what kids know and how they use that knowledge. I also enjoy discovering different “mommy” and “daddy” bloggers, as well as teacher and librarian writers. They provide current, first-hand experiences with this next generation of kids that is our future.

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Monday, October 07, 2013

Tell Us What You REALLY Think! Rate My College Survey

What was really great about your college experience? What would you tell someone who is considering going to your dear alma mater?  Tips? Tricks? Lessons Learned?

Fill out the questionnaire here and share what you experienced.

Then, take a free read of E-Learning Success: From Courses to Careers - free ebook!

You may also win a free e-symposium from AAPG - just complete the survey and send an email to to let us know.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Interview with David Falzani, SMF - Corgi "Big Bark" Award

Mentoring is vital for the future of innovation as it relates to leadership, management, engineering, and new technologies. While technology is marked by ongoing change and a focus on the future, a recognition of the past vis-a-vis experience and lessons learned is invaluable. This is where mentorship become a focal point. Welcome to an interview with David Falzani, who dedicates a large portion of his time to Sainsbury Management Fellows' Society, which provides educational scholarship and career development for aspiring young engineers. 

What is your name and your relation to career development?

David Falzani, CEO of business consultancy, Polaris Associates, and President of the Sainsbury Management Fellows’ Society (SMF), a charity that provides educational scholarships and career development for aspiring young engineers.  I was a beneficiary of an SMF scholarship.  I am also a Visiting Professor at Nottingham Business School (NUBS).  NUBS is a centre of excellence in the development of enterprise and entrepreneurial skills, innovation and understanding the commercialisation of research.  I teach about the value to the economy of hi-tech wealth-creating industries and modern manufacturing, and how they can extract value from engineering and technology.  I share my experience of steering entrepreneurial businesses through the development of ambitious business and marketing strategies.  I aim to give students an insight into the challenges faced by a new business, from raising investment to scaling up an operation.

David Falzani, President, Sainsbury Management Fellows' Society
What is the importance of interdisciplinary education?
The world is an increasingly interconnected place.  Consequently business problems, and their solutions, are becoming increasingly interconnected too.  For example, today, every organisation is an information business and data is the most valuable asset to the operation.  The ability to interpret and understand data and information in a business context is a major benefit because it creates opportunities to add value to a business and thus its performance and success. To achieve more elegant and effective business solutions, we need better ways to handle higher levels of complexity.  The best way this can be delivered is through broader approaches to problems, rather than through the traditional single ‘silo’ disciplines.

That’s where SMFs’ philosophy and scholarship scheme comes in.  The Society promotes the benefits of a combined business and engineering education to help improve the performance of the UK economy.  We believe that by equipping engineers – experts in understanding how to best apply technology – with business knowledge and experience, they can use their mix of skills to build new products and services that enhance business performance more rapidly and ultimately improve both the UK economy and people’s lives.

What is the SMF programme?
SMF aims to improve the economic performance of UK engineering, manufacturing and construction businesses.  This is achieved by providing highly motivated professional engineers with MBA scholarships to undertake a first-class business education in an international setting.  This helps them to embark on leadership roles in business with a high level of confidence.

Through its scholarship programme, SMF enables professional engineers to add business, finance and marketing expertise to the diverse skills gained through their engineering training and qualifications.  SMF awards £300,000 worth of MBA scholarships each year to engineers with exceptional education qualifications and leadership potential.  SMF has already awarded £7m worth of scholarships.

An award of £30,000 each is made to 10 successful applicants annually so they can do a full-time MBA course.  The Award is given on condition that the candidate obtains a place at one of the 12 business schools (in Europe and USA) that participate in the SMF programme, which is administered by the Royal Academy of Engineering. 

Candidates must be UK citizens normally domiciled in the United Kingdom.  Candidates should ideally have a first or upper second class honours degree in an engineering subject and have Chartered Engineer status or be making substantial progress towards it.  Given SMFs’ goal of getting more engineers into business leadership positions, candidates must have the potential and ambition to achieve senior management responsibility early in their career.  To learn more about applying for an SMF scholarship click here.

 On graduation, scholarship awardees become Fellows of the Sainsbury Management Fellows’ Society and gain access to an impressive network of professional contacts and activities including networking events, the opportunity to participate in special projects such as round table debates that are important to the UK economy (e.g. Energy Round Table), publications, career advice and mentoring from within the SMF network and from external captains of industry.  They can also participate in the SMF LinkedIn Group Engineers in Business.

There are now 300 Fellows – 10 of these are studying for their MBA degree currently.  Nearly 90% are employed in industry or services to industry and 70% of these are based in the UK or work for UK firms.  Sixty Fellows are entrepreneurs and own and manage their own enterprises.   Some of these recipients have already gone on to create new businesses worth in excess of £500m, whilst others have helped further develop some of the UK’s largest corporations, creating economic wealth and providing jobs for many thousands.

 Who is Lord Sainsbury?
Lord Sainsbury is the founder of the Sainsbury Management Fellows’ Society.  You will know him better as David Sainsbury, former businessman and politician – he was the Minister of Science and Innovation from 1998 to  2006.  Now a life peer, he sits in the House of Lords as a member of the Labour Party.

In the 1980s, David Sainsbury (now Lord Sainsbury of Turville) felt that there should be more people in the boardrooms of British industry who have both the knowledge of how things are made and effective management skills.  By contrast, he found that many overseas companies, particularly those in Japan and Germany, were succeeding because their senior executives and boards included qualified engineers.  To help bring about a change in business culture in the UK, in 1987 Lord Sainsbury set up the Sainsbury Management Fellowship scheme to develop UK engineers for future leadership roles in commerce and industry.

How can engineers improve the performance of companies?
SMFs (and other professional engineers who also have high calibre business degrees and real life business experience) have a unique combination of technological and commercial knowledge and experience that makes them particularly suited to strategic decision making processes.

Yet, historically, professional engineers have not been seen as a natural choice to sit on boards of blue-chip companies, however, things are changing.  Business leaders are starting to recognise that once equipped with the essential financial, marketing and leadership skills, professional engineers have a myriad of talents that help businesses grow faster.  A professional engineer’s ability to span both the technological and business spheres enables him or her to help in the rapid commercialisation of new products and technologies.  While there are many facets to the successful launch of a new technology or product, the speed of commercialisation can be the difference between success and failure – the faster a new technology or product can be brought to market, the more benefit a company and its shareholders will reap.

SMFs can take a view on internal and external factors that influence business that a director without an engineering background may not take because they start from different perspectives.

SMF has produced a downloadable publication Re-engineering the Board to Manage Risk and Maximise Growth, which explains the transferrable skills that engineers bring to business. 

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