William Watson
Board Game Pieces
instruction for the information age
 

bulletWho is William Watson?

First, William Watson is typically "Bill" Watson, what I prefer to go by if you're talking to or emailing me. Secondy, while I'm not quite situated within what Prensky calls the Digital Natives Generation and Beck and Wade call the Gamer Generation, nevertheless, I did grow up playing video games in arcades and soon at home first on our Atari and Apple IIC, followed later by a Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Xbox, Playstation 2, and currently a Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, and of course my PC.

I am an Assistant Professor in the Educational Technology Program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Purdue University and Director of the Purdue Center for Serious Games and Learning in Virtual Environments. As this page will go on to explain, my enjoyment of playing video games, coupled with my interest in improving current approaches to instruction, have led me to research educational video games in the hopes of engaging students and helping them to take ownership of their own learning.

bulletWhat is the information age?

Simply put, the information age is the current state of society which we find ourselves in. The overwhelming availability and processing of information has resulted in a global, societal shift away from the industrial age into the information age (see Alvin Toffler, Peter Senge, or Charles Reigeluth). This shift is reflected in businesses as they move away from the bureaucracy and standardization of the industrial age to cooperative, team-based, and autonomous-but-accountable business models that stress customization.

bulletWhy are changes needed?

This Website is titled "Technology for information age Instruction" because I believe that with the societal shift of the information age, there is a very apparent need for an accompanying paradigm shift in education. Our current educational approach is based on the Industrial Age, where schools focused on sorting students into worker or management roles, rather than actually helping them to learn.

Today's job market calls for self-motivated, self-directed employees who can define and analyze business problems, communicate the problem, sort through information related to the problem, and work with others to solve the problem. Gone are the days of mindless automatons on the assembly line.

Just as the demands of today's workplace require knowledge workers, the students of today can no longer be passive learners, and the environment of schools must therefore change. Today's schools must drastically shift away from sorting students and instead focus on helping students to truly learn, understand, and think critically. The widespread criticism of the k-12 environment is a strong indication that society is demanding this change, and momentum is building for the paradigm shift to become reality.

bulletWhy Video Games?

With an educational system largely encouraging students to be passive participants in their own education, many of today's students lack the motivation to fully invest themselves enough in the educational experience to truly learn and understand

With video games sales exceeding movie box office sales for the first time in the US in 2002, they are firmly positioned as a major form of entertainment. Many players can become so lost in the experience of playing a game that they "lose" hours at a time because they are so focused on the game (see Csikszentmihalyi's Flow theory).

Video games can offer virtual environments that better allow for learner exploration and experimentation, while providing instantaneous feedback and complex contexts that allow for learners to experience rather than just read or listen. Furthermore, development kits are becoming more commonplace, putting the ability to create video games into the hands of novices. However, the field of "serious games" or "digital game based learning" is young, and much more research is needed on how to incorporate game design and instructional design theories in order to create effictive and engaging instruction, hence my strong interest.

bulletWhat kind of role can technology play?

Apart from my interest in instuctional video games, I believe technology in general will play a large role in the new paradigm of education we are moving towards. To better customize learning for the individual learner, Learning Management Systems will be needed to store, process, and deliver information for all stakeholders in the learning process.

Additionally, the Web continues to expand as a medium which allows learners across the globe to access instruction and share ideas. The Web has also brought about new forms of communication, such as blogs and wikis, which could offer new approaches to learning and instruction.

The information age is an exciting time, and a lot of changes are coming in particular to how we view education and design instruction. As such a key figure in the information age, technology is set to be a major part of whatever changes are coming.