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Clark Aldrich Research Common Citations, 2003

In 2003, my first book was published, Simulations and the Future of Learning, as well as my first simulation, Virtual Leader. I believe Simulations and the Future of Learning is more relevant today than it was the day it was released. As with all of my books, it is (I hope) a relatively fun and easy read that covers a tremendous amount of ground.

In Simulations and the Future of Learning I wrote an extended first-person case study of the development of Virtual Leader. My goal was to use an accessible narrative/story framework to highlighting the philosophies of all simulation design. My role model was Soul of a New Machine, but I wanted to delve less into the business and inter-personal issues, and more into the entirely new design approach (drawing from semiotics and eliminative materialism as much as my degree in cogntive science and artificial intelligence) for sim designs compared to books or even movies.

This was a very hard book to write to make it an easy book to read. I tried to explain a lot of geeky, wonky concepts in highly accessible and even humorous terms. I spent many nights reworking passages to make the ideas intuitive. I used a counter theme of food to bring people along, but this turned out to be an enduring analogy across subsequent work. The book also articulated the issue of genres for sim design vs. computer games, which for me was a giant "aha," and again another theme across all of my work.

Here is the table of content (with annotations).
1 Do You Want Fries with That E-Learning? (E-learning and all education is being mass produced to a lower common denominator of ease of deployment.)
PART I The Simulation Way
2 In the Game (to talk about educational simulations, you first have to play computer games)
3 The Primary Colors of Content (the content needed to create a sim looks and feels different)
4 The E-Learning Arms Race
5 The Myth of Subject Matter Experts
6 The Search for Content
7 What Would a Leadership Situation Look Like? (Imagining an interface)
8 Uncovering the Essence of Leadership (A new type of media requires new types of questions)
9 The Lure of Linear Content
PART II Modeling Reality
10 Rules for a Post-Textbook World: Simulation Design Principles
11 The Beginning of Open-Ended Content: Sets and Figures
12 What Do People Do All Day? The Animation System
13 The Ultimate Hurdle: The Dialogue System
14 Modeling a Little World: The Physics System
15 Modeling the Inhabitants: The AI System
PART III Philosophical and Technical Realities
16 A New Look at Work: The Interface System
17 The Scariest Word of All: Gameplay (We never know if a new genre will be fun.)
18 Why Use Grades, Anyway? Metrics, Scores, and Simulations
19 Virtual Leader vs. the World
PART IV The Way Ahead
20 17 Simulation Issues
21 A Manifest Destiny: Simulations and the Training Industry

One oft-quoted section of the book described the frustration with s0-called subject matter experts, especially from academic sectors. Non-linear content was very different than linear content. It also introduced the culture of the self-obsessed baby boomers that, as would later be epitomized by Jay Leno, did not pass on the stewardship that they received from "the greatest generation."

The Shrinking Role of Linear, Branded Experts
Our first goal, we agreed, was to find a leadership expert from whom we could license some established content. Our focus would be on the creation of the simulation, not the leadership theory. We wanted to stick to our core competency. We figured this should take about a month to do, two months on the outset. Once we had done that, we could get to the business of making any necessary tweaks to the material, and then we would bring in the people to develop the software.
There were a few problems.
We visited with twenty or so academics, authors, and consultants. Some you would have heard of, most you probably would not.
They all had modern glass and chrome offices or comfortable, Georgetown homes. They all could not have been more gracious when we walked in the door. They were well-dressed, and I am sure they all played golf. They moved quickly and efficiently, belying their age. The conversations started off with pleasantries, although salted with numerous reminders of how busy they were, frequent checking of their watches, and reiterations of how much of a favor they were doing by meeting with us.
It would have been more encouraging if I could write that the experts fell into one of the follow groups. In fact, everyone we talked to fell into ALL of these groups
Group 1: The Figureheads
The experts wanted a huge amount of money for no work and no accountability. The first thing they made clear is that they expected five to ten thousand dollars a day in consulting fees as well as huge amounts of equity in the company. A project like this would take weeks of their time, they calculated gleefully, maybe months. And they were very busy.
Group 2: The Control Freaks
These experts wanted complete control over the project. Or they wanted veto power at every point along the way, from product to marketing to packaging. They did not want their name misused, but they also wanted their name on everything, in the biggest letters. It would really be their simulation, they decided, and we would help them make it. They would use their name in the title, and we would get a “powered by” mention on the back. And of course, they should have the right to infinitely hold up the project. It was their project, after all.
Group 3: The Pass-Off Masters
Could they help us? Well, maybe. They wanted to clarify what they meant by “their” time. They were very busy. What would be better, they explained, was if their assistant/grad student helped us. The experts assured us that this junior player, although only part of the team for nine months, was a master of the topic, and would be our primary contact for work going forward. The expert would still be there, however, to sign off on everything, when they could find the time.
Group 4: The Time Challenged
These experts let us know that they were on a different time schedule than we were. Returning a call after a month was hurrying for them. They all had critical projects, critical clients, critical family obligations, and critical month-long vacations where they would be out of touch. The academics thought in terms of semesters and five-year grants. Weeks were rounding errors.
Group 5: The Linear Headliners
Essentially, the experts viewed themselves as a star athlete, and we were Wheaties. They wanted their picture on the box and a check with lots of zero’s for the honor. Anything that didn’t fit that mold didn’t quite fit with them. That mentality was difficult for all of us. But, we conceded, all of those were ultimately manageable.
But when we went a little further with a few of them, something that should have been obvious was staring us in the face. These people, self-proclaimed “Experts in the Leadership Area,” were all linear experts. Their knowledge consisted of case studies and high-level charts. They spoke in terms of sequences. They returned to linear content like a magnet to North.
To launch the simulation, they mulled, maybe a fifteen minute video of them talking would be best. Or maybe longer. After someone made a mistake, they could come back in and give some comforting comments. They had some white papers that could be pre-reading, so players could read fifteen pages if they made the same mistake twice.
Meanwhile, the more probing questions we asked, the more they shrugged their shoulders. After hearing a dramatic case study, for example, we asked, “What determines a person’s loyalty, between friendship and authority?”
“No,” she corrected. “As I said, friendship was more important. The authority never had a chance.”
We persisted. “Under what conditions would those people have followed the authority, and not the personal relationship?”
“Well, that would be a different example. I would use an example from IBM in that case.”
And on it went.
Today’s experts are in the business of producing linear content––be it a speech, a book, a lecture series. This linear framework has influenced how they gathered information for decades. Everything they ever studied was broken into paragraphs. Their mental note cards were ordered and re-ordered depending on the output. Getting any of them to think of content non-linearly would be a huge undertaking, possibly impossible. Because for them to accept The Simulation Way, they would have to accept that they were no longer experts. And that would mean no huge fees.
I also didn't know if I would have the opportunity to publish another book. So I used the pages here to also present early observations, informed by my simulation work, but also my years working in environmental education and my experience with the political side of education such as my work with the Joint Committee on Educational Technology.

For example, here is a reflection on grades (as an introduction to the challenge of designing the scoring system for the simulation).

The Purpose of Grades is...?
I worked at The Chewonki Foundation. For twenty five years (including the four years I was employed there), it was run by Tim Ellis, who turned Chewonki from a little summer camp into, in the words of Down East magazine, “a center of progressive environmental education, a learning institute praised as one of the best of its kind in the country.”

The staff was filled with both teachers and non-teachers. Every year, we debated about grades.

What was their purpose? Were they to motivate? Were they a disciplinarian crutch? If so, what did that say about our content and processes?

Why did students get graded and instructors did not, especially since the students’ parents were paying for their experience? What happened if a student got great grades in every class but one? What did that say about those instructors? Did grades reflect the student or the instructor?

Was the purpose of grades to rank students? If so, what was the value add of an instructor, as oppose to an evaluator? Could the same person hold both roles? Should an instructor both elevate and evaluate the level of elevation? In that case, who watches the watchman?

Should grades be diagnostic? If so, giving one grade as opposed to a suite made no sense.

Should there instead be a pass/fail method, with the goal to bring everyone up to a certain competency? If so, what about the boys that came in already above that level?

Should grades mark absolute levels of achievement? Or improvement? Or attitude? Or work ethic? Or willingness to clean up after everybody else after everybody else left?

What is the impact of the outside environment? Should a student who takes one class and has no other obligations get the same grade for the same work as a student who has five classes and an outside job?

How do you grade when people work as a team? Does everybody get the same grade? That is never fair. Or do you just discourage teamwork to avoid having to deal with the problem?

What is the need for consistency of grades between instructors? What is the process to ensure the consistency? Is an “A” in one class the same as an “A” in another?

Is it acceptable to a teacher to give all “A’s” to his or her class? Is it acceptable to give all “C’s” and “D’s?” Or should an instructor always use the bell curve for distribution?

Should a student try to optimize grades? Or learn the most? We all knew in college pre-meds or candidates for high academic scholarships that only took classes in which they were assured of getting a top mark.

We never reached a satisfactory answer to these questions. And up in Wiscasset, Maine, to this day, ten years after I left, the debate continues. As it does––or should––among those who call themselves educators, from elementary school classrooms to the virtual world of high-level soft-skill development.

I wrote an additional chapter on schools, including curricula, that the editor completely took out(the editor was right!). But I enriched the themes which appeared in subsequent writings, including Unschooling Rules.

The books starts with a very simple observation. The organizations that care the most about developing skills use simulations. Since then, I have explored the corollary. What does it say when an educational environment (such as schools) does not adopt simulations?

The book also ends with a simple truism. What is taught is governed by what can be taught. Politicians and blue-ribbon panels can talk all day about so-called 21st Century Skills. But schools won't teach leadership if they can't teach leadership.


I wrote two articles for ASTD's great magazine, T+D. The first was called The New Core of Leadership (pdf here) and the second was a follow-up called Using Leadership to Implement Leadership (pdf here). Together, the articles provided a systems model of leadership, using the actions-systems-result framework that I would better refine in articles and books to come. It was a new way of articulating "soft skills" content that was more aligned with computer game AI than traditional case studies.

I continued to write my Training Column. Here is another example of a "Clark Chart" from a column called Strong Medine, that posits the need for alignment between: goal of program, approach, and resources. I could plot and explain both successes and failures in implementations by a lack of alignment.

And I wrote a three part series that looked at various pieces of an elearning infrastructure. The conclusion was this:


2003 Published Writings Include:
Aldrich, C. (2003), Simulations and the future of learning: An innovative (and perhaps revolutionary) approach to e-learning, Pfeiffer, New York.
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'Experience Options.', Training 40(10).
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'Management Options.', Training 40(9).
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'Content First.', Training 40(8), 60.
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'How Is E-Learning Sold.', Training 40(7), 50.
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'Shifting Sands.', Training 40(5), 54.
Aldrich, Clark B. "Global Learning, 2008." The AMA Handbook of E-learning: Effective Design, Implementation, and Technology Solutions. By George M. Piskurich. New York: Amacom, 2003. Print.
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'Strong Medicine.', Training 40(4), 48.
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'Using leadership to implement leadership', Training & Development 57(5), 94-100.
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'The eLearning Map.', Training 40(3).
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'The new core of leadership', Training & Development 57(3), 32--37.
Morrison, J. (2003), 'Simulations and the learning revolution: An interview with Clark Aldrich', The Technology Source, 35--37.
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'Can We Build It? Yes We Can!.', Training 40(2), 66.
Aldrich, C. (2003), 'Content Curse.', Training 40(1), 86.

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