This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

February 11, 2004

The Future of Training

The future of training is gaming. We saw it coming in some consulting we did with the United States Department of Defense, in our study of the Millennials (born 1985 and later), and in the rise of companies like Discovery Learning (

The United States Army's success with its challenging computer game, America's Army, is an impressive testimonial to the military's understanding of the younger generation. Although it glorifies violence, the game was such a successful recruiting tool that there is an updated version: America's Army 2.0: Special Forces.

The Millennials have a different vocabulary, different ways of relating with each other, different play opportunities and, certainly, different media bombarding their psyches. Accustomed to screen images changing more than 100 times per minute, this new generation simply won't tolerate being "communicated at," as if they were simply receivers. They expect people to meet them on their level, speaking their language, with their vocabulary, engaging them interactively.

Marc Prensky, author of "Digital Game-Based Learning" (McGraw Hill) characterizes the difference between this population of learners and their predecessors as "digital natives" versus "digital immigrants." He emphasizes the facility with which this younger generation embraces new technologies.

Here's what employers (and teachers) need to remember when working with these digital natives: They're good at multi-tasking and parallel processing. Accessing information in a non-linear fashion comes naturally, because they are accustomed to hyperlinking. Good graphics are vital to engagement. They have no patience for passive learning. (For them, learning is never a spectator sport.) Work must be engineered to be more like play with built-in opportunities for achievement and heroism. Don't expect digital natives to play any game that doesn't have a reasonably immediate payoff.

In a subsequent Herman Trend Alert, we'll talk more about the emergence of effective games and simulations. We'll look at present and future uses of this exciting technology.

To be successful in the future, leaders must to learn to train, guide, and motivate younger workers, not only by speaking their language, but also by creating games that these digital natives will choose to play.

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