A Conversation with Clark Aldrich -Part One

This is Part One of a Two Part Interview:

The other day I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Clark Aldrich and ask him a few questions about learning and development. For those who may not know Clark, here is a little about him before the discussion.

Clark Aldrich first started writing about online learning and education as an e-learning analyst for the Gartner Group where he pioneered Gartner’s e-learning practice. He then moved into designing and creating simulations for learning. His first book on the topic was a best seller in the training field. It was titled “Simulations and the Future of Learning: An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning.” Since that time, Clark has written a number of books including “Unschooling Rules.” He currently runs a company called Clark Aldrich Designs.

Kapp: How did you get started in the learning industry and specifically with serious games?

Aldrich: Even more important than majoring in Cognitive Science at Brown University, was being a camp counselor. It was a job I had for four summers at a top rated camp, run by a former prep school teacher who believed he could better help boys learn and mature through a camp framework. I graduated from some of the top traditional schools, and I think he was right.

I did some early research into the examples which would eventually be called eLearning while at Xerox, but my real opportunity came when I was able to launch an eLearning practice while at Gartner.

Because I also grew up playing computer games, I simply assumed eLearning would be like those games. When the reality wasn’t quite there, I first highlighted some efforts when I was an analyst, but then left to build and talk about sims myself.

Kapp: What type of work and projects are you doing now? Any future books in the works? Where can people learn more about what you are doing?

Aldrich: I am the lead designer on quite a few sim projects, many for highly strategic projects that I can’t even talk about it. As well as delivering end-to-end sims through Clark Aldrich Designs, I work with other organizations who are building sims where I serve as the lead designer or on consultative role. (a portfolio here.) For example, I am working with one global company on changing the design of summative assessment, which should impact all school children in the next five years. And there a few other projects.

Unschooling Rules was my fifth book and most recent, which is a book which I believe impatiently predicts the next decade of education reform. Here’s my scorecard on it so far.

Kapp: You’ve started an initiative called ClarkChart, can you explain what it is and how you got the idea.

Aldrich: ClarkChart.com is a site to connect those people who want sims with those who can provide them. It is structured much like Internet Movies DataBase, but focused on educational simulations and serious games.

People can come to the site, enter a few search terms, and get a list of sims that are available. As well as a description, there are screen shots and also videos. A sim may be sponsored some large organization, but I also list the development company who actually did the work.

It goes a bit beyond that. Visitors can generate lists by specific subjects.

Or they might really like a sim they already used. They might have taken an impressive sim on PTSD from WILL Interactive. They can look up that sim and then find other sims on that topic, or produced by the same company (Example), lead designer, or even artist. As part of this, I love the site’s ability to present what I’m calling “Simographies” – portfolios of Sims created by individual people, in many cases across organizations such as here or here.

It can also produce snapshots of the industry. For example, you can shed some light onto the role of tools such as Unity or Android versus iOS, both in terms of popularity and examples.

For sim creators, it can clearly show what sims are already available. This can shape investment decisions, and provide some inspiration as well.

ClarkChart directly addresses some of the major barriers the industry today. It turns what has been an opaque market into a transparent one. It takes away some of the very expensive disintermediaries, such as conferences and sales forces, in finding the right programs.

It also allows a single place for people who were launching new sims to predictably go to get their message out to the right audience. The traffic is already amazing.

Stay tuned for Part II–Tomorrow

Posted in: simulation, simulations

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