I'll Take Learning for 500, by Dan Yaman and Missy Covington,
Book, 2006, Pfeiffer & Company, $60.
Field trainers and instructional designers are always looking for
innovative techniques for engaging their learners and motivating them to
retain training content. Game shows have proven to be particularly
useful at accomplishing training objectives.
For years, classroom trainers have used game shows like Jeopardy,
Family Feud, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to review course content.
These nontraditional learning methods have proved generally effective at
helping participants retain the material as well as fostering exciting
and motivating learning climates. Until now, few books have been
available to help trainers use games shows to their fullest potential.
Fortunately, Dan Yaman and Missy Covington have written I'll
Take Learning for 500: Using Game Shows to Engage, Motivate, and Train
to fill that gap. The book is a reference guide for trainers and
designers that allows the reader to quickly locate information and tips
about creating and hosting classroom game shows.
The text is divided into four sections. The first, "Game Shows
and Learning," includes frequently asked questions, a list of
critical differences between classroom game shows and TV game shows, a
description of brain-based theory that underlies game shows, and the
busting of popular myths about game shows.
The next section, "Designing a Game Show for Learning,"
includes the nuts and bolts of design, including brief descriptions of
popular shows, an explanation of how to select and customize a TV game
show for the training classroom, and how to establish rules for the
The third section, "Writing Effective Questions,"
highlights the types of questions that can be asked during a game show,
tips for writing effective (and fair) questions, and strategies for
writing questions with multimedia clues. The last section,
"Conducting a Game Show," gives valuable tips for being the
host of a classroom game show and maximizing participant learning,
logistical details regarding game show setup, game show software and
hardware peripherals, and criteria to evaluate success of the game and
your performance as the host.
The book also contains a "Resources" section chock full
of helpful books and sources for software, hardware, and professionally
produced materials for game shows. Finally, one of the most attractive
features of this book--the biggest selling point that is also the most
underplayed--is a CD that contains a demo of Gameshow Pro, software for
creating professionally designed electronic question boards and
scoreboards. (TMR review of GameShow Pro is here.)
This book exhibits several positive characteristics in critical
categories. First, it is generally quite effective at holding the
reader's interest. Game shows are a hot topic as trainers are
frequently using them in the classroom and always looking for and better
ways to leverage this learning methodology. Yet, few resources inform
trainers how to use them appropriately and to their fullest advantage.
The authors have made a concerted effort to close this gap.
The authors have written a readable text by minimizing technical
jargon and writing in an accessible manner for a broad training
audience. They are quite effective at dispensing advice that can be
easily understood and used by the intended audience.
Second, the self-study value of I'll Take Learning for 500 is
quite high. The reader learns what the book promises to teach. It is
generally quite successful at helping readers: (1) correctly choose and
design/modify a training game that will help their participants achieve
the training objectives; (2) integrate multimedia into the game show for
superior creativity and innovation; and (3) learn the ins-and-outs of
playing a fun and entertaining game show host while also being an
educational classroom trainer.
Third, the content of this book will likely be quite valuable to
new as well as experienced field trainers and instructional designers.
The authors provide a large number of practical best practices,
strategies, and suggestions that are extremely action-oriented and
realistic to implement in the typical training classroom and will
enhance learning outcomes.
However, the authors primarily talk about how to use established
game shows (e.g., Jeopardy) in the classroom. Experienced trainers and
instructional designers would benefit more from the introduction of new,
innovative game show formats. Chances are, veteran trainers are already
using (or have used) well-known game shows. And students may perceive
some of these "classic" game shows as outdated.
Newer game show formats could reinvigorate the energy and
enthusiasm of trainers and participants alike. So the instructional
value of this text will likely be higher for new trainers versus those
more established in the field. However, I should note that I'll
Take Learning for 500 does include a helpful section for customizing a
game show to fit one's own needs and offers a number of hints and
tips for using game shows in the classroom that experienced and new
trainers will find helpful.
Although new trainers and designers will find I'll Take
Learning for 500 more useful than veterans, I strongly suggest that all
instructional practitioners have this reference guide on their
bookshelves. The depth of quality information as well as the
accompanying CD makes the price of the book commensurate with its value.
All readers--novices and veterans--will learn something they didn't
know about designing and hosting classroom game shows. The Gameshow Pro
software demo introduces readers to a tool that can create
professional-looking game shows as a capstone to learning events--a
benefit to both trainers and participants.
Review by Travis Russ
I'll Take Learning for 500
Overall rating *** 1/2