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Posts Tagged ‘simulation

Last week the press claimed that a virtual reality (VR) application was “making pre-school spaces safe”.

While I applaud the attempt, I question its wisdom.

I am all for experimenting with technology and exploring possibilities, hence the applause. But with practical realities, limited budgets, and finite energies, I wonder if the creators of the VR application learnt from similar attempts in Second Life a decade ago.

History repeats itself. It has to, because no one ever listens. -- Steve Turner.

Just because the technology has evolved does not mean that human imagination, critical thinking, and research and reflective practice in the field have followed suit.

Just because you can do something does not mean you should. It could create wrong expectations. For one, the application is a simulation, but it is perceived as a game, at least to one interviewed student who said as much. For another, the simulation is designed to engage. That is the rhetoric in much of schooling now. Effective technology integration goes beyond mere engagement.

The simulation is rudimentary now, but it can improve. One clear improvement is how learners might be empowered to create by authoring environments. This is the more important application of VR, but the press relegated this to the end in a single sentence.

The hardest part of learning something new is not embracing new ideas, but letting go of old ones. -- Todd Rose (In “The End of Average”)

There is always some harm in trying to do good. Sometimes the harm is unanticipated and other times it is unseen.

The harm of overkill VR is that we will keep doing the same things differently and thus add very little value with the technology. This will add fuel to the fire started and maintained by naysayers. Then when better applications of VR (or any other technology) come along, the change agents face a fire wall.

Recently I had an email conversation that strayed to the differences between simulations and games.

I do not consider most simulations to be games. I share my reply and add a few examples to the mix.

Simulations mimic or mirror real life and often serve as a preparation for it. There is “replayability” or resetting, but that does not make them games.

For example, pilots start with flight simulators and military field surgeons practice battle zone triage in simulators. Our bus drivers train on traffic simulators [1] [2].

Some games are simulation-like, e.g., The Sims. But their ends are different as they do not necessarily prepare players for life or work. The points, rewards, or levelling up are for the game itself. There are learning gains, but they tend to be broader and are perhaps more ill-defined.

It is important to distinguish between simulations and games not just for academic reasons. When applied to practice, they set expectations, shape outcomes, and influence instructional strategies.

Enlightened parents and educators are discovering that games and virtual environments can be learning platforms.

Karl Kapp recalled a discussion with his then 12-year-old son.

He concluded by saying:

Here was my 12 year old son in charge of six people who he never met, setting goals, delegating tasks and assigning roles as well as posting help wanted ads for “shark cookers.” He was running a self-directed work team, virtually.

These are the skills he needs in a world were he will be a member of several virtual teams working with some people he will never meet face-to-face.

How many parents and educators come to similar realisations? Not many. But those that do provide their children and students invaluable lessons and experiences.

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