Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Simulations, Computer Games and Pedagogy

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

May 16, 2005

Where we are today

Take One

Training is not important... learning is... having measured results is... having a positive ROI is... meeting the needs is... making a profit is... having the right people is... having the right experiences is... training is.

Take Two

The Hype Cycle: stages through which technology goes.

  • Starts off as a theory.
  • Then to the innovater stage, where people make it actually work.
  • Then it becomes seen as a magic bullet; money begins to flow in.
  • Then there is a crash, mass confusion, and people move on.
  • But the something happens, people recommit to the original vision, with a lot of lessons learned (strategic advantage).
  • Then finally it gets promoted to infrastructure.

Where different things are:

  • Infrastructure: search engines, virtual classrooms, etc.;
  • Strategic advantage: LMS. People are implementing them, they are generally going well. (Some discussion of whether LMSs will move into infrastructure; it depends on what else is coming along, eg. ERP - Aldrich - when LMS goes into infrastructure, that's when it goes away).
  • Confusion trough: LCMSs. Knowledge Management systems. Skills and competency management.
  • Hype: outsourcing, mobile learning, workflow-based learning, blogging as a way of supporting learning, game-based learning
  • Theory: dashboards, social network analysis, open source e-learning

Take Three

Where everything fits together, measuring alignment. "Don't take a knife to a gunfight" (I guess that analogy doesn't really work here).

Tactical reasons: cut budget, enabled by IT infrastructure, cost-reduction. etc. Versus Strategic Reasons: learner survey, etc. Project and process management. etc. (See circle diagram in slides). There needs to be an accord between these.


What is a simulayion? Things like 'learning by doing'. A flight simulator, for example. The tricky part is when you drill down into that. Everyone thinks they have a common understanding, but it breaks down quickly. Eg., role-play, computer games, moot court, fun, flight simulators, simulated architectures. After these concepts come out: everybody's personal experiences are different from everyone else's. There is a clash of expectations. It becomes an intellectual mesh.

Four types of simulations:

  • Branching Story: you are given a situation, a background, you have to make a decision based on what you hear, you choose a, b or c, and based on that you move to the next branch. The architecture is a branching structure. This model works well for new employees. Also, I know where you are at any given point in the experience; makes giving help easier. Comments: easy for new learners, experienced learners figure out what's going on very quickly. Limited options.
  • Interactive Spreadsheet: you are put in some kind of god-like manager position and you have to make resource (or other) allocations. Then you get results. Repeat. You have some primary variables you are tracking; they tend to ber inter-related, complex. The Beer Game, most famous version. Often deployed in teams competing with each other. Often instructor chaperoned, often used with high-potential people. Can be interspersed with video clips. Comment: from a learner perspective these can be quite good because they show causal relationships.
  • Game-Based: take a traditional game that people already know - eg., word-jumble - and put the content into it. "Nobody wants to take a test; everybody wants to be a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Good for people who don't do well in formal, test-based environment. Game-based models work really well and are always very controversial. The more you care about content, the less patient you are with a game-based veneer. Games can be culturally based.
  • Virtual Product Lab: fairly realistic models of things. Eg. virtual watch. What you do in the simulation is a paert of the content, not something that leads to the content. Eg., mouse movements that mirror kinesthetic movements.

Those models are not enough - they are not the future of simulations.

  • Systems Content - ways of getting at the underlying systems.
  • Cyclical / Kinesthetic - the interface should make me think. We need an interface that allows 15-20 actions that all intermingle.
  • Linear content: case studies, processes, quotes, stories, etc.
  • Experience elements: simulation elements: these must be balanced. Eg. How do we create an atmosphere the same as the real atmosphere. How to create realism.
  • game elements: simplified interface, faster results. Reliving roles.
  • pedagogical elements: what is the material that we put on top of the experience? Graphs, coaching, forced moments of reflection, etc.

My comments: this was a pretty light talk which at times consisted of lists of names of technologies. I think I would have been happier had it started with the 'simulations' section, above. The 'hype cycle' stuff didn't really add anything, and the useful content - after the 'four types of simulation' - was stuffed into the last five minutes of the talk.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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