Thursday, January 5

SimWord of the Day: The Sixth Paradox of Educational Simulations

Vendors and builders of simulations like to describe them as vaguely and mystically as possible:

  • Learning By Doing.
  • Flight Simulator for Business Skills.
  • Safe Environment to Take Risks.
  • It is Like Actually Being There.

Yet this hype-driven misdirection blurs product categories in the marketplace, eradicating the critical lines between different types of simulations (branching stories verus interactive spreadsheets vs. game based models vs. virtual labs vs....), making comparison hard and lessons learned to apply the right type of sim for the right situation even harder.


Mark said...

It might be a bit unfair to describe the distinctions you mention as 'hype' with all of that term's perjorative implications. If I were a vendor, I'd much rather try to describe my product to someone as "Learning By Doing" than going with "interactive spreadsheets."

On the other hand, I can also say that even the distinctions you mention, I think, move the discussion out of the relevant realm of learning theory and how game-based learning in general can affect performance.

For me, the discussion begins with no technology at all...

Clark Aldrich said...

The paradox is that the great big marketing terms are hurting them and the industry, not helping.

The terms allow benchmarking, comparisons, best practices, in both how to build and how to deploy, as each have great track records of success covering some areas, and not others.

I am less interested in where the discussion begins and more in that techniques work so well that the case to implement is obvious.

Clark Aldrich said...

Let me try two more analogies. Suppose your friends just saw a commercial for a new vehicle. He was breathlessly quoting the tag line, "It gives you the freedom to go where you want to go." I would hope you as a friend would say, "are we talking about a skateboard, a car, a truck, or something else>" If your friend shot down your question as being too analytical, and restated the tag line, "It gives you the freedom...", you would be less confident that a good buying decision was iminant.

Likewise, if a new Star Wars computer game promised to immerse you in the Star Wars universe and make it feel like you are really there, any reasonable gamer would ask, "is this a first person shooter, or a real time strategy or a role-playing game."

By focusing on genres, both vehicle vendors and game makers have set expectations that help everyone, even when they are stretched.