Tuesday, April 26

How not to talk about simulations

This has happened to me more times than I can count. A bunch of people are in a room, invited for a two day meeting to talk about simulations. The moderator starts out by asking the group why they are interested in simulations.

One says, "Oh, I love simulations. I lead role-plays all of the time in my sales class, and they work really well."

Then someone says, "That's right. I build online certification programs, and simulations are critical."

Another says, "I agree. I love simulations. My kids play computer games all of the time. They are great."

Another says, "Simulations are the best. When I was in law school, we did moot courts, and they were very powerful."

The next person says, "Sure. I have spent decades modeling simulations using all sorts of tools like Stella, and they are great."

Then someone adds, "Absolutely. Simulations are necessary because learning needs to be made a lot more fun."

Another says, "Absolutely. I was a pilot, and we lived in the flight simulator."

"That's right," someone agrees. "The simulations are the most used part of our e-learning library."

Another says, "Oh, I love simulations. I was in the military and we practiced everything a hundred times."

Then someone says, "I work in IT, and we rigorously simulate every new architecture before we implement it."

At this point, I know the conversation is doomed. We have, in five minutes, dug ourselves into an intellectual hole that will take at least a day and a half to dig ourselves out of before we can actually move forward.


Anonymous said...

I read with great interest on Clark's article.

Learning through simulations has played a very crucial role in our daily routines. We have seen the simulated learning environment in air flight systems, medical experiments, military,engineering and etc. All these really proves a point, that these simulated method of learning is indeed an enchanted form of learning which can improves one's learning comprehension and retention.

As such, we can observe an upsurge trend in the blooming market of Elearning, through form of Online Distance Learnings, ie Online universities / colleges.

I would not be surprised if for the next 5 years or so, the days spent in schools will be shorten, where the educators' time are reduced by the accessibility of online learning / simulated learning in the school.

Sunny Tan
Online Elearning Courses

Godfrey Parkin said...

I started a corporate simulation development company in London back in the early-90s. Most VCs thought I was building computerized business games, along the lines of the old mainframe games where your team decides how much to spend on what activities, and you wait breathlessly for your financial results to see if your competitors did better than you. What I was building had more in common with Ultima Online, but RPGs and massively multiplayer online environments were completely foreign concepts to most people back then.

Your example follows what I have experienced over the years when trying to hold a conversation about e-learning, or about mobile learning. The terms "simulation", "e-learning" and "mobile learning" are not useful, except as very broad umbrella terms. You can spin around in circles trying to define them, and inevitably come to the conclusion that they cover far too many diverse manifestations to be meaningful.

As such, you can't make any accurate specific statements about them without a whole bunch of qualifiers and disclaimers.

Maybe we need a richer vocabulary.

Godfrey Parkin

Anonymous said...

I can relate, having done everything from flight simulation with a $25M simulator to role-playing in a classroom. So how do you frame the discussion?