Sounds, layouts and Custom Interactions – Airport Security

March 19, 2009

In our experience the multisensory nature of Immersive Sims greatly helps with learner engagement and to increase their feeling of immersion within the learning context. Where used well, it may also generate richer learning stimuli that learners can encode and bind into memory more elaborately and thus retrieve more easily.

A key element of this is sound. Ambient sound can be used to found the scene in reality, whether it is the noise of traffic or the hum of machines in a factory. It can also be used to stimulate different moods, be it excitement or calm or horror. Then we have scene specific sounds such as a telephone ringing and of course, human communication.

Having spent a lot of time recently in airports and the security checks I thought that this would be a good context in which to explore sounds. At the same time we can have a look at changing default layouts and building custom interactions.


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Rote memorizing making us stupid Doh

February 15, 2009

Brenda M. Trofanenko, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education, says that teaching history by rote – that is, by having students memorize historical dates and then testing them on how well they can regurgitate that data on a test – is a pedagogical method guaranteed to get students to tune out and add to our collective civic and historical cluelessness.

“I agree that there should be a base knowledge that students need to know about their country and their community affiliations,” she said. “But its relevance lies not just in knowing historical fact but being able to see what can be gleaned from historical inquiry, including cause and effect, progress and decline, and historical significance. You still have to know what happened, but you also have to be able to put it into a larger context of what was happening at the time, why it was happening, and what relevance it has to the current day.”

Critical Thinking

While it’s important to know facts and dates, Trofanenko believes history teachers should challenge students, especially high school students, to think like historians.

“We need to start thinking differently about our students’ abilities,” she said. “They can think critically and engage in historical inquiry if they’re actually given the opportunity. Instead, we make them learn facts and test them on their ability to regurgitate them at the end of the week. I think that’s really insulting to them.”

Trofanenko believes that students today are a lot more critical than they were in years past.

“With the amount of information that’s out on the Internet, I don’t think you can fool kids anymore,” Trofanenko said. “They’re much more savvy now about looking things up than they were even a few years ago. They’re certainly critical about other things in their lives, so why can’t they be critical of history as well?”

Thinking like a historian, according to Trofanenko, entails studying primary source documents, thinking about the historical context, weighing the evidence and then making an argument – “something all high school students are capable of doing,” she said. “That helps students develop a historical consciousness, which is the ability to ask why a particular historical narrative or a historical concept is advanced or not.”

Similar concerns have been raised in response to curriculum changes in the UK.  Lisa Hamilton writing in the Spectator takes issue with the dumbing down of expectations and absence of critical evaluation skills.

“Suggesting that children are incapable of dealing with complex narrative is intensely patronising. They manage fine with Harry Potter. Like it or not, our island story is a rollicking good read, with as many battles and murders as Grand Theft Auto. Certainly, much British history is of necessity concerned with the activities of elites, but is it not worth understanding why this is so?”

“also seem blind to the reality of how history will be increasingly absorbed. Is it not irresponsible to deny children the capacity to assess information for bias, distortion and inaccuracy in a world of unsupervised, unfiltered internet access?”

Immersive Sims

Seems like an ideal opportunity to incorporate Serious Games / Immersive Sims. The Making History series from Muzzy Lane are excellent examples of this. Guided discovery with progress based upon increasingly complex thinking skills and the development of more complex knowledge stuctures. Coupled with the ability to MOD the application for user generated content.

I’d add our own small contribution through Rome in Danger. Placing learners back within the historical context faced with non linear thinking challenges and social puzzles.

Learning Technologies – Rapid Sims Demonstration

January 23, 2009

I’ll be in London on 28th and 29th of January at Learning technologies 2009. I’ll be on the Caspian Learning stand (85) where we will be giving live demonstrations of the Thinking Worlds authoring tool.

Thinking Worlds enables designers, SME’s, trainers, ID’s and teachers to rapidly create 3D Immersive Simulations and Serious Games without any programming! The tool massively reduces the complexity of creating Immersive Sims and puts the power into the hands of the trainers, designers and content experts. Using simple templates, drag and drop 3D and flow diagrams a designer can rapidly create complex scenarios and games.

Come along to Stand 85 at Learning Technologies for a demo. You can build your own Sims and publish to the web live from the exhibition ready for users to play through the browser. See below for more screen shots.


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Torture! Good theme for a Serious Game?

December 22, 2008

Torture – a nice festive theme but bear with me, this is not a post about violence as such. A blog post by Clive Thompson demands provocatively Why We Need More Torture in Video Games – sit on the fence why don’t you Clive. Now Clive has not lost his mind in an Xmas fog, nor does he appear to be a sadist. Rather, he thinks entertainment based video games provide a powerful tool for experiencing and learning from complex and difficult situations. He rightly cites the convoluted debate that has accompanied torture and rendition practised under the banner of the War on Terror as evidence as an unresolved public debate; and examples of torture being used without restriction by CTU in the Series 24 as evidence of people not fully understanding the political, societal, moral and practical consequences of using and condoning torture. Can games be a medium through which to explore, experience, debate and learn about these consequences?


Pot and Kettle

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Virtual Worlds….. Big Business

September 29, 2008

This is a short article i wrote for a UK newspaper. Linked to issues of browser based 3D games it discusses what I see as converging forces within Virtual Worlds, Casual Games and Social Networking. The winners will win big.

FREGGERS, Weemee, Minilife, Maple Story and Habo Hotel. They’re peculiar names, but potentially society-changing tools for a whole generation of young people – and they’re very big business.

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Browser based Serious Games

September 4, 2008

Serious Games or Immersive Learning Sims – hmmm, a different post topic I think. Anyway, one of the big barriers to widespread use of Serious Games in training and education is technology. The good news is that PC hardware in organisations and schools is improving rapidly in terms of processing speed and graphics capability (but its rarely purchased with 3D gaming in mind). The bigger obstacle now is the need to deploy via a web browser and LMS standards:

1) Clients require easy deployment and updating from a central point

2) No use of exe’s for security – a big No Go for many organisations

3) Must integrate within LMS and be run with other learning objects

4) Central performance information capture and management

5) Bandwidth restrictions on amount of data transfer


All of which can pose a bit of a problem if your trying to run Halo3 or even Second Life on the corporate network. 3D games engines are typically not built with these constraints in mind. From my own work in Caspian I’d say two or three years ago this was less of an issue. We were dealing with early adopters who were prepared to overcome these concerns in order to get high fidelity Sims into their learning. Over the last 12 months SG have moved towards the mainstream and I’d say 90% of requests we see require web delivery.

The good news is that SG suppliers have adapted to this need. So, what are the options in the Serious Games space?

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