I’ve completed a section regarding Aldrich’s thoughts on the use of games to support learning… and the support of games for learning.
Like Prensky and Gee, Aldrich too was concerned with ways in which games and simulations could offer support for learning. One of his design criteria for Virtual Leader was that â€œall subsystems would reflect and enrich the learningâ€ (Aldrich, 2004, p. 98) and he aimed to create an interface that would â€œrepresent the actual activity at some levelâ€ (p. 173) . At the same time he struggled with how to score a simulation because â€œtight metrics and open-ended playâ€ seemed incompatible (pp. 190-191). He openly acknowledged that â€œit will be harder to evaluate simulation-based contentâ€ (p. 218) than traditional text-based content, in part because â€œas with life, people might learn different thingsâ€ (p. 219) from a simulation.
Several other design issues related to support of the learner were highlighted by Aldrich. He considered â€œone of the biggest long term issuesâ€ (Aldrich, 2004, p. 212) to be the balance of free play versus guided play, or how much the designer should help players along. This balance is related to the success of what Aldrich (2005) called â€œthe frustration-resolution momentâ€ (p. 243), the first encounter with frustration in which â€œstudents should expect to resolve their frustration in the learning experienceâ€ (p. 243). Another issue was the need for simulation designers to resist the temptation to model too much, and to instead â€œaim carefully, narrowly, and then go deepâ€ (Aldrich, 2004, p. 216) in their modeling.
Aldrich was interested not only in how games and simulations might support learning, but also in how to support the use of games and simulations for learning. When he first urged teachers to explore the experience of playing video games by saying â€œlog in a few hours of playingâ€ (Aldrich, 2004, p. 17), he followed this closely with â€œthen spend a few minutes sizing up the experienceâ€ (p. 17); reflection was an important element of learning with games or simulations for Aldrich. In fact he suggested that learning from simulations might require brief â€œlearning sabbaticalsâ€ from a normal work or home environment (Aldrich, p. 214).
Because of the importance of reflection, the role of an instructor was critical to Aldrich, but not in a traditional sense. He felt that their value comes from â€œone-on-one contact with studentsâ€ (Aldrich, 2005, p. 245), and that with the use of simulations, instructors could move to â€œthe higher-value role of coaching and diagnosing, rather than the lower-value role of lecturing and gradingâ€ (p. 131). Instructors might also serve to help learners avoid reaching the point where they become â€œcynical and try to exploit the cracksâ€ (Aldrich, 2004, p. 219) in a simulation. Though â€œinstructor supported simulations are significantly more costly to deploy, [they] are more flexible to evolve on the fly, can provide more handholding, and result in more transformational experiencesâ€ (p. 61). Aldrich considered the face-to-face symposia conducted with a roll out of Virtual Leader to be critical to its success (Aldrich, 2004, p. 207). In fact, he concluded that with the use of simulations, classrooms will not disappear, but will rather be used as â€œset-up and support of a simulationâ€™s core learningâ€ (p. 215). He even quoted Jane Boston of Lucas Learning Ltd. as suggesting that â€œin some simulations, guided practice may be needed before starting the actual gameâ€ (Aldrich, 2005, p. xxxi). However, he did caution that â€œeverything [live instructors] say to everyone more than a few times should eventually be encapsulated in the technology [because] the goal is not to replace instructors, but to keep them adding customized, user specific coachingâ€ (p. 257).
Over the weekend I will be writing the section on Aldrich and 21st Century skills. Then, even though there is much more I would like to include, it will be time to pull together this draft of the depth portion of my KAM. I can’t wait to move onto the application portion and then onto something new that will build on all of this.
Thanks as always for reading… and a special thanks to those of you who occasionally leave comments or email me about these topics. The feedback and encouragement is appreciated… and motivating.