Clark Aldrich and Twenty-First Century Skills

It turns out the motivation of posting my draft work on this blog is not as necessary this morning; I am getting ready to send a draft of the depth portion of my KAM (about 35 pages of material) to my advisor. Still, here is the last bit on Aldrich and twenty-first century skills…

Much of Aldrich’s work relates to the development of educational simulations, and that is beyond the scope of this paper. However, Aldrich, like Gee, also described many educational benefits of games and simulations which are not easily categorized into context, inquiry, collaboration, or support. Many of these can be described in terms of the Twenty-First Century Skills developed by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group (2003), digital-age literacies, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity.

Games and simulations can help players develop digital-age literacies. For example, Aldrich (2004) points out that players develop a measure of computer literacy through their exposure to games and simulations (p. 137). He also suggested that simulations could be used to help learners develop their cultural literacy as well, citing Age of Empires and First Flight – The Wright Experience Flight Simulator as examples (Aldrich, 2005, pp. 178-179).

However, most of the benefits Aldrich discussed are particularly well suited for developing inventive thinking skills such as adaptability, managing complexity, self-direction, curiosity, creativity, and risk taking (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 33-42).

While “classrooms and books teach linear, or process, skills” (Aldrich, 2004, p. 212) and could probably even be used to teach the digital age literacies, Aldrich suggested that “simulations teach dynamic skills” (p. 212) through cyclical, linear, and systems content (p. 231). He also wrote that in computer games “there are very complex and intertwined systems at play” (Aldrich, 2005, p. 136). This makes games and simulations ideal for teaching elements of inventive thinking, such as adaptability, managing complexity, and self-direction (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 33-36).

Similarly, Aldrich (2004) said that simulations should be challenging and frustrating (p. 214), an ideal environment for the sort of creativity and risk taking that makes learning exhilarating (p. 214). Aldrich (2005) also suggested that in a computer game the player is the key to success and that “mistakes are necessary on the path to success” (p. 136), which are ideal conditions for a player to practice and develop risk taking skills.

Perhaps the most important twenty-first century skill that players learn from games and simulations is self-direction. Aldrich (2005) pointed out that not only do people learn from computer games, “they learn how to learn” (p. 137). Unfortunately for traditional educators, the following is also true:

“They expect for the environment to get harder gradually as they get better. They expect to go at their own pace, They expect to be fully engaged. They expect to be involved at a tactile level and at a high-level intellectual level at the same time.” (Aldrich, 2005, p. 137)

Of course, a large part of the purpose of Virtual Leader was to provide players the opportunity to develop their skills of effective communication and high productivity as leaders in the workplace.

I also wrote an introduction to the depth portion this morning (not worth sharing here until the paper is whole I think), and now I need to spend the next hour or so knocking out the conclusion and getting the references in order.

Thanks for reading.