Futurist and technology guru Dan Burres once observed that to play the average video game such as Halo or Sonic the Hedgehog, a child must learn and master no less than 70 new rules or skills. These 70 skills do not increase the player’s likelihood of success in the game, rather these 70 skills are the bare minimum to negotiate the first level of the game.
Dan also noted that in this virtual reality or immersion simulation environment, the child is monitoring no fewer than 100 individual incoming streams of data from 360 degrees in all three planes of three-dimensional space (X, Y, and Z axis). In addition, the most recent generations of these game systems provide text, audio, and video conferencing, allowing players to collaborate in real time with individuals not only within their country but across the internet in other countries.
These collaborations are not bounded by language differences. As a result, to work collaboratively within a given group and have that group work collaboratively against other groups, the players must learn a new language either one unique to the game or one utilized in common by all players within their team.
But what does this have to do with education or business process enhancement?
What would happen if the much ballyhooed No Child Left Behind curriculum handed over to video game programmers and utilized as the rules, processes and systems of a series of role playing adventure video games?
What if the same level of mastery of scholastic skills were required achieve success within the various levels of these games?
It is estimated that the entire K through 8 educational curriculum would be learned and mastered within a short two and a half years!
Further, the remaining four years of high school would be completed within 18 months. Given that this sophistication of video games require a certain level reading and fine motor skills, students would not be ready to begin such a program until age seven or eight (third grade). These students would therefore complete high school by the end of seventh grade.
Military and civilian applications of immersion simulation and virtual reality training have found that application and retention of information and skills learned maintain greater than 90% recall and greater than 90% proficiency in real world application. This means that students learning in an immersion simulation / virtual reality environment would not only master their K through 12 education, but would recall it with over 90% accuracy and apply it with over 90% proficiency. This exceeds even the best educational programs anywhere in the world by over a two to one margin.
Given this level of retention and proficiency, these seventh graders would be able to augment their education with the first two years of college (Liberal Arts studies) which they would again complete within a year. A well-rounded education could be further augmented with Music and Literature, which of course would be part of the immersion simulation rather than separate courses, lending little or no additional time to the program.
In such a technology augmented education, by the time an average child graduates from middle school and enter their adolescent years, they would have completed the equivalent of two years of college in a Liberal Arts program, again with a mastery level greater than 90% or in collegiate terms, a Magna Cum Laude level of expertise.
Toaster or Technology:
The problem with the application of such a model within our current educational system is that for a preadolescent or adolescent, the xBox 360, PlayStation 3, or similar device is not technology, rather it is a tool not unlike a toaster. To those of us who provide education, either in the postgraduate or in the secondary school environment however, this self same device still represents significant technology with “cutting edge graphics” and “blazing speed.” For those of us raised in the Pong and Atari generation, the xBox 360 and PlayStation 3 were not only unimaginable, but had they existed in our adolescence, they would have cost tens of millions of dollars and been referred to as “super computers”.
The cultural clash between today’s educators and the educational technology represented by the xBox 360 and PlayStation 3 is a chasm almost too wide to forge.
Business Can Lead the Way:
Perhaps the trickle down of effect would be more readily accepted. Instead of revamping the modern classroom into an educational video arcade, what would happen if currently available technologies such as the xBox 360, PlayStation 3 or even Second Life were applied to immersion simulation training of employees?
Role-playing games designed around literary works, movies, or even fantasy could be modified or even built from the ground up to incorporate the new skills and processes needed in the business environment or even a manufactured environment. Fire safety, workplace safety, disaster preparedness, disaster response, or even such mundane activities as packing for trips, preparing for a doctor’s visit, or maintaining your own health could be incorporated into the mythical world of virtual reality role-playing games.
Modern-day Dungeon Masters could tap into the vast bodies of knowledge and work cooperatively with professional organizations and trainers, academic institutions, and advocacy groups to ensure that evidence-based processes were incorporated into the games allowing the games not only to maintain the laws of physics but the laws of business, Medicine, and even real world legal considerations.
Imagine entering Second Life online and “volunteering” at a hospital that is responding to an earthquake (or the attack of Godzilla). Nurses, doctors, administrators, laboratory technicians, x-ray technologists, healthcare providers, and professionals of every ilk could practice their cooperation, collaboration, policies, and even procedures in this virtual space until these skills became second nature in Second Life.
When a real event occurred, the self same individuals who trained in the immersion simulation / virtual reality environment would find that they apply these new skills with military precision and virtual reality realism. Life will truly imitate art.
Let the Games Begin:
So what would it take to move theory into practice?
The will to do it!
The technology exists. The programming algorithms exist. The procedures and best practices in each industry that could benefit from immersion simulation / virtual reality training exist. The only thing that is lacking is a simple collaboration between programmers who are masters of this new world and professionals who are masters of both the new and the old knowledge.
Perhaps like in the video game Cameo, these modern-day digital alchemists can come together with the wizards of ancient wisdom and forge a new world for all.