Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stimulating simulation conversation; being treated like a dummy

Seems Highered has only just caught up with simulation teaching and learning hazards as if this were a new technology/computer generating hazard.
The main issue identified by Sherry Turkle is the concern of transparency. And I agree. However, it seems superficial for both Highered and Turkle to only report the the wired hazards. Seems a little to easy to get a headline by demonising the online aspects involved. I would suggest taking this a step further as whether its a didactic class, a role play, or a session that is computer generated, there is always a need for critical thinking about what is learned and unlearned in such an environment.
Sherry Turkle is cited as being concerned that computer simulations introduce strange problems into reality. There is bias present in the title of her latest book 'Simulation and Its Discontents' (MIT Press) that tracks difficulties arising when simulation—from virtual-reality chambers for nuclear-weapon testing to computer programs for architectural design becomes integral in our daily and professional lives.
I do share some of her concern regarding what is accidently taught in simulations, and suggest looking at both first and second level impacts in the use of technologies. (For further reading refer to Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections. New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge: MIT Press.)

I work in a health sector and it concerns me that a simulation of work with a patient may accidently teach that what you say or do doesnt matter so long as the task performed on the sim-man is technically proficient. A patient may live through the treatment, only to experience further abuse in being treated like a dummy.


  1. Anonymous10:56 PM

    In medical simulation training it is emphasized that the model should be treated like a human being at all times and this is reinforced through communication skills practice and awareness training that also includes communicating with relatives. It can get so real that staff involved feel the emotional consequences of the loss of the models life in a simulation.

  2. Its taken me a long time to respond to this response because it annoys me so much.
    I do not see students being asked to have a conversation elsewhere so the 'patient' doesn't hear what's said, and i do not accept that empathy (amongst other communication skills) is developed in the presence of plastic.
    The rhetoric and the actual are worlds apart.
    Medical practice, and not the patient, is reified in training simulators.
    The emphasis is on the practice of skills, unfortunately this comes with some unfortunate learnings, not least of which is the delusion perpetuated by staff facilitating such teaching and those selling such products, that one can learn to be skilled in interpersonal communications by interacting with dummies.
    I accept emotional responses occur, and I note that these also occured with the ELIZA Rogerian counsellor (developed by Weizenbaum) and with the Parbo fur seals introduced within units working with people with dementias.
    I'm arguing that there are some learnings involved here that should be seriously questioned, critique is warranted.