children could spend a few months with a specialized AI tutor, an immersive interactive all-absorbing and computer game-like experience, and emerge with a comprehensive understanding of mathematics, or physics, or material science or computer programming, or art, or motorcycle maintenance?
What does literacy and fluency look like in the 21st century?
“Anyone who makes a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know a thing about either one.”
attributed to Marshall McLuhan
Achieving a Shorter Path to Mastery
Educators in this and the last centuries, have been limited by the technologies they have and have been slow to adopt new ones. We still use the printed word as the primary method of knowledge transfer in schools. The education system is tied to the book publishing business and is based on assessment methods tied to reflection. Reflection learning caught on in the last century as a method for testing students to see how well they understand material and concepts. While generally sound, it also means that a student can be aware of how to do something but not be able to actually do it. In the training world we have learned that “people learn best when they learn by doing” and that providing a safe practice environment yields a shorter path to mastery for a wide spectrum of tasks and topics. Virtual worlds, games and especially, massive multiplayer online game (MMOG) engines, provide an immersive environment where students can fully explore a subject using every medium ever used before in communication and information transfer. This pliable medium also permits educators to take students places they would not otherwise be able to go, such as inside a molecule, to the surface of Mars, or inside a modeled human body.
Our collective national experience with flight simulators and other Department of Defense training simulations suggests that the closer the educational “practice” environment is to the real world the easier it is to learn, resulting in the shortest path to the highest level of mastery.
Collaborative game-based simulation skills transfer to skills required of information age humans:
The ability to process information fast and to determine what is and is not relevant to the task at hand
The ability to process information at the same time from a range of different sources
The ability to explore information in a non-linear fashion
The ability to process information through imagery (as opposed to merely text)
The ability to plan or maneuver to accomplish a specific purpose
The ability to see things in a holistic way and to understand the linkages, interactions, and processes among the elements that comprise the entire system
The ability to acquire and explore information through non-geographically bounded networks of communication
The ability to use data to inform decision-making
The ability to focus on goals or objectives and not be distracted by irrelevant events or opportunities