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The Psychology of Communication

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9.4 Application Of Approach

Simulation may better serve as simulation of environments than of persons. Pilots of large planes can not be trained on the planes. With the huge cost of fuel, it would not be economically feasible to fly those planes around empty as they learned to fly. Not to mention the high cost of their mistakes. They learn to fly in flight simulators which simulate the experience of flying those large planes. No fuel is required and, if they make an error, they just hit the reset button. Those flight simulators are so realistic that the first time a person trained on them is in the cockpit of a "real" plane, s/he is co-pilot responsible for a plane-load of passengers.

In the early days of medicine, doctors were tempted to steal corpses from cemeteries to train their students. Now medical students can be trained on virtual cadavers. Once again, one need only press the reset button after an error.

With the dramatic reduction in the cost of computer memory, will it be possible to extend this simulation approach to teaching in other disciplines? One discipline ripe for improvement in teaching is history. In their book, 1066 and All That, two authors whimsically described the limited and distorted view of history as a result of the rote learning of names and dates [SELLAR & YEATMAN]. A collection of student bloopers, collected by history teachers, makes the same point (see Figure 9-3).

When assigned to create the edutainment section of a CD-ROM to accompany the movie Rob Roy, I imagined a user dialing a time and place and finding out what is happening then and there. Thus, if they dialed Inverness in 1746, they would see a re-enactment of the Battle of Culloden. They could choose to follow Bonnie Prince Charlie on his flight to the West of Scotland and then to France. Or he could wait around until 1773 and join Samuel Johnson on his tour of the Scottish Highlands with his Scottish biographer, James Boswell, or dial back to 1562 to meet Mary, Queen of Scots on her visit to Inverness shortly after her return from France. There was not enough time or space for such a grand project so we had to settle for flying around the Trossachs where Rob Roy lived and clicking on icons which emerged through the mist.

I'm now considering a much more modest project - created a virtual version of my town of Hudson. A first step was to create a wee book - Main Road, Hudson: Then and Now - which enable the reader to "walk" along the Main Road, "stop" at the houses of historical interest, look at an old and new photo of the house, and read a little of its associated history. In the electronic version, it would be possible to have the information in the archives of the Hudson Historical Society, linked to the relevant building. Fire hydrants found along the Main Road could be "parked" in front of each building to indicate what kinds of information it contained. Thus, for example, Greenwood Centre for Living History could contain interior shots of itself, Hudson Gazette office could contain clippings of articles about history, the train station which is converted into Hudson Village Theatre could contain audio and/or video clippings of performances by local artists, and the Town Hall could contain the genealogical records of local families.