My Medical Center Simulation Tour: SL Part Deux

February 5, 2010

Oh boy.. I totally meant to write this post a LONG time ago. Like last Sunday, ha. Funny how life sneaks up on you and the best laid plans end up looking like Saskatchewan highways after numerous frost heaves!

Anyway… better late than never I always say and here is the much awaited report on the SL field trip I went on to the Ann Meyer’s Medical Center in Second Life on Saturday.

We all convened at a conference building (pictured below) and there we were briefed on a case that would be presented in the Emergency Room. Then we all went to the Emergency Room and the interns were directed to click on different notecard givers that gave medical photographs, designed to represent the physical state of the patient waiting for care in the bed.

The simulation lesson idea is a very good one and has the power to be very engaging and immersive. There were a few issues with the simulation I witnessed, however. The case presented in the conference room was quite a bit different than the one actually waiting for everyone in the ER, but, that’s OK. Often times the reality of situations is very often different from what one has been “told” and in medicine in particular, I imagine this is far more the norm than many of us would be comfortable with.

The participants in the simulation seemed confused about what they were expected to do. My partner, Arsene, joined me on this observational field trip. I kept to the background and took notes, doing precisely what I had come to do, which was to observe. Arsene, however, is a doctor in France and he couldn’t resist stepping in to offer some advice. Advice, it turns out, that was quite valuable and welcomely received by the participants and the instructor alike. Arsene made the observation that the patient was displaying typical symptoms classically presented by battered women in an abusive domestic situation, and this was precisely the point of the simulation, to discover that the woman was indeed suffering from physical abuse.

The simulation then wrapped up in a resource center, where many informational slideshows offer advice and information on a few different topics, such as domestic abuse, H1N1 and other assorted things. The displays change depending on what the class is learning at the time. The sim is open to the public and everyone is welcome to come and observe the activities of the campus anytime. There are scheduled gatherings from time to time and these can be determined by keeping an eye on the AMMC blog site.

All of the participants in the simulation expressed that they learned a lot from the experience, despite some of the hiccups I observed (in this way the SL environment truly operated like any classroom anywhere in the “real” world). As an outside observer I noticed a couple of things that could have improved the experience. They include:

  • Making sure the briefing case in the conference room matched the case that was going to be presented in the ER.
  • Doing a bit of work with the interns prior to the simulation to set out clear-cut expectations and guidelines.
  • Allowing for more time for all elements of the simulation. (Things definitely felt rushed at various points and I found I was a bit disappointed that things were switching gears just as folks seemed to be “getting into” the roles they were supposed to.)
  • Encouraging more role play.

This last point is a particular sore point for me. On a few different resources at the center, and in fact, in the SL advertisement for the medical center, it says in big bold letters NO ROLE PLAYING ALLOWED. This is a contradiction to the main tenet of a simulation. Role playing is the POINT of a simulation.

However, in SL, role playing has  a very bad reputation for many people and  a lot of folks automatically associate role playing with deviant sexual or violent acts. Yes, those types of role playing DO exist in SL but role playing, like so many other learning and instructions techniques is not inherently bad in and of itself. Perhaps the terminology is the issue here, I’m not sure.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the AMMC tour and I believe they are on the right track here with the type of education they are trying to promote here. It seems to me they are still developing and growing, and like anything else in life, they are on a continuous learning journey. For me, at least, this is an engaging and immersive way to learn 🙂

AMMC Hospital Building

Conference Room Briefing

Emergency Room Patient Nix

Ann Meyers Medical Center Resource Center

Edit:  I just found this interview with John Norris about how he inserted the medical images and charts and information that was used in the hospital at AMMC.


4 Responses to “My Medical Center Simulation Tour: SL Part Deux”

  1. Michelle VG said

    I bet this would be an interesting way to learn. Would you say that this would need considerable building before it becomes an environment to learn?

    Interesting point about role playing. I have often suggested the use of it to instructors who want to try another way of engaging students in forum discussions. I have a human justice course I worked on discussing ‘walmart nation’ issues by taking on the role of corporate management, an employee, and a union rep.

    I am also going to try it in a social work course on critical thinking/issues. They will have a case study and have to reflect on it thru the eyes of a social worker, the neighbour, and victim.

  2. Michelle Clarke said

    Hi Michelle!

    There is a lot of “building” already done by the AMMC crew for their students and the method of learning works well (small glitches and hitches notwithstanding. There is always room for improvement in any classroom, with any method or mode of learning, really, in my opinion. But I view education as analogous to an unfinished masterpiece.. no matter how complete you think your picture might be, there is always something else that can be done to enhance it).

    For anyone else thinking about starting to use SL as a simulation environment to use with their school or classroom, yes… a heck of a lot of work would be necessary! Roles, rights, responsibilities and liabilities would have to be worked out with students, staff, administration and parents (to name a few). I work with adults so using SL in this way wouldn’t be as problematic in some respects for me, perhaps. The technology needed (and the accompanying supports for that technology) is high as well (as we’ve seen for ourselves in this class).

    I believe SL has a TON to offer us in terms of education and that this is still a burgeoning frontier in many respects. “Best practices” are a struggle to establish yet.

    As a “gamer” RPer myself I’ve found it very exciting and rewarding to immerse myself into a virtual environment and take on different roles within SL. Trying to emulate this in a classroom with real live people in front of me would be another proposition entirely and anything I did would feel awkward and contrived. I tend to be shy and there are some things that are just easier to express through text than can be expressed through a face-to-face real-time conversation. I also believe there are connections students can make in a virtual world, parallels that can be drawn from the virtual to the “real world” that have the ability to transform “real”ity.

    But regardless of whether someone chooses a virtual or a real world environment with which to role play, I’ve always considered role playing and simulations to be particularly excellent ways to explore ideas and learn new perspectives. Good luck with your project with your students! I’d love to hear how things went for you 🙂

  3. Gaetan said

    As an arts education teacher, the role play aspect provides dramatic possiblities that would be an important part of the potential of SL for me. As long as expectations were made clear with students, I think it could add an important dimension to any educational experience.

    Having delved into the building side of SL for the last few weeks, I can only imagine the amount of hours someone spent designing such a detailed sim. Very impressive. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Michelle Clarke said

      Thanks Gaetan! It was sincerely my pleasure to tour this sim. I have been continuing my educational tours in SL and have found some interesting places. I think I’ll compose a post one of these days highlighting the top 10. (Top 10 in my humble opinion that is!)

      I believe SL has a huge capacity to be engaging and rewarding for arts education in a plethora of ways too. There is the capability to create videos right within SL. Everyone has the capability to film their avatar and the avatars around them in SL. (I’m not sure how to do it, myself yet, but I imagine there are tutorials somewhere that give instructions about this). Imagine the sorts of things you could do in the virtual world in a filmography class. Everything from set building to animation creation to screen play writing and story construction .. it has the potential to be a truly integrative experience.

      There are a number of YouTube videos available showing different film shorts that have been created in Second Life. Some of them are goofy and depict little in the way of a storyline, but others are quite well developed too. It’s another way of telling a story and it’s quite an inexpensive way of getting to tell a story when you think about it. How much would real live sets cost to construct compared to what you can build or buy in Second Life to do the same thing?

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