Keeping it real

I spent most of today over at the University of Portsmouth, where I led a 90 minute seminar/workshop on 'Learning 2.0: Web 2.0 in Education'. I was well looked after by several University of Portsmouth staff, inlcuding Manish Malik and his lovely wife, Emma Duke-Williams (not his wife - please refer to the separating comma), and the two Colins, Colin White and Colin Clarke. This morning Dr Clarke and his colleague Lucy Bailey took me on a tour of the ExPERT Centre (a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning), which was absolutely fascinating. One of the defining features of the Centre is its several simulation suites, including a fully equipped representation of an operating theatre, used to train student Operating Department Practitioners and Paramedics. The suite comes complete with a manikin that talks back to the students, breathes and mimics a number of other, um.... 'bodily functions'. In fact, just about the only thing it can't be programmed to do is act like my teenage daughter and constantly demand cash handouts, car rides to her boyfriend's house and back, and er... more money. All of the manikin's bodily functions can be programmed from the attached Mac computer, and the instructor can even programme in a sudden 'crisis' for the students to deal with. There are other simulated environments on the campus, including a courtroom for legal students to train in. In the ExPERT Centre I also saw a microbiology lab simulation and a simulated nursing ward. All of the above are equipped with remote controlled digital cameras and observation suites sited behind one-way mirrors.

The great thing about these kind of simulated environments is that students can build their confidence as well as their skills, while at the same time immersing themselves in realistic situations with no real risk of doing any harm. They learn by their mistakes and they also learn within situated contexts. They can also view back video footage of their performance so they can reflect on their actions and the consequences. This is clearly an expensive, but extemely powerful and effective use of technology to train professionals. In my own university next week, during the Plymouth e-Learning Conference, delegates will get the chance to visit our Dentistry school and use the Phantom Head training manikins - possibly even doing some fillings and/or pulling teeth! Simulation is obviously where it's at when it comes to the training of professionals.

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mvallance1234 said…
Blinking heck! ‘natsukashi’ as we say here in Japan (means ‘memories’). I started adult life at Highbury tech college in Cosham, Portsmouth way back in 1979: late punk rock, Clash, motorbiking to Purbrook Heath, wild Saturday nights in the Harbour, much more ;-) ... and a marine engineering apprenticeship to keep me focused. The apprenticeship was a lot of ‘hands-on’ with, well, engines. And fixing real motorbikes for fun helped. I recall in one fire fighting course we were chucked into a metal shell , it was set on fire and our task was to get out.. quickly! Problem was that the entrance was locked and it was very dark and lots of smoke . and becoming very hot. When dealing with the real thing at sea the following year, of course one panics but quickly I got into the taught procedure of finding a way out of a very low, dark, smoky, hot cargo hold. Yep! Simulation, even in its roughest format, has a lasting impact on learning. Rather depressingly I now teach electronic students who have never changed a household plug. Bring back simulations – or do I mean apprenticeships?
Michael .. Hakodate, Japan.

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