Friday, October 16, 2015

Revisiting the Manhattan Project Scenario--Part II

One of the changes in a model that emphasizes the importance of learners becoming change agents, creators of new skillsets and knowledge is that the roles of the educator, trainer and instructional designer must change. The idea of the educator or trainer being the "sage on the stage" now changes to being the "mentor on the side" and more importantly, a co-collaborator and learner within the learning experience. This is the case for the Manhattan Project scenario. As was mentioned in the previous post, the educator, or trainer takes on the role of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and his or her principal task is to interject events during the run of the simulation that will help measure responses that are related to group and individual learning objectives. Suggested unexpected events that could be interjected into the simulation are:


  1. General Leslie Groves, who directs the whole Manhattan Project, gives a news update that the Nazis have accelerated their time table for the development of the atomic bomb, which means that in order to beat the Nazis to the goal, the Los Alamos lab team will have x number of simulation time units that they have to come up with solutions, reduced.
  2. A funding cut has been introduced by the government which means the team must propose an alternate innovative solution to the current task that is more cost efficient.
  3. A moral issue has arisen dealing with the high percentage of loss of life that will occur in civilian populations as a result of them completing their work. Team members are called to present well evidenced arguments for both sides of the issue through collaborative discussion. They will then be required to take a position. They will have to present their arguments to Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer(the educator) and be prepared to defend their position vigorously under intense questioning.
  4. General Leslie Groves  announces an news update that reveals that a highly secret project in which Nazi nuclear scientists are to be kidnapped and brought back to the U.S. has somehow been leaked to the international media. The "Alsos Mission", as it has been called is resulting in angry responses from some nations. The team needs to come up with an alternate plan to slow down the Nazi atomic bomb program.

Some Innovative Simulation Design Considerations 

Running a Parallel Simulation Linked to the Uranverein Project: The number of learners involved in the Manhattan Project simulation could be increased but it is important to remember that according to theories on effective group dynamics, effective collaboration becomes problematic as the number of collaborators increases.
A potential and exciting alternative is to run two simulations at the same time that are linked to each other as a result of history. It was stated that in reality this was a tense race between the Manhattan Project and the Nazi secret weapons project called Uranverein. Following the same pattern as above, learners could take on the roles of key scientists in the Nazi program which would include:Kurt Diebner, Abraham Esau, Erich Schumann, Walter Gerlach and Werner Heisenberg(director).
A link could be introduced tied to interjection #3 above where the scientists could discuss the moral issue. 

Learning Objectives

The type of learning objectives involved in such a simulation involve such skill developments as:
  • creating effective arguments, researching verifiable evidence, evaluation of evidence with a focus on identifying bias, propaganda and simply opinion. 

  • collaborative team work through discussion with focus on coming up with solutions that are innovative and apply to real world issues germane to the time period.

  •  ability to take a position, defend it, anticipate counter-arguments and produce defences and effective communication of the position under the pressure of time and changing conditions.
An important consideration to take into account is that the learning objectives involve two levels:
(a) Those that emphasize collaborative group skills and (b) those that emphasize use of individual skills
The measurement of how well learners meet these objectives is an ongoing process throughout the life of the simulation and needs to be adaptable since ongoing personal and group data collection during the life of the simulation will dictate necessary upward adjustments as the simulation progresses.

The simple truth is that the learners who enter into a well designed immersive E-Learning simulation are not the same ones who exit. To prove the truth of this, it is advisable to add on a novel scenario that they enter at the end of the Manhattan Project scenario which becomes a proving ground to highlight the new skillsets that they have acquired. With respect to the idea of "Cause and Effect", two valuable skills that should become apparent is the learner's ability to track the consequences of an event and the ability to also work in reverse when presented with a scene containing clues to identify the causes of an event.
Next--Effective E-Learning in the Age of Distraction

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