Teaching real world concepts in a virtual environment

I chose what I thought was a relatively simple topic for my first teaching moment project. The concept of a sterile field is used to explain one of the important ideas in aseptic technique. Every BMET needs to be aware of it whenever they are in an active surgical suite. Aseptic techniques are methods used by the medical professional in the operating room or in any environment where there is an open wound to minimize the possibility of infection. The sterile field is an abstract concept that requires a person to visualize a sterile volume around a person or object that has scrubbed or sterilized respectively. The borders of this ” field ” must never be crossed by an unsterilized hand or object. To do so is to invite the possibility of contamination that could lead to infection. This concept is particularly important since medical professionals such as anesthesiologists, BMET’s, designated surgical team personnel, etc. can and do frequently move in and out of the Surgical Suite to attend to other patients, get equipment, etc. As a result they typically do not scrub and therefore are not prepared to work in the sterile field.

My goal was to visualize this concept in a graphic manner to drive home the idea. Although the concept is rather straightforward working in an area that has multiple interlocking or moving sterile fields becomes complicated. For the BMET the complications is how to manuever around the sterile fields, and how to remove and replace sterile sensors, tools, etc. in a sterile field.

I chose to convey the concept with semitransparent red columns reaching up from the sterile environments into the ceiling to dramatize the extent of the sterile field. The diorama conveys some of the complexity but further development using animations , and scripting that react to the avatar could change it into an interactive environment designed up to challenge the student to apply their knowledge to solve a problem. I would target about 4 to 5 minutes for the activity.

Although there are much more sophisticated graphics environments I found that the SL environment allows for just enough verisimilitude to the student to understand this particular concept. Although I did not spend much time trying to write a script the language appears powerful enough for me to envision the next step of creating an interactive environment.

Given this experience it is not much of a leap to envision activities with enough virtual interaction to convey foundation level or possibly even difficult to describe prelecture/prelab material that benefit from a presentation in a 3-D environment. I think this is particularly true with important concepts that the students may not apply immediately or only learn and apply once in a class room environment. A rich virtual experience could very well impress the student more than reading about it once and taking a test on it. Soft skills in particular may benefit if there is a way to establish scenarios that allow for avatar interaction with AI developed to mimic and model typical business situations. Once again the idea would be to convey basic strategies for conflict resolution. These would be preparatory activities that would be followed up by classroom discussion.

I would strongly suggest continuing to explore this environment as the basis for a wide range of teaching tools. SL is not standing still and a number of new tools and interfaces are being developed that will continue to be monitored. Last but not least this is a very inexpensive way to stimulate creative approaches to teaching. It lends itself well to the imagination allowing a user to experiment with a freedom that I have never experienced before.
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