“I see and I forget, I hear and I remember, I do and I understand.” – Confucius

We’ve known this for more than twenty-five hundred years. Yet, we still read. Well, not everyone, but obviously you do. Reading is a foundation for learning, but when we add stimuli to additional senses, we increase our retention and conversion of information into knowledge. More recently, only about 100 years ago, Edgar Dale gave us the Cone of Learning which mapped out into a diagram how much we retain after two weeks based on the nature of our involvement with the material.

The content we read we tend to remember at a ten percent (10%) rate after only two weeks. Stating that up until this sentence, two weeks from now you’ll only only remember twelve words of the writing. If you were hearing the content, as in it was being read to you, you’d retain nearer to twenty percent (20%). If we included pictures and had still/static visuals, the learning would increase thirty percent (30%).


An example of the false "cone of learning" attributed to Dale

An example of the false “cone of learning” attributed to Dale

By Jeffrey Anderson – http://www.edutechie.ws/2007/10/09/cone-of-experience-media/, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

As you can see the different senses are tied to memory differently, and differently for every individual, to some extent, but always compounding. When reading we must convert the symbols (letters) into their meaning, based on past experiences and understanding of the symbolic system. These letters coupled with other letters form words and those words each have their own meaning. We have evolved to the point in which this process of deciphering the logographic content and applying its meaning is easy, but it still takes cognition. By learning through audio, we reduce the amount of computation our brain is required to do by leapfrogging the symbol recognition and translation. Pictures have similar effect.

Combining what we see and what we hear accelerates our grasp of the information, as in watching a movie, viewing an exhibit, seeing/hearing a demonstration, all significantly increase the amount we recall after two weeks, up to fifty percent (50%) of the content. If we take it a step further and participate in a discussion or give a speech where we are receiving and participating, we can take with us seventy percent (70%) of the information (of what we say). And the greatest rate of learning is by doing. For example, maybe we give a presentation that gets people up and moving, has dynamic elements, emotion surrounding the delivery – this is serious information. Or, we can get up and participate. If I want to learn how to ride a bike, I can read about it all day, listen to audio books, attend seminars and at the end of the day I really need to just hop on and start peddling. We are active beings and learn best by participating.

Not everything we would like to learn is as easy as hoping on a bicycle and peddling down the street, some experiences we simply do not have access to. There are constraints of time, money, and space that until now we haven’t been able to transcend. Unless you were a billionaire and living in the future, there was no plausible way for you to go into space. However, now with the vast improvements in simulations, we can send you to space. We are starting to create real world situations in simulations and this is enabling active learning on a scale never before reached.

Clark Aldrich, the author of “Simulations and the Learning Revolution” spent several years leading an international team that built software for educational simulations with the look and feel of a modern video game. The emphasis of the simulations is the future of leadership, designed to help educators understand, design, construct and use computer simulations for their students – but not just for the students of today, but those generations to come.


Simulations and the Learning Revolution

Simulations and the Learning Revolution


Clark claims that simulations will be as widespread as textbooks and motion pictures, as a single sim can provide insights on a variety of content all at once, making the medium much more real-life than previous forms of learning. The user’s ability to interact and provide feedback make conveying stories, scenarios and other forms of linear content appear week and uneventful. We engage “muscle memory” and “embodied cognition” which tend to be as important in social interaction and characteristics of the business world as much as they are sports and labor. Think about practicing good body language, eye contact, and other physical behaviors that contribute to our business world. The more we practice, the better we get. The effectiveness of simulations is likely foster new types of material and a very interesting conversion of old content into new.

Once a simulation is built, it can go a long way as it is digital and a piece of software. Not only can a single simulation be deployed to hundreds of thousands, even millions of people in the near future when our cell phones are able to host and play the files with an appropriate resolution and frames per second, but that simulation can be easily changed. If it is open-source then anyone can change it and improve it or tailor it to their specific needs or situation.

This will not be a simulation of a class room, where you put on headgear and see a robot teacher, but a person from bubble-fudge Montana will be able to walk down into the ancient ruins of past civilizations and open up temples, speak to historic figures and first hand participate in the way things once were. This incredible understanding of previous times on earth will enable us to form new bonds with the educational material. It will be a much more personal experience and with the integration of machine learning algorithms it will no just be personally memorable but the content will be specific to the user.