Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Virtual Therapy

I Found This Interesting Clip at the New Yorker site:

www.newyorker.com/online/video/2008/05/19/080519_halpern/

Sue Halpern shows you images from a war game that has been adapted to a new purpose. The images that you see are a virtual Iraq — you are seeing Iraq as a US soldier would. But a set a therapists use those images sent through virtual reality goggles, along with the smells of burning gasoline, to help soldiers who were traumatised by their time in Iraq to deal with their experiences. The soldier, now back here, is directly re-experiencing what he or she went through in Iraq — so that the trauma does not remain as an unconscious injury that shapes their behavior, but rather is something they can move past, leave behind.

I find this story interesting for us in kids nonfiction on two levels. The game and its immersive quality again points out how gaming presents opportunities for not only teaching but experiencing the past. Few if any teachers will be able to completely immerse their students the way the therapists do, but how about this: what if, say, an 11th grade class somewhere spent half a year designing a history game — researching clothes, furniture, costumes, language, assumptions, as well as solving the technical challenges of creating the set of decisions and consequences within the game. Then the second half of the year they would play out various alternate realities of that nodal moments — Cuban Missle Crisis; Battle of Yorktown; the Scopes Trial; the previous year’s America Idol vote. The class would be learning history, techology, decision theory, interpretation. (Speaking of interpretation, did you all see this piece www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/06/23/080623fa_fact_thurman
Unfortunately this is only an abstract, but the June 23 issue should not be hard to find. An article that I only wish were much longer that is not only about the cave paintings that have been found in France, but the debates over what we can deduce from the cave art that has been found.)

The second point of interest to me in the Hapern piece was the report itself — the New Yorker using its website to offer a bit of video and commentary that goes above and beyond print. Again I feel we all need to learn how to marry different kinds of resources so that technology is an enhancement of what we do in print, not an alternative.