EDUC 6177: Educational Technologies Blog: Games, Simulations, and Virtual Environments

This week is dedicated to looking at the role of games, simulations or virtual environments in education.  This blog post will be specifically dedicated to counselor education since it combines two of my favorite fields, education and counseling.  I have chosen to take a closer look at 3D virtual environments for counselor education (http://gradworks.umi.com/3374779.pdf) and Gaming in Counselor Education (http://jtc.columbusstate.edu/Vol4_1/Daire2/Daire2.htm).  These are two areas that have been lacking in the counseling field and could be incredibly beneficial. 

First I want to look at 3D virtual environments in counselor education.  http://gradworks.umi.com/3374779.pdf.  This is an area that can be extremely useful in educating future counselors.  In traditional graduate schools for counseling, we often do a practicum where we basically practice the skills we have learned in our classes on real clients.  When I was in graduate school, this was scary to me because if I made a mistake I was dealing with a real client.  By using virtual environments to practice role play scenarios without dealing with real life clients in that moment.  I think that this is a much better way to prepare for the real life scenario of interacting with clients.  It reminds me of driver’s education in high school, where we used virtual cars to practice driving before we got onto the road.  As an educator, I hope to incorporate something similar to this one day as a way to improve the quality of online counselor education programs.  It will allow distance learners more opportunities to practice the skills they learn before they go into the workforce.  I also would like to incorporate something like this with clients as a way to help them deal with scenarios that may be problematic for them.  Practicing social skills without going into a social situation, working on situations that provoke anxiety, and managing aggression are a few ways that this could be useful in working with clients.

The second area that I would like to see used in counselor education and counseling would be gaming.  http://jtc.columbusstate.edu/Vol4_1/Daire2/Daire2.htm)  The Journal of Technology in Counseling addresses how gaming can be useful in the counseling field.  There are realism based simulation games and abstract simulation games.  There are also puzzle games and conversions of traditional games.  There are a lot of options to incorporate gaming into the counseling field.  According to the Journal of Technology and Counseling, gaming can “challenge students, promote collaboration, and accommodate varying learning styles”.  I think that gaming can offer situations similar to the 3D virtual environment but in the gaming format.  Clients could use games in the comfort of their home, in a private setting, to help deal with and address issues related to mental health.  Additionally, counselors could practice situations that they may come into contact with real clients without having a real client present.  I would like to see gaming be used as a homework tool for counselor educators and ultimately clients to practice needed skills. 

Overall, I think that there is a huge need for more incorporation of 3D virtual environments as well as gaming within the counseling and counselor education field.  With the increase in popularity of online counselor education programs, we need more ways to provide online learners with ways to practice the needed skills without having to set up programs where students have to travel to engage in face to face practicums.  This could also increase the number of counselors in the field which is often lacking due to availability of accredited programs and high turnover in mental health agencies.