The primary mission of the PROSE lab is to investigate the ways in which digital technology can be effectively coupled with the human user in order to yield innovative tools for learning, training, and entertainment. Representative products from this research include technologies such as Virtual Field Trips, interactive scripts for educational video games, "modded" video games to teach educational content, and other types of simulation technologies. Spanning many different applications and purposes, PROSE ideas are used for everything from training distributed team members, to educating children in the humanities, and building reading skills.
Our approach to the design of such products is careful and methodological. Rather than simply relying on technology to solve problems, we instead choose to focus on the meaningful intersections between theoretical ideas and technological innovations. For instance, a video game that contains learning content is not necessarily a good video game, nor is it necessarily a good learning application. A video game that has been carefully researched and designed to include sound learning theory coupled with the fun and innovative elements of gaming, along with carefully chosen and testing learning benchmarks, though, is considerably more useful.
Some of the research questions PROSE is currently considering include:
- Which types of synthetic learning environments are best for solving which types of problems?
- What are the "grand research questions" involved with synthetic learning?
- Which community organizations can benefit from synthetic learning technologies?
- What are the ethical dimensions of synthetic learning environments?
- How can the fundamental components of storytelling and narrative be used to improve training in the simulation industry?
- What are the essential characteristics of gaming and of story? Can they be removed from one context and re-imagined in another?
- How can video games be designed to encourage and motivate students in the primary school system?
- How do the dramatic requirements of story coexist and interact with the gameplay requirements of the player?
- How can story and narrative be used as scaffolds for learning new or unfamiliar technologies?
- How do the social, affective, and cognitive nature of story combine to product one of the world's most powerful tools for knowledge management and cognition?