Archive for the 'Simulation' Category

Creating Imaginary Worlds in the Class

Some educators feel strongly that schools should use virtual worlds to engage today’s youth. I remember a distant time when teachers had the power to create imaginary worlds in the class. A Social Studies would tell about the Civil War from the viewpoint of a teenager as his middle school students enter in that teenager’s struggles.  An English teacher used A Midsummer’s Nights Dream to explore young love for high school students. They understand the world of crazy love, mistaken love, and true love. The play becomes a vehicle for them to explore an important issue in their lives.  A science teacher had the students adopt a local stream; they tell the stream’s story throughout the school year. They write as if they were the living stream.  Teachers have the power to create wonderful worlds in the classroom.  Students can be transported to other places, times, and events and see through the eyes of others. They learn more in-depth and more comprehensively.

Can you create imaginary worlds in your class so that students enter into a different world? Do you transport them to a different realm of seeing and thinking?  Get your Merlin’s wand out!

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Simulation Possibilities For Education


Someone I know is responsible for a weapons simulation that mimics the real life experience of shooting fire arms. The simulation gun fires virtual bullets; the simulation gun weighs the same as the real weapon and even has the exact kickback that the real weapon has. The shooters can find out if they are proficient in their weapon. Weapons people can practice their shooting regardless of the weather. They do not waste millions of dollars of ammunition.

How do we put our students in simulations that allow them to experience a real-life situation with all of its complex variables? How do have our students take on tasks that enable them to combine many skills to solve a problem? Or do we present them with simple stripped down problems that are not real-world? We can find a real simulation like those in Social Studies or we can begin to create ones based on real-life problems in our community, state, nation or world.

How do you engage students in powerful simulations that promote higher level thinking of many skills?

Free Social Studies Simulations!

Lincity like SimCity

There are Social Studies simulations that are FREE and are based on well known simulations. They can also be used in other subject area.

C-Evo is similar to Civilization II – runs on windows- last updated Mar. 2007
“C-evo is an empire building game, dealing with the history of humans from antiquity into the future. This includes aspects of exploration and expansion, war and diplomacy, cultivation and pollution, industry and agriculture, research and administration. Players must constantly make decisions such as whether and where to build cities, roads, irrigation and fortresses, whether to form an alliance with a neighboring country or attack it, and whether to devote scarce resources to education/research, warfare, or the well-being of the populace. A successful player manages to find a balance among these choices. The game starts with the development of the wheel, and ends when the first player has successfully constructed a spaceship headed for a nearby planet outside the Solar System. As the game progresses, the player finds that the building of factories, for example, leads to increased pollution, which must be cleared up and can be eliminated through development of cleaner technologies.” (Wikipedia)


FreeCiv is similar to Civilization – cross-platform – last updated Feb. 2007
“Players take the role of a tribe leader in 4000 BC and have to guide their people through the centuries. Over time, new technologies are discovered, which allow the construction of new city buildings and the deployment of new units. Players can wage war on one another or form diplomatic relationships.

The game ends when one civilization has eradicated all others, when one people has accomplished the goal of space colonization, or at a certain deadline. If more than one civilization remains at the deadline, the player with the highest score wins. Points are awarded for the size of a civilization, its wealth, and cultural and scientific advances.” (Wikipedia)

FreeCol is similar to Colonization- runs on Windows and Linux – last updated Dec. 2006
“FreeCol starts in the year 1492. With a few settlers you build up colonies in the new world. You can also take colonies from rival Europeans. You build up these colonies with help from the king in Europe until they can stand alone without any help form Europe. Then you declare independence from the King and if you can survive his troops attack on your colonies you win the game.

The player can trade with Europe using various natural resources which are collected by your cities or delivered as gifts by natives. In each city you can also build up industrial buildings to convert raw materials into processed goods (which sell for more in Europe). Some industrial building will convert materials into goods useful for running your colony, such as converting wood and ore into tools.” (Wikipedia)

LinCity/LinCity-NG is similar to Sim City – runs on cross platform – last updated Feb. 07
“You develop your city by buying appropriate buildings, services and infrastructures. You have to take care of population growth and various socio-economical balances. The simulation considers population, number of jobs, foods, goods, raw material, services and other constraints like finance, pollution and transports. Various indicators are provided, like mini maps or statistics.” (Wikipedia)

I know Social Studies teachers who have not used simulations because they could not afford to buy 25+ copies of them or get a class license. Now, that barrier is knocked now. Now, SS teachers can engage their students in the complexity of learning. Now they can share their students’ learning successes through simulations.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Challenge Student Thinking Through Differentiated Simulation Cards

Challenge Card

Students like adventure in the classroom and a simulation can engage them in in-depth thinking. This approach can work in any class where you create a strong scenario to which students can react.

If you have created a simulation such as creating a nation, you have your students set up their new nation by deciding on a form of government, on the laws of the land, on the monetary system and taxation, on the transportation system, on the types of shelter, etc. Then you present them with situations that challenge their new nation.

You can vary the difficulty of your challenge for the academic level of your class.

One card may say “Your citizens are protesting the high taxes and promise to vote you and other leaders out of their offices in this (democracy) unless the taxes are lowered. What do you do? Explain your action.”

A more structured version may say, “Your citizens are protesting the high taxes and promise to vote you and other leaders out of their offices in this (democracy) unless the taxes are lowered. If taxes are lowered, then there is no money for governmental services. What do you do? Explain your action.”

An even more structured version may say “Your citizens are protesting the high taxes and promise to vote you and other leaders out of their offices in this (democracy) unless the taxes are lowered. If taxes are lowered, then there is no money for governmental services such as highways, water, and health services. What do you do? Explain your action.”

An very structured version may say “Your citizens are protesting the high taxes and promise to vote you and other leaders out of their offices in this (democracy) unless the taxes are lowered. If taxes are lowered, then there is no money for governmental services such as highways, water, and health services. Do you keep the high tax rate and show them what services their taxes support? Do you lower the taxes and lower the services? Or do you ignore them? Explain your action.”

With a word processor, it is easy to differentiate the situations by adding more structure. Also, you could use one or more digital images as a prompt to aid those who have difficulty in reading.

So how do you engage your students in differentiated responses to a scenario through technology?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Design a City: Big Student Learning Through Simulation and Outside Judges

Future city

“Future engineers think up cities” describes how middle school students think up future cities (USA Today, Feb 26, 2007, 8D). In their city design, these teams included such aspects as forms of energy to power the city, transportation, infrastructure plans, protection from natural disasters, communication, water, and police protection. After they designed the city using SimCity, they built a model, wrote an essay and gave a presentation to engineering judges.

The students worked under the guidance of a professional engineer from their community as they developed their city.

In this project students developed higher level thinking skills in Science, Math, Social studies, and English standards-based skills.

Talk about a real world learning experience! They develop a future city based on sound science and engineering principles. They worked with an expert from outside the school who constantly gave them formative feedback. They had their work evaluated by experts outside the school.

So what simulations and real world experiences do you involve your students in? How do you engage students in higher level thinking and multi-disciplinary standards through technology? How can you involve community experts to help guide your students?


© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007




Transform a “Paper” Nation Simulation Using Technology: Part 1


Mr. Webster looks at many fully developed online nation simulations and finds out that they do not meet his subject’s academic standards, do not fit in his time constraints, and are primarily war focused. He creates his own “paper and pencil” classroom simulation and incorporates various technologies to help his simulation come alive.

Setting up the simulation:

As Mr. Webster sets up a classroom situation in which the present day world has been destroyed, he can show a video clip in which a flood or a volcano destroys an area. Students can sense the destruction and realize that they have to rebuild the nation from the bottom up. Can they figure out what is needed to create a new nation?

Scaffolding the experience:

Mr. Webster can give students documents to use as they create their own nation. Students may have an electronic copy of the US constitution (or a brief outline of it) that they modify in their word processor as they create the constitution of their own nation. Will they include the same major components or will they drastically change the type of government? Will their government withstand the daily challenges?

Students can do a quick search of Google images for flags of various nations before they create their own nation flag. As they look at each online flag, they can think about the symbolism of that flag and what they want their new nation’s flag to represent. They can create their own flag using any digital drawing program and print it out to proudly fly over their new nation. What do they consider important in their new nation? If the class is large, each group can create a flag and then the class can select the best aspect (which most clearly shows the goals of the nation) from each group to create a common flag.

Likewise, they can use a drawing program or even Word to create their own money once they have figured out their government’s monetary system. Students use this money to buy and sell and even to pay taxes in their new nation. Can the government get enough in taxes and other revenue to support itself? Will the citizen protest the tax rates?

How do you give your students the simulated feeling of “living” a historical, scientific, mathematical, language, artistic, etc. event? How do you help them to “live” it instead of learn about it?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Popularity of Simulations: Why use Simulations in Schools?


In a previous post, I identified some online simulations around the Social Studies topic of nations. Simulations are an extremely hot-growing topic for many people outside of school. The phenomenal growth in Second Life is one example. “Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents.” When I checked the site at ten o’clock on a Saturday morning, there were over 17,000 people on line at that moment. Another very popular simulation is the Sims with all of its expansion packs. There are many thousands that play war simulations such as Gettysburg.

Why do I think that simulations are beneficial in K-12 or college education?

Simulations require a person to think about the complexities of a situation. The Civil War is much more than a list of battles and where these were fought. You have to analyze, synthesize and make decisions as you understand more and more about the situation. In-depth learning is not confined to neat little boxes.

Simulations require a person to think over time and to constantly make change. In Sim2, the situations happen and you have to respond to them. You interact with other people and live with the results of your actions.

Simulations present challenges. You constantly are presented with new challenges and situations that require you to act. You cannot rely on what you did in the past. Often simulations increase in difficulty and complexity.

Simulations are often action based. Talking does not get you very far in a situation although in most classrooms talking is the educational currency. You have to apply your ideas; you have to take action.

Simulations involve 21st century skills such as managing complexity, prioritizing, communicating, creative effective products

Some teachers have used a simulation such as SimCity to help students understand the complexity of creating and maintaining a city. I talked to a teacher who told me that she learned much about the complexity of a city through her students playing the game. Teachers can use a simulation like SimCity in Math, Social Studies, Science, or English classes.

So what simulations have you used in your classroom? What did you notice about students’ engagement and their learning? How did you assess the learning?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Social Studies Nation Simulations: Engage Students in Complexity

Cyer Nations simulation

When students do simulations, they are engaged in learning about the many interwoven complexities of a situation such as creating a new nation. They apply concepts, see the ramification of their decisions; and make more decisions; they do not memorize information. They find out that real world events are not simple straight lines but involve many diverse turns.

CyperNations is a “free nation simulation game. Create a nation anywhere in the world and decide how you will rule your people by choosing a government type, a national religion, ethnicity, tax rate, currency type, and more in this new geo-political, nation, and government simulator. There are no fees associated with Cyber Nations, no credits or upgrades to buy, no gimmicks, just a fun place to hang out and rule your nation.”


Nations States is a free nation simulation game. “Build a nation and run it according to your own warped political ideals. Create a Utopian paradise for society’s less fortunate or a totalitarian corporate police state. Care for your people or deliberately oppress them. Join the United Nations or remain a rogue state. It’s really up to you.” Its educational page tells about the use in education.

Welcome to GotNation. “What you find here is a socio-economic political simulation that places you at the reins of government. You control the various factors that most governments control (things like government spending and budget, tax rates, prime rates, etc.), you can adjust your government’s settings and see what the result will be for your population in terms of happiness, rights, freedoms, GDP, etc. There is no optimal solution, success or failure is up to you to determine.”

Welcome to Qpawn. “This is a world simulation where people can join up as the nation of their choice and perform the foreign, economic, military, and political policies that they wish. If you wish to join then enter the “Join” link, read the rules and fill out the form given to you. Qpawn is free. There are no financial charges or fees.”

What simulations (be they computer based or paper and pencil based) have you used in your classrooms to engage students in a virtual nation with all of its complexities?

If you know of any simulations for creating a new nation that has a high amount of structure, please let me know since a team is looking for one for a one week interdisciplinary unit. Thanks.


© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


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