Archive for the 'Why' Category

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


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