According to Jenkins (2009) simulation is the "ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes" (p. 41)

What is the big deal?

In the past we have heavily relied on contrived scenarios in order to tap into and develop students' problem solving skills. Due to time constraints, budgetary issues, and risk concerns many problem solving tasks have been highly theoretical, unrealistic, and often overly focused on paper-pencil interactions.
Watch the videos below and compare/contrast traditional methods' with simulated experiences' ability to:
  • motivate students.
  • facilitate the transfer of skills from class to real life.
  • provide immediately marketable skills.
  • foster creativity in problem solving.
  • activate and develop distributed and collective cognitive abilities/skills.

1) Traditional Methods:

2) Problem Solving Utilizing Simulations:


Simulations provide teachers and students highly accessible and powerful ways to explore and apply skills within an immersive context that highly resembles real life. This contextualized form of problem solving/learning can be far more effective than dealing with skills in isolation. Simulations also draw on other concepts explored by Henry Jenkins and my colleagues in this wiki:

Distributed Cognition - artifacts and processes designed by software contain information and complete processes seamlessly so students can focus on the task at hand or better complete problem solving tasks. This is evidenced in the video above as the designers talk about clues, hints and data resident within the program that guide participants as they travel a unique path to the end goal.

Collective Intelligence - many simulated environments allow participants to interact with others in order to practice skills, solve problems, form professional relationships, etc. This makes these experiences more powerful than traditional solo research projects as the participants can now glean from each other.

Appropriation - The 3rd party modding of video games enables learners to critically analyze a game and collaboratively problem solve in a simulated environment in order to enhance the quality of the game. This is especially true about multi-player games. Check out Prensky's website designed to enable collaboration in a simulated context.

Check out the example below of Second Life's role in language instruction that encompasses distributed cognition and collective intelligence, AND the effort put into creating realistic immersive experiences:

Who do we draw inspiration from for our "simulated" view of the future?

Sarah Robbins from the University of Indiana teaches using Second Life. In this very engaging talk she covers a variety of issues critical in simulated and other computer mediated communication environments (ie: identity theories, group dynamics, instructional strategies, selecting the appropriate level of realism for simulations for a given task/class). It is long but worth the watch to learn from a person who utilizes the tool.

Will Wright has created a style of computer gaming unlike any that came before, emphasizing learning more than losing, invention more than sport. With his hit game SimCity, he spurred players to make predictions, take risks, and sometimes fail miserably, as they built their own virtual urban worlds.

Users invest themselves passionately in characters they create (with Wright's mind-boggling CG tools), and then watch them encounter fundamentals of life and nature. If it all sounds suspiciously educational, well, it just might be. Wright has created not just an irresistible form of entertainment, but an ingenious, original pedagogy.

The Ultimate Mash Up: Biologist Turns Gamer

Speakers Torsten Reil: Animating neurobiologistexternal image 47839_254x191.jpg

By coding computer simulations with biologically modeled nervous systems, Torsten Reil and his company NaturalMotion breathe life into the animated characters inhabiting the most eye-poppingly realistic games and movies around.

Why Should We Care?

From equine combat in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King to animating Liberty City gun battles in Grand Theft Auto IV, Torsten Reil's achievements are all over the map these days. Software that he helped create (with NaturalMotion, the imaging company he co-founded) has revolutionized computer animation of human and animal avatars, giving rise to some of the most breathtakingly real sequences in the virtual world of video games and movies- and along the way given valuable insight into the way human beings move their bodies.

NaturalMotion has also worked under a grant from the British government to study the motion of a cerebral palsy patient, in hopes of finding therapies and surgeries that dovetail with the way her nervous system is functioning.

Can you imagine having students researching Torsten's work for Career Studies in CALM class? Maybe he would Skype our class? Way cool....

AND for us teacher/learners doesn't this sound fun!

What's next? Well, this could be part of your next job interview... || || || ||


Leadership and Team Simulation: Everest

The Leadership and Team Simulation uses the dramatic context of a Mount Everest expedition to reinforce student learning in group dynamics and leadership. Students play one of 5 or more roles on a team of hikers attempting to summit Everest; teammates must share information to maximize group achievement.
The simulation is ideal for undergraduate and MBA courses in Organizational Behavior, Leadership, and General Management.

Where might we use simulation in school?

As tools become more sophisticated, students will be able to move from playing games or manipulating simulations to constructing their own models and thereby testing their assumptions about their world view. They go from being passengers to drivers to car builders.

1. Tropical America is one example

“Tropical America” offers an entertaining teaching platform that engages
students in a thematic exploration of their own histories and cultural
identities. Developed in partnership with Los Angeles high school students, drawn
largely from recent immigrant families, “Tropical America” authentically addresses
the urgent challenges of cultural assimilation of America’s contemporary students.

Developed in collaboration with Los Angeles artists, teachers, writers and high school students, the game features a bilingual, thematic gameplay, accompanied by an online database of educational resource materials, source texts and imagery.
You can try it here

HOT OFF THE PRESS! April 15, 2010 Business Education Simulations, is a set of online games where students create their own company and product and participate in simulations, including The Business Game, The Entrepreneurship Game, and The Finance Game. In Alberta the Career & Technology Studies courses are all under revision. Wouldn't this be a cool way to go..also for CALM.

2. On-line Applications

Internet Search :

external image bluearrowright.png Students can perform a Treasure Hunt to located on-line simulations.

On-line Simulations:

external image bluearrowright.png There are numerous on-line simulations available, covering a variety of grade levels and subject areas. Conducting an on-line search will yield a significant number of links, as is evident in the list of on-line resources given below.

On-line Resources
The Society for the Advancement of Games and Simulations in Education and Training ( SAGSET supports the use of simulations, as well as gaming, interactive learning and role play as a means of improving the quality and effectiveness of education from primary grades through adult learning. ( E-Learning Content Library ( offers over 300 interactive learning models in physics, chemistry, astronomy, economics, math and biology.
SIMULATION: Virtual Business Experience (
Simulation & Gaming: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Theory, Practice and Research ( has links to articles and prepared Web searches about simulations and gaming. A link to SGX - Simulation/Gaming eXchange (SGX - Simulation/Gaming eXchange) is also part of the site.

Learning Simulations ( provides links to a variety of articles and Web sites about educational simulations.
Educational Simulations (

Telecommunicated Educational Space Simulations (
The Heart: An Online Exploration (
National Geographic Xpeditions ( provides an interactive museum of geographic journeys.

The Volvo Ocean Race Sailing Simulator (

Facilittor's Guide

Overview Movies

Student Experience Login

Administrator Experience Login

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