A simulation is an educational approach used where students imagine roles in real life situations and investigate outcomes in which the events can be controlled.
Models of Teaching, 4th edition: Joyce, Weil, Showers, Weil
Educational simulations allow students to learn from a simulated experience built into a game format rather that from the teacher lecturing. In simulations the learning is active and the teacher takes on a coaching role. The teacher’s role involves: explaining, refereeing, coaching and discussing.
There are four phases in the simulation model: orientation, participant training, the simulation operations, and participant debriefing. In phase one, orientation, is when the teacher explains the simulation or topic. Participant training consists of the teacher reviewing the rules, procedures, decision-making, and objectives. In the simulation operation phase is actually playing the game itself. The final stage, the debriefing, allows the participants to summarize, analyze, compare and relate the simulation to the real world.
An Unofficial Guide to Web-Based Instructional Gaming and Simulation Resources (Kirkim James J. Biography. 2001 p. 17): Kirkim states that games and simulations are slowly becoming an accepted learning strategy in education. Public school teachers are embracing games as an effective means of motivating learners and teaching complex concepts. Many games now appear in digital forms on the WWW. Digital simulations vary greatly in their content and learner activities, but they have one thing in common: They make learning fun.
For younger students implementing active learning or simulations, role -playing, informal small group work, group projects or case studies makes learning sound so fun- and it is! However, moving an existing course into a simulation or active learning model requires planning and careful structuring. It requires that teachers or professors be prepared and comfortable to step out of the spotlight and requires students to take responsibility for their education. (Active Learning, Meyers and Jones, 1993)
Simulations without Technology:
Ancestor Adventure is and individualized simulation that takes young learners on a journey to their ancestors’ homeland. The title of the simulation is My Ancestors and Me. It introduces students to the concept of research. Students complete the original research at home by interviewing their parents and or grandparents. A Family Tree worksheet is assigned and students are allowed one week to learn the names and countries of origin of their ancestors. The worksheet breaks the tree down into two paternal sides with names, date of birth and place of birth. (Four Generations) It makes mention in the teacher directions that research can be done with books or the Internet.
Simulation with Technology:
I looked at the Virtual Labs & Simulations on the Sound link. “Great Websites for Interactive Learning.” It has 26 links just for sound and it is broken into subcategories: Doppler effect, Standing Waves and Resonance Standing Wave and Resonance, and Beats. The Interactive Lab link did not work, but the V-Worksheets link is available and teachers can purchase them for $15. I think students would enjoy the simulations and the visuals will help students comprehend difficult concepts in science. I found most the content on the Virtual Labs & Simulations site are for older students, but some virtual simulations could help in intermediate grades. Anytime you can show visuals it aides comprehension especially for ELL students.
Adding Technology to the Simulation:
Currently, I am not using any simulations in the true sense of the word, but I have used the CD Oregon Trail and when I taught sixth grade we did a simple Stock Market Investment simulation in math with newspapers and worksheets.
How I would augment the Ancestor Adventure, “My Ancestors and Me,” is to have my students create a graphic organizer with KidSpiration. They could draw a simple family tree and record all researched information. I would then have them bring in any family pictures and scan them into a Power Point Presentation. We can create a Family Tree presentation with their advanced organizer, family pictures, and some state maps from a clipart file to represent their place of origin. Country or world maps may be needed depending on the content. Through their family interviews we could write on the slides and document how their family came to American and live in California, city etc. I would partner limited ability students and have GATE students further their family ancestry to five or six generations and possibly find out if they have and famous people in their family. We could document the modes of transportation for the time period and how they came to American/California. (All students may be interested in researching this.) Internet resources for research and I have Family Tree Maker by Broderbund as another tech tool.
Web Resources on Simulations:
There seems to be a wealth of science and math simulations on the Internet
(Teachers can purchase CDs to go with the projects)
The Kids as Global Scientists project is an Internet
enhanced curriculum designed to encourage middle
school student inquiry and research about basic
concepts of weather and climate.