Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SimSchool: The Game and Simulation of Teaching

Hi Bloggers…

Delighted to meet and discuss with you again through this weblog. Now, in this occasion, I would like to discuss and share what I have been experiencing during the class in the exciting course of “Pedagogies Flexible Learning supported by Technology” especially in the topic of “pedagogy” this week. To be honest, during the session I felt very blessed and fortunate because I could test and try out how to use the simSchool application guided directly by Prof. Gerald Knezek as one of the members of the research team in the simSchool project. He was invited as a guest lecturer by our teacher, dr. Petra Fisser. Prof. Knezek kindly informed and patiently told us how to register and make an account to sign in and how to run the simSchool application. Even, he asked and let us log in with his own personal account to explore all the things inside this simulator engine.

However, does everyone know about the simSchool?

The simSchool was conceptualized on the basis of cognitive model paradigm which is called OCEAN or Big Five model of personality (McCrae and Costa, 1996, as cited in Christensen et al.(2011). OCEAN is an acronym for the Big Five personality:

·     Openness to experience—appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, and curiosity
·    Conscientiousness—a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement
·         Extroversion—energy, urgency, and the tendency to seek stimulation and the company of others
·      Agreeableness—a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic toward others
·    Neuroticism—a tendency to easily experience unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability.

From the paper contributed by Cheryl Ellerbrock, Ph.D., it is stated that the definition of simSchool based on the website is “a classroom simulation that supports the rapid accumulation of a teacher’s experience in analyzing student differences, adapting instruction to individual learner needs, gathering data about the impacts of instruction, and seeing the results of their teaching.” From this definition, it can be asserted that the application can be used for the teacher to: (a) analyze student differences, (b) adapt instruction to individual learning needs and style, (c) gather the data about the impacts of instruction, and (d) predict the results of their methods of teaching.
Likewise, Zibit and Gibson (2005) contend that the simSchool application is an online simulation of a classroom that can model thousands of different kinds of students and allow a teacher to attempt to meet the different learning needs by assigning tasks in sequences and saying things to the students as they work on the tasks. In this class simulator, the teacher can make a class consisting of 1, 5, or 18 virtual students. The interaction between teacher and the students with the underlying model of teaching and learning can be facilitated through mouse and button clicks. Teachers can read about student personalities, learning preferences and past performance from the assigned student’s profile which the teacher created. Then, the teacher can select his preferred techniques he can choose. To know the results of the effectiveness of his using technique, the teacher can get the summary results whether the way of teaching suits with the students’ personal style and characteristics or not. Therefore, through this simulator, it is expected that the teacher can apply the best method and technique with suitable individual students’ needs and learning styles in order to achieve the best results for the individual academic performances. OK, let’s try to start the class module: Early’s Bad Day.

The simSchool module of Everly’s Bad Day

Everly’s Bad Day is one of the modules created by the teacher in simSchool application by creating virtual class in which there are two students, but only one of which is assigned to the given tasks, named Kassam Everly. In this module, Everly—who has personality profiles as very social and collaborative students, is self-discipline, likes variety and interaction, likes stimulation, and likes challenge—is assigned to do three tasks, namely: “Go over to the last week’s lesson”, “take notes during lecture”, and “take an oral quiz.” Well, from all tasks mentioned earlier, it is assumed that all of them are unmatched with Early’s individual personality. These three tasks are very traditional and old-fashioned style of teaching, but it is believed that there is a few teachers still use it. Because Everly is assigned to do these three tasks, he feels bored and is having nightmare in that day which is then called Everly’s Bad Day.
In this module, as a teacher, I am given an occasion to teach Everly by asking him to do three tasks. First, I created a lesson task for Everly to go over to the last week’s lesson. In the first minutes, Everly did the tasks well, but after minutes 6, Everly feels distracted with the task. From the power indicator, he seemed to have many difficulties in executing the tasks. He just did well in the conscientiousness, but failed to the other aspects. Perhaps, he performed well in the conscientiousness because He has self-discipline personality as reflected from conscientiousness. As a consequence, when doing the first task, his academic performance is lower.
Then, I continued asking him to the second lesson task. I tried to request Everly to “take note during the lecture”. He did what I asked for. During the second task, his openness is getting higher, but his conscientiousness remained steady from the first task. Again, his academic performance is still lower. Next, I asked Everly to do the third task: ”Take the oral quiz.” When performing this task, his extroversion and neuroticism are getting higher in the first five minutes, indicating that he seemed to be able to do the task as expected. However, his academic performance is still decreasing. All in all, I can conclude from the pictures or table that my effectiveness for teaching in the module “Everly’s Bad Day” was very insufficient (0%) or failed. I assert that my three tasks for Everly were not matched with his individual learning needs. As a result, when performing the overall tasks, Everly had many difficulties and distractions.
To my mind, this is my first experience in running a classroom simulation by which I can acquire many inspiring and interesting pedagogical phenomena. After playing this simulation, at least I know how important to meet individual learning needs with our teaching techniques or methods.  From this simulation, I learnt how to communicate and give assertion to the students and can analyze the results of my assertion. For me, teacher talk is also important to characterize who we are. If we often say to the students by using a dominant power, like:  “evaluate the question first”, it tends to be a “teacher-centered classroom”. On the other hand, when we use a question, like: “Can you describe your thinking?” it seems or reflects “student-centered classroom”.
Furthermore, one striking issue that I got during operationalization of simSchool is that technology can be a potential help to match what the learners needs and what ways the teacher should teach. In this example, by using technology we can predict the result or impact of our instruction in teaching. However, as a new experimenter, I feel that the instructions and the procedures how to run this program is very complex. I often found difficult to try out and explores some functionalities or other learning task environments that I want to assign. Also, there are some technical problems that should be fixed accordingly. Sometimes, when I wanted to know the summary result, the figures of the summary result cannot be displayed well. Therefore, if simSchool is equipped with practical tutorial which can be easily found and friendly to the new users, it would be nicer and more interesting to use it. All in all, the most fundamental insight I got from this simulator is that “Technological knowledge can be helpful to enrich (beginning) teachers to have sufficient pedagogical knowledge.”



  1. Very interesting comments. I think you show that even when barely getting to know simSchool, a few important points are encountered, such as how individual needs might be met in a classroom and also how various tasks impact the personality of a learner. We found out that the version of IE (Microsoft) did not play well with Javascript so that the web experience was not what we intended - this helped us find and solve a new problem. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Hi Isnaeni,
    Thank you for your description of and reflection on simSchool! I like the way you describe what happened when you were working with the simulation. From a designer of CIMA point of view your remark about the complexity of the program is very important. If we want (pre-service) teachers to use this, they should be able to use it without too many constraints and frustrations!