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A Game-based Simulation that Improves Teaching

What about a game-based simulation of a classroom that can take the form and shape of any classroom anywhere, and can provide a teacher with a virtual training ground and practice space? It would be a teacher flight simulator, with virtual students who act and behave like real students, which would give teachers (and aspiring teachers) a chance to experiment with new methods, tasks, and approaches to relationships with students?

Submitted by david.gibson 3 years ago

Comments [18]

  1. david.gibson Idea Submitter

    We've been working on such a project and now have about 75 higher education institutions around the world interested in the idea. See www.simschool.org if you are interested to follow up. Funding for this work has come from USDOE (PT3 Program), Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE), National Science Foundation (NSF), EDUCAUSE Wave 1 (Next Generation Learning Challenges), and others.

    3 years ago
  2. David,

    Would the simulation include mock feedback from the students on the speaking-style of the instructor? One of the things I hear from my kids is "that teacher was so boring" - can we teach/learn not-boring-ness?

    3 years ago
  3. david.gibson Idea Submitter

    Yes, there is currently feedback about several aspects of the teacher-student relationship. (e.g. which kind of students did you pay attention to, how did you talk to them, what kind of approach - questions, assertions, observations - did you use, did what you say matter to them and help them learn? etc.). There is a long way to go to get more realism and a wider range of realistic dynamics in it, but simSchool is a very good start on the concept that if we work together on it, we can build such a platform, tool, research model, training experience.

    3 years ago
  4. David,

    Thanks for your response - I will definitely visit the simschool web site.

    3 years ago
  5. Development of such instructional is a non-trivial undertaking. My company, ETCAI Products, has been developing such material for several years for use in electricity and electronics training. We are commercial company. The revenue available barely maintains support and update efforts. We could develop far better material if the potential of recovering cost were clear. http://www.etcai.com

    3 years ago
  6. david.gibson Idea Submitter

    Amen on the non-trivial nature of the undertaking! If the benefit of having highly qualified teachers is clear and convincing (which I think it is) then there will be an adequate sustainable stream of users - perhaps up to 4 million worldwide? However, like some basic science research areas, the cost of research at the beginning (e.g. time, domain expertise, integration, modeling expertise, etc.) is certainly a "grand challenge" for education.

    2 years ago
  7. It's a great idea!

    2 years ago
  8. This is a very important use of the technology , I think that this should be funded. There are so many variables in teaching that a place based training is not valid.

    Bonnie Bracey Sutton

    2 years ago
  9. We certainly need this although also need to remember that bandwidth still remains an issue for many schools and countries world wide. I would love to be pointed to the best simulations available for secondary schools that don't require the massive bandwidths associated with second life etc David always happy to trial your stuff if you need a k - 12 environment in Sydney, my new school Waverley is very innovative and looking for something to stimulate the ed environment for our boys

    2 years ago
    1. david.gibson Idea Submitter

      Great Westley! It's free to schools and instructors. We have about 90 higher education institutions looking into it, piloting and researching (www.simschool.org/simPartners) and we give free webinars to help people learn how to use it to set up teaching challenges and virtual practicum sessions. Maybe we could look at setting up a "teacher's challenge game" with an all-boys classroom sim - to see who can cause the greatest learning for all the boys in the room.

      2 years ago
  10. This might take a lot of work on the developer's part, but could prove really helpful as a start/additional resource for teacher prep.

    2 years ago
    1. david.gibson Idea Submitter

      We agree with you and certainly hope so!

      2 years ago
  11. Though the idea is great, and further development could be interesting, the skills practiced in this simulation game are grossly inadequate to transfer productively to a real classroom environment. Although it certainly wouldn't hurt to practice the narrow band of skills presented in this game, the limitations should be clearly delineated so as to effectively complement a teacher education program or course and avoid over reliance.

    2 years ago
    1. david.gibson Idea Submitter

      Thanks for the critique. Of course, all models are subsets of reality. If they were exact copies of reality they would not have the benefits of being a model (see mathematician John Holland on this point). So because of this, we always need to keep in mind that models only capture a part of reality. I don't think we know enough (yet) to say that it is "grossly inadequate" (unless you have some data that we do not know about). I agree with you that it won't hurt to practice a narrow band of skills and to note the limitations - and I would add that we need additional research into transfer, which has already begun. We're interested in seeing some experimental research that compares simulation-preparation with real classroom performance to check for transfer.

      2 years ago
  12. The danger here is to get the teaching environment right. Design is important and the current design of most classrooms is old hat. New style classroom , with flexible spaces, that incorporate technology and that encourage collaboration, personalisation and independent learning require completely different teaching styles. So which environment will the simulation reinforce?

    2 years ago
    1. david.gibson Idea Submitter

      Good point. We hope to create a simulation that allows you to set up a wide variety of "flight situations" that can test such theories. In the model we have thus far, the most important features concern the psychological, physical and cognitive aspects of a "task." So if you place a collaboration task in front of an introverted person who is slightly neurotic, what do you expect to happen? The simulation should give you feedback that is valid to that expectation. Or if you give a task that requires high individualization to a student who craves teacher direction and rules and prefers to practice things already known versus encountering new ideas and challenges, what do you expect to happen. It's not that individualization and collaboration are in themselves bad, but for some students, they might need something else besides those opportunities in order to be successful. THAT is what the simulation is about; and we hope that the "biases" have been minimized to allow people to explore questions at all ends of all scales.

      2 years ago
  13. This is especially important for teachers at the college level, who rarely have any training in how to teach. In many cases they are non-English speaking professors, or may just have a lack of social skills. As an Academic Technology consultant at a large University I see this way too much, and it is a disadvantage to eager students when there is a communication barrier of some sort.

    2 years ago
  14. ECOMUVE at Harvard is an interesting science pilot with virtual environments that represents a good example of a manageable scaled-down and simplified version of these game-based simulations. Sometimes it could be solving a mystery instead of earning points, etc. which could be the motivator. http://ecomuve.gse.harvard.edu/

    2 years ago

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