Welcome to the simulation space!

We're looking to put together some sort of simulation intended for use in a classroom setting. Some ideas we've started putting down below, but as we're just getting started we're looking for some ideas and a good application.

Computer simulations are computer-generated versions of real-world objects (for example, asky scraper or chemical molecules) or processes (for example, population growth or biological decay). They may be presented in 2-dimensional, text-driven formats, or, increasingly, 3-dimensional, multimedia formats. Computer simulations can take many different forms, ranging from computer renderings of 3-dimensional geometric shapes to highly interactive, computerized laboratory experiments. Retrieved from: Definitions and Types

Why simulation?

So many difficult concepts in math and science can be apprehended with a good simulation or virtual rendering of reality.

Computer simulations and virtual reality offer students the unique opportunity of experiencing and exploring a broad range of environments, objects, and phenomena within the walls of the classroom. Students can observe and manipulate normally inaccessible objects, variables, and processes in real-time. The ability of these technologies to make what is abstract and intangible concrete and manipulable suits them to the study of natural phenomena and abstract concepts, "(VR) bridges the gap between the concrete world of nature and the abstract world of concepts and models (Yair, Mintz, & Litvak, 2001, p.294)." This makes them a welcome alternative to the conventional study of science and mathematics, which require students to develop understandings based on textual descriptions and 2-D representations. Retrieved from: Applications Across Curriculum Areas

The ability of virtual reality and computer simulations to scaffold student learning (Jiang & Potter, 1994; Kelly, 1997-98), potentially in an individualized way, is another characteristic that well suits them to a range of curriculum areas. An illustrative example of the scaffolding possibilities is a simulation program that records data and translates between notation systems for the student, so that he or she can concentrate on the targeted skills of learning probability (Jiang & Potter, 1994). The ability for students to revisit aspects of the environment repeatedly also helps put students in control of their learning. The multisensory nature can be especially helpful to students who are less visual learners and those who are better at comprehending symbols than text. With virtual environments, students can encounter abstract concepts directly, without the barrier of language or symbols and computer simulations and virtual environments are highly engaging, "There is simply no other way to engage students as virtual reality can (Sykes & Reid, 1999, p.61)." Thus, although math and science are the most frequently researched applications of these two technologies, humanities applications clearly merit the same consideration. Retrieved from: Applications Across Curriculum Areas

What are some examples of Simulations in Education?

3D Geometric Solids

Choose Your Own Adventure

Anne set up a meeting early in February with one of her son’s teachers at JDHS to go over a nifty situational simulation to make course work more engaging for his students. In the past he’s used paper based output to have the students craft a “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style project in order to showcase the executive branch of government in a crisis situation, highlighting the complexity and reach of decisions made on the world stage. The prototype that I saw was designed along with Anne’s son using Keynote with hyperlinks going from slide to slide as the backend, chosen for its ease of use, features, and common installation base amongst the users presumably. Very neat stuff, and the best part is that the learners base their adventure off of the history of real crises and have a lot of choice on how to proceed with their project. I hope to see it published in some form sometime in order to showcase students' classwork.


Driving simulator used as part of a driver's education (a program of SERRC): http://akdrive.org/contact/

From Planet Seed:
Viscosity Simulator
Porosity Simulator
Buoyancy Explorer

Process simulation


EduMedia EduMedia

Virtual Laboratory

Second Life - Adults Only! Second Life

Interactive Simulations Phet

Graphical simulation development environment from MIT


Simulating species habitat


Simulating road networks


Scale of Universe Scale of Universe

Simulating train networks

For all of you train buffs out there: OpenBVE
Explore Learning Gizmos
Explore Learning
Over 450 Gizmos each addressing a key concept in Math or Science. Each Gizmo is a simulation with accompanying exercises, suggested activities and a post assessment.
Fold it!
Foldit is an online game allowing anyone to find the most stable 3D configuration of amino acids in a protein. This is important to understanding the protein's function. This is in turn important to curing diseases resulting from incorrectly folded proteins, e.g., AIDS, Alzheimers.

Other Simulation Resources

Here is a link to some information about virtual reality and simulation:
National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials
Strangman, N., & Hall, T. (2003). Virtual reality/simulations. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. Retrieved [insert date] from http://aim.cast.org/learn/historyarchive/backgroundpapers/virtual_simula...

Our Simulation Unit Overview

What Chip mentioned was doing a simulation of the ice-landslide that is occurring along the Dalton highway, and has been for a long time as the permafrost continues to melt. At issue is keeping the haul road passable as it is the main conduit of material to the North Slope. Of additional concern is the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System (TAPS) that passes by 700' on the other side of the road. We could map the system using Minecraft to show interesting points along the landslide path or have students build in features as they discover them in their studies within the map. Minecraft provides a 3D development environment with its own physics engine, nearly infinite space to work in, and can run locally so as to not burden a school's Internet bandwidth. There is a cost per student, but can be purchased for a relatively low figure (more details below).

Think of Minecraft like virtual Lego Duplo blocks.

We'll be exploring this area here (at least I think it's this section, we'll need to doublecheck):

View The Lobe in a larger map

Here's some valuable background from the Geophysical Institute.

Other things that should be checked out when fleshing this unit out would be the rate at which the flow is moving currently, projections for the future, projected costs for various alternatives, etc.


Assessment Outside of Gameplay

Using EdModo to build the course structure for formative assessments with resources embedded I think would be the most flexible method for unit design. Here's an example of a silly formative assessment quiz:
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Assessment Within Gameplay

It is possible to create simple "Redstone Circuits" within Minecraft that allow you to create logic circuits to effect changes in the environment through the concepts of power source, logic circuitry and sensors, and simple mechanical blocks. The first thing that came to mind as the ultimate summative assessment within Minecraft itself would be to have the students develop a plan for how to either divert or contain the flow of the landmass somehow, or divert the flow around pillars used for an overpass of some sort, reroute the road and pipeline, or some other novel solution that they come up with. The final task would be to have a walk-up virtual mechanism that had a series of binary switches with answer labels on either side and a "commit" button - if the students got the right answers the logic circuit would start the landslide down towards their solution where they could view what happens. If they get the answer wrong the whole thing would cave in and they would have to reload and try again.

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As part of this, what would make this even more compelling would be if there was some way to account for the blocks being placed by the students during the construction phase so they could calculate the "cost" of the design being used.

Keeping Track of Goals / Achievements

In game achievements look like they're something that can be programmed in, but may be prohibitively difficult to do so. I'm thinking the best way to accomplish this would be through the use of badges. The rite-of-passage to earn a badge would be through some sort of design in Minecraft or through demonstrating knowledge in some other fashion as determined by the instructor.

In EdModo I practiced making badges that could be assigned by the teacher when they meet goals / demonstrate mastery. Here's me creating one:
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Analysis of Inventory

During that portion of the course I thought the most useful tool to gauge students' motivations and backgrounds would be a simple, short SurveyMonkey.com quiz. In keeping with the theme of the unit, "The Lobe", here's a shot of the creation of a sample survey to gauge student interests:
external image 13%205:50%20PM.jpg

An actual skeleton of a survey, with two questions, is available here.

Minecraft Nitty-Gritty

Each player would have to have a Minecraft account. I paid $26 for the commercially priced account, but special deals can be had for education, apparently $7 per person through the Minecraftedu.net folks. Once you have an account and login to the game, you're free to go to whatever server you want to out there on the Internet or a server that's been configured and is running on your own LAN. Again, Minecraftedu.net provides a ready made solution here although I have not had the chance to beta test it yet. There's also commercial hosting ventures (such as Redstone and Beastnode) that will do the serving for you, for a fee of course.

Servers you connect to can either be "creative" or "survivalist". Creative mode allows people to build anything they want, and would seem to be the most likely educational choice. Survivalist is the original gameplay in which you're trying to mine things from the environment to create stuff and just in general not get killed. Rummage around in here for a list of active servers.

I'm reasonably certain that you can only save levels you create on your own servers. I'm discovering that monkeying with your own server is going to take some more time to get it right, as there are quite a lot of plugins, called mods, that you can add and configure for your server that allow different behavior.

I have asked my supervisor if it would be OK to set up a demo server space within our Juneau office. This would give us a spot to set up a sandbox for testing.

Creative Mode Gameplay

I've only just begun learning how to play Minecraft. Some friendly folks on a public server pointed me in some directions as far as going about on the level goes, but the following outlines relevant sections of gameplay. In the future we should create screencasts to demonstrate this for users:
  1. Navigating through the world
  2. Creating "stuff" - selection of blocks
  3. Destroying stuff
  4. Action! Showing landslide
  5. Going about choosing things with switches

Installation of Client

The client download link you get when you sign up for a Minecraft account. It's really small. You'll need to have a working Java Runtime Environment, which if you're using a Mac, you'll have to get directly from Oracle.

Installation of Server


Note - this section to be filled out in much greater detail as I learn more about the process and best known methods.