Viewing posts tagged simulations

3D Simulations and Model Eliciting Activities

I am involved in an Institute of Educational Sciences project with Seward Incorporated out of Minneapolis. We are currently building a simulation to support a Model Eliciting Activity (MEA). MEAs are predominantly used in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and mathematic). Here is a good read on how MEAs have been used. In short, these are activities that force students to build mathematical models based on real world problems.

Check out these sample MEAs:

In short, we are building simulations to support MEAs. Currently we are building a simulation using Croquet. This is an open source technology that allows the user to create interactive 3D worlds. The current simulation is based on a paper airplane MEA. In this MEA students need to create a judging model for what makes a paper airplane a best floater, the fastest plane, most loops, the most accurate, etc, With this MEA it is impossible for teachers to replicate a data set in class. But in a simulated environment, teachers can replicate a throw over and over! Below is a screenshot of our current project:



In this environment students will be able to:

  • Launch and relaunch flights
  • Chat with other students
  • Compare and contrast flight paths
  • Change angle from judges table to top view, to sideline view.
  • Interact with the flight data using a measurement tool.

Teachers will:

  • Be able to monitor all students in the environment
  • Give feedback and probe using the chat function

We are working on the laboratory now. In that environment, students will be more interactive and will be able to play with the angle, the force, height, and plane choice to determine its impact on the flight.

If you had any experiences using / building simulations to support mathematical problem solving skills, please comment! If you know of anyone else doing this kind of work, we would love to hear about it!

Games in the Classroom (part three)

Twenty years ago, playing games over a distance might have meant that you played turn-taking games like chess over email, and you were cutting edge. I remember people playing chess through snail mail! You would make your move and wait for a reply.

What is happening now is taking place in real-time in virtual environments that are interactive and look better than many films. Decisions, actions, and communications happen like they would in a face-to-face conversation, but they are done through a proxy, that is first and second-person perspectives with an avatar: a graphical representation of yourself in the game space.


Here is my avatar in Second Life.

He is a mix of Yoda, Pei Mei, Zatoichi, Master Po, and Real Ultimate Power. I would have liked to have made him old, but this is only possible if you learn to use some tools outside of the game to create more specialized characters. There are many who do this custom avatar creation, and the cool thing is that you could make your avatar something other than a person. Maybe a virus or a mailbox.

In fact, many people are already creating a comfortable living creating products for in game use. If you have not seen it yet, there are already success stories of people capitalizing on the new economies that virtual worlds have created.


In this Business Week article, one school teacher in Germany has made substantial gains flipping virtual property!

Imagine that you have the tools and access to build in these environments. In Second Life you do. You can visit models of the Sistine Chapel, Yankee Stadium, or even visit government agencies like the Center for Disease Control. You can build what you like on your virtual land.

What make this kind of play appealing is the ability to play and communicate when you want, and the possibility of meeting people from all over the planet. The prospect of building models and interacting in this environments should be very appealing to educators. This is an extension of the diorama. (Tomorrow I will talk about a project using these ideas in the classroom).

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eLearning Games and Simulations workshop

For those of us in Minneapolis/St. Paul, this looks good:

May 24: 8:30 – 4:00

Normandale Community College

Learn what your students already know
Games and simulations are powerful tools – changing the way we learn

Hands-on Instruction Enables You to Play the Games Yourself
Seated at your own computer, with an instructor as your guide, you’ll be taken into virtual worlds and 3-D environments where you become

The newly elected President of Chimerica, responsible for stabilizing the country’s troubled economic and social situation, changing public policy and forming a new administration.
(Hidden Agenda)
  A 21st century student traveling back in time to a town besieged with health problems. Working with others, you track clues, form and test hypotheses, and make recommendations.
(River City)
A rookie newspaper reporter for the Harperville Gazette whose job is to write an article on the health and environmental implications of a toxic spill.
(Behind the Message)
  Leader of a pharmaceutical company’s research team. You must determine the product’s features, estimate demand, and set price and production levels.
(SimSeries Business)
A $100,000 investor in the stock market,
using real Internet research and news updates to determine how to build and grow your portfolio.
(Stock Market Game)
  and more

Integrating Games/Simulations into Education
Now that you’ve played the games, the afternoon sessions address key issues that will help you take the next steps, topics include:

  • How Games Improve the Learning Process
  • Preparing the New Learner for the New Economy with Games
  • Breathing Virtual Life into the Classroom
  • Integrating a Game/Simulation with eLearning
  • Like a Rock Star: virtual character development

MTV leapfrogs

I just received this note from Janet Cohen:

John –
You are going to love this one – from the Feb 2007 Wired.
A Second Life for MTV by Mark Wallace
article is not online yet, but this article explains the part you’ll like, MTV is calling their Virtual MTV a Leapfrog Initiative!
I’ll try to blog about this soon, if you don’t beat me to it.
cheers, janet

Although MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach has been out for a while, this is a great example of digital media converging with culture — and new culture creation. No wonder they call it leapfrogging!
Thanks Janet!


Update – Jan 24 @ 20:08

You should really read Janet’s thought’s on “leapfrogging” at MTV:

LA Times: Colleges see the future in technology

The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story on the adoption of technology in California’s higher education institutions. Gaming and simulation technologies are being explored to provide “more individualized instruction” that cater to both emotional and learning needs of students. Carol Twigg at the National Center for Academic Transformation is looking at online education. Writes the times:

Twigg’s outlook is based partly on her center’s four-year effort with 30 colleges to redesign high-enrollment courses. The 30 projects involved such things as deemphasizing lectures and relying more on online tutorials and discussion forums, along with using computerized grading to give students speedier assessments of what they were learning well and what they were getting wrong.

The result: Student learning rose in 25 of the 30 projects. And in the other five cases, performance remained roughly even with the level in traditionally taught classes. At the same time, the cost of providing instruction was reduced an average 37%.

I’m not quite sure how student learning is measured, but if this research is accurate, the trend of rising college costs may be reversible…

Wired: Play Warcraft? You're hired!

This is a great article!

Online education often provides too much explicit knowledge and too little tacit knowledge and social interaction. In this article, John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas identify an avenue for tacit knowledge production in virtual settings. As virtual reality is becoming more-and-more preferred over the real world, perhaps the “Leapfrog U” would find its greatest success embedded in the World of Warcraft, the Sims, Ever Quest, Final Fantasy XII, Second Life, etc., etc., etc…

Cyber society

From the IST program:

If computers could create a society, what kind of world would they make? Thanks to the work of an ambitious project that adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘computer society’, in which millions of software agents will potentially evolve their own culture, we could be about to find out.

With funding from the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) initiative of the IST programme, five European research institutes are collaborating on the NEW TIES project to create a thoroughly 21st-century brave new world – one populated by randomly generated software beings, capable of developing their own language and culture.

Read the full article.