I have used the PhET simulations a lot in my classroom. A concern I currently have is how few are optimized for HTML 5. They thus require flash to run - no iPads . This is probably my biggest concern with the simulations.
I like how the simulations model what students are unable to do in a real setting. That is why I greatly appreciate these simulations.
I've had students who "played this game before" in another class. They, however, do not comprehend what they were to do in the simulation. I worry that some teachers might see this as "play time" that does not require instruction, monitoring, nor assistance. Have you experienced any situations where students who do simulations did not learn from the process?
I agree Glen, I wish online simulations were more cross-platform so everyone could take advantage of the learning. Maybe that will catch on someday!
One problem I see with kids not learning anything is that simulations can be presented as a "game" instead of an activity/tool for learning. Ideally teachers would do one of two things:
- Give the kids time to experience/manipulate the simulation then gather the students in small groups and have them share what they discovered/noticed/learned
- Have students research content associated with the simulation then put that knowledge to work. Afterwards have students in small groups to again share what they discovered/learned
- Repeat process 1 or 2 above as needed
Both scenarios involve reflection and I think that is often left out in most classrooms. Simulations can't be viewed or presented as a game. If they are, that is how the students will treat them.
Here is an online simulation for social studies I just came across. It looks really interesting. I would love to hear if anyone has used this before: Flight to Freedom (can't open the html code to make this open in a new page so you may want to open in a new tab/page).
This is the info from the website:
Your objectives when using this simulation include, primarily:
- To escape from your master's plantation in the South
- To make your way from the United States to Canada (and freedom)
- To escape with as many of your family members as possible.
Love the concept on the simulation!
I have teachers in my building use the West Point Bridge Contest to learn how to build bridges. First, students "play" using Cargo Bridge. They are told that they will have to build a bridge in class based on the principles learned. It is fun, and yes, they do seem to learn quickly how to build unique bridges from their trial and errors.
This simulation has been around for years - the Jamestown Adventure - History Globe. Students pretend to be the founder of the Jamestown Colony. To ensure that students are really learning something, and not just clicking random answer choices, our teachers had the students work with a partner through the simulation and write down each decision they made. After the game ended, the students had to go back and decide which decisions were good and which needed to be changed. Then, they played again to see if their results were better. Extend the learning by making a Venn Diagram of the real Jamestown and their Jamestown.
Here is another one that I have seen teachers use in which the students loved: A Sailor's Life for Me (HTML code won't open up again so you may need to open link in a new tab manually).
Here is a brief summary:
Prepare to set sail on a seafaring adventure in this role-play game! Live the life of a young sailor aboard USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides, " during the War of 1812. Scrub the deck, haul on lines, steer the ship, and work the guns.
Would love to hear of others that you have heard of or used.
One other I just remembered. It gets a little addicting and I really STINK at it (only made 4 baskets-how embarrassing!). It is a basketball simulation (again, need to open in new tab manually) to help students (and me) learn about angles. Check it out and see how many baskets you can score. Anyone beat 4????