Tuesday, October 11, 2011

simSchool: The Game of Teaching

About simSchool 

The game of simSchool is a ‘flight simulator’ for the teachers that can be found in www.simschool.org. It is a classroom simulation that analyzes student differences, adapts instruction to individual learner needs, gathers data about the impacts of instruction, and views the results. In simSchool instructors can explore instructional strategies, examine classroom management techniques, and practice building relationships with students that will improve learning activities.

Image 1. Clasroom simulation with two students.

In simSchool the player is a teacher and responsible for the learning of all students. Similar with the real school, the teacher can learn about the students by reading their student profiles that include statements about their behavior and learning preferences.

In the simSchool classroom, the player can select tasks or conversational activities to best fit the students’ profile. Students respond to tasks with changes in posture and statements. As simSchool is played, the player makes decisions and experiment, and based on what happens the strategies will be refined. With simSchool we can play to learn to develop expertise and think like a teacher.

Based on what written on www.simschool.org the results of experience playing with this simulation are real and measureable. They include:
  • improvement in general teaching skill 
  • improved confidence in using technology 
  • increased belief that the teacher has the skills and ability to make a difference in a child's life 
  • improvement in pre-service teachers' performance in teacher preparation courses and attitudes toward inclusion of special needs students 
  • significant positive impact on the mastery of deeper learning capacities that comprise the readiness to teach 
  • increased "staying power" on the path to the field of teaching acquired through rapid development of strong self-efficacy and resilience 
In simSchool, success comes through helping all simStudents improve, both in their academic performance and their behaviour. It is expected that simSchool may enable teachers to have real experience and become more effective as a teacher in classrooms and as a leader in learning communities.

The module "Everly’s bad day" 

The module "Everly’s bad day" is a set of tasks for Everly for 45 minutes lesson. The module provides none of conversation and only three task assignments for Everly to improve his learning. The tasks are including:
  • 15 minutes of “going over last week’s lesson” 
  • 15 minutes “taking notes during lectures” 
  • 15 minutes of “taking an oral quiz” 
During the lesson there are three boxes labeled (Power, Happiness and Academic) can be tracked. These boxes are visual reports of how Everly is doing. And also, I kept watching the “simulation time” to ensure the task not be overtime.

At the end of lesson, I viewed Everly’s reports, as shown below: 

Image 2. Everly's Report
The report shows that Everly's academic performance was declining. It may point out that the incorrect strategies were given to him during the lesson.

Image 3. Everly's Summary Report


Based on this module I acted as a teacher in the classroom. The first thing I did is reading the profile of the student (Everly). There are two kinds of information I found on the laptop, namely Everly’s personality profile and (previous) teacher reflection. In this simulated classroom, I believe that the very first thing a teacher must do is analyzing student needs before doing another activities.

In the relationships profile, it is shown that Everly is self-confident and likes stimulation and challenges. From the tasks in the module, we may see that there is no simulation given to him. He did successfully do the tasks, but the activities surely did not fit with his needs.

It is said that when approaching tasks, Everly likes variety and interaction, learns best by "doing", and likes to work with others. This is in line with what teacher reflection stated in his profile that he really likes outside stimulation and social interaction. It did not happen during the lesson because he did all tasks individually and most of the time he could not get along with other students.

Everly is also generally positive and enthusiastic; likes to plan and have structure, needs closure, completes every task, wants everything "to count" toward the grade; creative, makes up hypotheses, improvises answers, takes risks. This profile describes him as a person who really likes the high-demanding tasks. This kind of tasks would increase his motivation and academic performance. Unfortunately, he did not get this task.

By following the instruction on the module step by step, I am in line with the activity of making instructional decisions. However, in this case, I did not decide it by myself and just followed the instructional decisions decided in the module. It was a pity, but I still can play it later by myself. Hope it would be fun! :)

During each task given, I observed Everly’s posture. This is a kind of evaluation to see the impact of the activities on student learning in order to succeed at the game. I noticed that Everly’s posture was changed for every new task given to him, but eventually he always ends with ‘get bored’ sitting position. I was tempted to do something to deal with the boredom, but then I kept strict with the lesson plan to see the result of this module.

Other remark from my experience playing simSchool with the module given is the missing conversational statement. There should be conversations with Everly since conversations impact a student’s behaviour and academic performance. The combination of the correct choice of tasks and the conversation would eventually lead to the correct use of instructional strategies which is referring to pedagogy.

Lastly, I found that simSchool as one of the uses of technology to support teacher professional development. The game of simSchool provides learning environment for the teachers to do experiments with their strategies without giving the students in real classroom any risk. It is suitable for pre-service teachers in preparation program, for in-service teachers to improve their pedagogical expertise, for the designer to find the best strategies for specific needs, and also for the researcher.

Let’s play simSchool! :)




  1. I like reading about you experience with simSchool and I find that your observations are insightful and "on target." I would love to share your blog with others and plan to do that unless you object and let me know.

  2. Hi David, thanks for reading my 'story' about simSchool. It's my first experience with one of cool tools for education. Such a pleasure to share it with you and others:)

  3. Hi Bertha,
    Thank you for your description of and reflection simSchool! I believe that your description makes it very clear what simSchool is and how you can use it. I would be very curious to hear what you think about simSchool if you "played" with more than 1 student.. I think it will be more challenging for you! As simSchool is designed for pre-service teachers, I am triggered by your remark that simSchool can be used by designers to find the best strategies for specific needs, and by researchers. It would be interesting to hear your ideas about that!