In my social studies classroom I love to put my students in the position to learn about important decisions or systems by giving them the opportunity to face similar choices themselves. So I am a big fan of simulation activities. Selecting or creating a good simulation is challenging because you have to find the essence of what you want your students to think about, and then make sure the simulation gives them opportunities to think about that and not any of a bunch of distracting details. At the same time it’s important that the simulation provide students the opportunities to make real choices – so it should not play out the same way every time.
Fortunately there is a wealth of insight available, not only from other educators but from game designers as well. We’ll review some of this material to help start the creative process. We’ll look at examples of simulation activities and discuss how we might be able to use – or improve – them. Finally, we’ll work together to generate new ideas for simulations and start getting them ready for the classroom.
The conversation will open with a presentation to introduce key ideas, but that presentation will include several Q-and-A prompts to encourage discussion. Then the participants will have an opportunity to review and evaluate one or two simulations. (I will share a Google Doc with several links and examples and encourage participants to add to it.) This should spur another round of discussion as we talk about ways to use or improve the simulations. Finally, time permitting, I will offer some guiding questions designed to help participants begin to create their own simulations and discuss those with the other participants.