olpc-game-jam.jpeGaming and Simulations

What are Gaming and Simulations?

Gaming and simulations fall into the category of educational tools which allow users an indepth understanding of real world situations via symbolic representation of various scenarios. Some of these programs are used primarily for entertainment but businesses and educational institutions are finding more and more value in these tools and are implimenting them in their standard curriculum and training sessions.

Learning Theories that Guide the Use of Gaming and Simulations

This manner of educational technology fits best with the Constructivist learning theory. The simulations and games allow a student to put together a specific scheme for understanding a subject. Though this scheme is focused on the elements of gameplay, the concept can be readily applied to the real world. Since constructivism emphasizes that a student creates their own learning and understanding of a subject area, gaming and simulations truly enhance their abilites to do so.


The Benefits of Using Gaming and Simulations

The most significant benefit of gaming and simulations is that they permit a student to think and learn about a situation that would otherwise be outside of their experience. Organizations such as a model United Nations, for example, can allow students to simulate the political and economic decision making of global leaders, without having to be a global leader to learn about such interactions. Simulations and games can challenge students to think in a way an inaccessible situation would require.

Simulations allow students to become more fully immersed in their education. In games such as Sim City, a player steps into the simulated role of planning out an entire city. They must provide for basic needs for citizens, maintain power and water work systems, issues taxes, and keep their city safe from global and marketing hazards.BBCClimateChange.jpe

Cruickshank distinguished between two types of academic games: simulation games and non-simulation games. Non-simulation games are those in which a player solves problems in a school subject such as spelling or mathematics by making use of principles of that subject or discipline. The other type of academic game is the simulation game in which participants are provided with a simulated environment in which to play. These games are intended to provide students with insight into the process or event from the real world which is being simulated

The Challenges of Using Gaming and Simulations

The greatest drawback of simulations is the simple fact that they are simulations. All the laboratory tests and mock scenarios in the world can be run, but until the learner actually steps into the real life role, they will not be prepared for everything they are going to encounter and need to know.

Games and simulations can also find a hard time balancing entertainment and useful knowledge. Using them for educational purposes means that students must be able to take away lessons from them. Unfortunately, students might not be engaged enough to keep their interest on the simulation.

Special Guidance for Using Gaming and Simulations

There are a great variety of different tools available, with verying degrees of educational value. It is Important to remember that games and simulations are not strictly limited to the technological realm of computers. While this might be the first impression, and computers allowist2_1704252_computer_games.jpg for many useful programs, simulations can be found in many games and activities. When bringing these activities to students, it may be difficult to find the right balance between keeping a game entertaining or interesting and providing real world applications.

Research on Gaming and Simulations

Some particularly well-known simulations bring to light concerns that may come with simulations, and has prompted new studies. The Stanford Prison Experiment, for example, simulated an environment and assigned roles to students, but had shocking impacts on the students. We have since delved much deeper into research on human psychology and on the adoption of roles.

Gaming and Simulation Lesson Ideas

Simulation is very easy to apply to any subject area in school. Science is a great example of how these tools can be used. Through virtual simulation, students can manipulate weather conditions, visit virtual ponds, become involved in medical studies, and take on scientific roles which the limits of their classrooms may not be able to provide. Disection is a simple example of how simulation can be used in the scientific classroom. While some students are comfortable with disecting once living animals, others can not even fathom looking at the cadaver. Simulation kits and online websites allow these students to perform disections without ever having to cut into actual tissue. The students manipulate the "blades" to make the appropriate cuts. Everything is able to be moved and cut away, and students are responsible for identifying the proper organs, veins, muscles, etc.

(click to watch a virtual dissection)

After completing the "dissection," the students may be asked to complete a follow-up quiz or to write a report. Their actions during the disection and their responses to the questions after the completion of the dissection can be monitored by their instructor, or saved for review at a later date.

Having this type of option in science makes simulations invaluable. It allows all students to partake in the learning experience and truly makes each subject area into a valuable learning tool.

Gaming and Simulation Links

*LavaMind's Games for Learning
LavaMind creates games designed to teach students business, math and economics.

*North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA)

*Simulation & Gaming
An International Journal of Theory, Practice, and Research

*Simulation/gaming: Mainly academic resources
A site dedicated to bringing together simulation/gaming resources.

*Hypermedia Research Group
Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, West Point. This is a group of faculty at the United States Military Academy which discusses and implements hypermedia technology for use in an academic setting.

*Interactive Learning Environments
An education and learning technology research-oriented journal featuring timely articles on key topics involving interactive learning environments.

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