Last week I first heard of the simschool simulation. This is a simulation for practicing your teacher skills. While I'm co-teaching a class at the teacher education I looked at the simulation with great interest. Maybe I can use it in the class?
What is Simschool?
Simschool is a simulation enviroment where a person can practise teacher skills. When you start the simulation you see a classroom with students. Depending on the simulation you get a number of students in the classroom. There is a possibility to create a custum simulation. All the students have a table and sit alone, as you can see in figure 1. The teacher can look for information of the students at the laptop. The teacher can assign assignments to the class by using the bell. The whole class gets the same instruction. You can also assign assignments by selecting a individual. The assignment is only for that person. The assignments can be choosen out of a number of assignments like; assignt an oral quiz, go over last weeks lessons, do sillent reading, do a team worksheet or design on multiple criteria. You can speak to the students in the class (individual or as a class). You got a number of possibilities to say. For example you can say something positive like: ÿou are setting a good example to others" or something negative like: "detention for you, see you after school!". When you've tried out a number of assignments you can end the lesson. At the end of the lesson you can look at a chart of the personor persons you have been teaching. You can see a number of variables like academic, openess and extroversion.
Everly's bad day
For explaning the useability of the simschool simulation I'm going to look at one person in the class: Everly. When looking at the laptop we get some information about Everly at a personality profile, teacher reflection and academics level. Some short desciptions of Everly: Everly is self confident, likes stimulation, likes a challenge. The learning enviroment for Everly is best with outside stimulation and social interaction, creative projects. everly likes variaty in the assignments. You would think that Everly would have a bad day when the teacher goes over last weeks lessons for a long time. In figure 2 you can
see the result of this assignment. You can see that Everly's Academic score is becoming worse. Maybe the teacher has to try something that suits more with the learing style of Everly.
For example take a popquiz and make a team worksheet. The results of this approach you can see in figure 3. The difference in the results is striking. Everly seems like a different kid. First he looked disinterested, but with an approach that suits Everly he is a very good student.
Simschool useful for teacher education?
The difference on the behaviour on Everly with different approaches is striking, see figure 2 and figure 3. I think every teacher should know what the impacxt can be when using different approaches and alternating approaches. Simschool can be a useful tool to experience this. Teachers can also see and learnand experience that there is no approach that works for all students. When teaching at a teacher education you can use Simschool for inquiry learing about differences between learners and different pedagogies. Simschool is a safe environment compared with teaching a class. It is possible to experiment en experience in the Simschool simulation. Simschool is an useful technologie for teacher education, but it can be more useful in my opinion by making a few changes.
First of all a simulations is never a real situation. So it is imposible to expect that it can replace the real situation. But it can have added value in combination with actual classroom experience. Especially because there is a possibility to create your own simulation. I think it can be more useful if there is a possibility to make Simschool even more personal made. For example you can only say anything to Everly choosing from a number of sentences in stead of typing your own remarks. You have a limited choise for assignments instead of making your own assignments.
Second remark I have is that there is no possibility for content. Looking at the PCK model of Shulman (1987) teaching is a combination of content and pedagogie. In the simulation you can only choose for different pedagogies but there is no content linked to it. As a teacher you choose your pedagogies in accordence with the content.
Simschool an useful technological tool?
Simschool can be a technologie I going to use when I'm teaching at the teacher education, but not at this moment. Why not? It isn't in the native language of the students. Teaching is already a complex thing to do and I think it would be more complex when it is in a different language. It can be used in different settings of the education. For example you can test a case from the classroom experiece of the students or you can make an assignment with inquiry learing.
As a technology Simschool is a good start of making the teacher education more technology centered. Hammond et. al. (2009) wrote that using technology in teacher education has a predictable value for Technologie use after teacher education. I hope that the development of Simschool contibutes to the further adjustement of the teacher education to the changing times.
Hammond, M., Fragkouli, E., Suandi, I., Crosson, S., Ingram, J., Johnston-Wilder, P., Johnston-Wilder, S., Kingston, Y., Pope, M., & Wray, D., (2009). 'What happens as student teachers who made very good use of ICT during pre-service training enter their first year of teaching?', Teacher Development, 13: 2, 93 — 106. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13664530903043939
Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform.Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.