Wednesday 5 october professor Gerald Knezek visited the course Pedagogies for Flexible Learning at the UT. He gave a lecture about Simschool. In this blog I will describe what Simschool is and give a reflection on it related to pedagogy and technlology.
Simschool is a simulation of a classroom. With this program teachers can practice their pedagogical skills on the computer. The teacher can let students work on different programs and see if this fits with the students learning style. Also, the teacher can talk to students in different ways. Every student is different and need a different treatment. When you click on the laptop you see the characteristics of the student. As a teacher you have to deal with that and fit your actions to this. After a lesson you can see what impact your actions had on the students by gathering data including academic, openness and consciousness.
“Everly’s bad day”
‘Everly’s bad day’ is a module on Simschool where there is one student to teach: Everly. Some characteristics of Everly: talks a lot, likes variety and interaction, learns best by "doing", likes to work with others; is 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. So, as a teacher you have to respond to that. Taking this characteristics in account effective things to do are probably things like ‘take a pop quiz’, ‘play a game’, ‘make a creative product’ (10 minutes each). When doing this things you indeed see that Everly’s motivation and academical skills improve.
I think Simschool can be a helpful tool to practice teaching. It simulates the classroom in a good way, in that respect that every child needs a different approach. Simschool lets you think about what activities and pedagogical approaches are suitable with the students characteristics. The teacher can think of this in Simschool and make comparisons with students in their real classrooms. So I think Simschool is a great way of using technology in teacher education to simulate the teaching process. However, the teacher have to take in account that a real classroom is of course a different kind of teaching than this simulation. In a real classroom you don’t have a list of characteristics for each child. You have to find them out yourself! And maybe you’re wrong… In a real classroom the teacher has to act immediately and can’t think for a minute how to react to a certain stimulus. I think a very good think about Simschool is that it is not focusing on behaviorism, which is often the underlying psychology for many forms of computer-based education (Reeves, 1994). Because of the different characteristics of students and how to respond to that, it places much more emphasis on internal mental states (cognitivism).
Reeves, T. C. (1994). Evaluating What Really Matters In Computer-Based Education. In: M. Wild & D. Kirkpatrick (Eds.), Computer Education: New perspectives, pp. 219-246.