Tuesday, October 11, 2011

simSchool as a pedagogical and technological application to support novice teachers

simSchool is a network-based classroom simulation. It is just like a flight-simulator. It is also called the game of teaching (Zibit and Gibson, 2005). This simulation helps us practice classroom management before entering real classrooms. It is aimed in analyzing student differences, adapting instruction to individual learner needs, gathering data about the impacts of instruction, and seeing the results of their teaching (http://simschool.org/). For you, to be able to use this simulation, you have to register. Further information about it, just visit http://simschool.org/. That’s at least short information about simSchool.

With this simSchool, I tried to learn how it works and how beneficial it is for real classroom practices. I firstly wanted to learn about classroom management, and I worked out with ‘Everly’s Bad Day’. First of all, I tried it with one student and understood his personality and academic record in the simulated class. The student has a good academic record. He likes working either in group or individually, but he has low self-esteem. That’s what I know about the student from the record available in the simSchool. Then, I started the class by assigning him a task on level 1, that is “go over last week’s lessons”. Afterwards, I continued the lesson on level 3, and assigned him a new task, namely “take notes during lecture”. And the class ended with level 1 task, which is “take an oral quiz”. The results of these classroom activities are not really bad not good, a little bit neutral; there is no great improvement in terms of openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. However, His academic aspect decreased. The results are illustrated below:

Upon the completion of some practices with simSchool, I now try to reflect on it. In this discussion, I shall focus on what I found very useful from simSchool as well as what I saw some weak points of it, and finally try to relate it to the pedagogical concept.

Overall, I found simSchool very helpful for me in shaping classrooms. It helps me understand students’ personality, preferences which are the bases for effective instruction as well as types of possible learning activities in the classroom. simSchool simulation has also simple components in it. The interface is not so complicated that I can easily search and do the practice.  To my opinion, this simulation is better for my learning since it gives a picture of how real classrooms look like. What I found most interesting with simSchool simulation is that it can improve my confidence and self-efficacy.   Most importantly, I really want to practice it in a real classroom situation and see what is going to happen. This real experience would enable me to appraise this simulation or the other way around. In addition, simSchool simulation could develop some components of my knowledge as a teacher, such as my practical knowledge or the repertoire of classroom techniques and strategies, contextual knowledge or my familiarity with classroom context and phenomena, my pedagogical knowledge or my ability to plan, adapt, and improvise, my personal knowledge or the personal beliefs, principles and approach to teaching, and indeed my reflective knowledge with which I am capable of reflecting on and assessing my own virtual practices before entering real classrooms.

On the other hand, it took me some time to understand the rationale and the concept of simSchool simulation although I have already got some information from the professor. The simulation represents only a small classroom setting and certain cultural philosophy; I doubt if this simulation would benefit a lot to teachers with a large number of students and with students from multicultural backgrounds. Managing small classrooms is, to my understanding, easier than organizing large classes. In my country particularly in primary and secondary education, teachers are overwhelmed with a large number of students in one classroom.

Instruction is sometimes difficult for some instructors. It has evidently been true because instructors have to search for a lot of information about students’ characteristics and background and think of how they can best explain things. As technology could improve the transfer and transmission of knowledge in education, instructors today can easily teach materials; one of which is through simulation. According to Ruskin, Fanning and Gaba (2009) simulation is “an imitation of some real thing, state of affairs, or process and consists of techniques that provide a teaching tool that is particularly well suited to dynamic and challenging environments (p, 476)”. simSchool is a kind of simulation-based training with technology. It is known that computer simulations are pedagogical and technological applications. In this regard, Summers (2004) stated that simulations allow training to occur almost anywhere and anytime, and this flexibility can be used to reduce or eliminate many of the variable costs associated with traditional training, such as classrooms and instructors (as cited byBell, Kanar, & Kozlowski, 2008). It is clear that simulation, like what simSchool provides, could benefits people around the world, and learning become enriched.  

Bell, B. S., Kanar, A. M., & Kozlowski, S. W. J. (2008). Current issues and future directions in simulation-based training in North America. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 19(8), 1416-1434. doi: 10.1080/09585190802200173.
Stonemetz, J., Ruskin, K., Fanning, R., & Gaba, D. (2009). Simulation-based learning as an educational tool anesthesia informatics (pp. 459-479): Springer New York.
Zibit, M., and D. Gibson. 2005. simSchool: The game of teaching. Innovate 1 (6). http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=173


David Gibson said...

Wonderful reflection. I think you express very well many of the most important aspects of learning with simSchool. I agree with your criticism too; simSchool is a small world example and is not as complicated as the real world. I think you would find that teaching a class of 20 simstudents would be a big challenge, however. We also know that we have many more aspects that could be included in a more complex simulation (e.g. history of learning, conceptual maturity, language fluidity, and so forth).

Best wishes!

Petra Fisser said...

Hi Fauzan,
Thank you for your post on simSchool and your reflections. I was triggered by your remark "What I found most interesting with simSchool simulation is that it can improve my confidence and self-efficacy." Do you think a simulation can be helpful in this? And more helpful than real practice in a classroom?

Muhammad Fauzan Ansyari said...

Thanks Petra for the comment. I think, both simulation and practice would improve my confidence and self-efficacy. With simSchool simulation, I feel confident because I come to class with an understanding of students' characteristics and their phenomena. You are confident when you know about the context you are in. But, if the context is strange to you, you might feel confused and less convinced. With regard to efficacy, simSchool informs me about classroom management, so that I am convinced that I am able to manage classrooms to achieve the ultimate goals of my instruction.