Week 5: What patterns or themes are evident in the research I read? How do these themes inform my project and/or the projects of others in this PLN?

“Activities with simulations have the potential to help children organize, develop, test, and refine their ideas about science” (Cherry, Loannidou, Rader, Brand, and Repenning, p. 2). In Simulations of Lifelong Learning the theme throughout is that student learning with simulations is a tool that will serve us for life.  Not only are we looking at students while they are in grade school, but professionals as well.  “Simulations are frequently used as tools by scientists and policy makers” (p. 1).  It continues on to state that by starting at an early age we can create a framework for this kind of “simulation literacy”.  The collaboration involved can be an educational benefit for all ages.  Students are creating simulations while professionals are using them or vice versa.  It is a stepping stone into our current and future technological age.


When looking through a web log post by Gende I discovered a theme that was very similar to the first article.  It focused around students engagement and learning concepts with simulations in the classroom.  “Simulations can serve to introduce the ideas and equipment of the lab experiment allowing the students to work through the laboratory faster and with less confusion” (Gende, 2011)  Instead of wasting lab time these simulations can be a time saver, cleaner and more efficient way for students to be prepared for an upcoming lab.  It becomes a pre-lab experience.  The advantages of using simulations, as stated in the post, were that simulations can help students

  1. translate multiple representation
  2. build mental models of physical, chemical or biological systems
  3. be engaged in hands-on active learning experiences
  4. understand equations as physical relationships among measurements
  5. concentrate on collaboration
  6. investigate in phenomena that would not be possible to experience in class labs

This creates that lifelong experience that can be used at all ages, just as the first article had emphasized.


In the third and final article we are focusing entirely on the educator.  Educating “preservice” teachers (educators who are not in the classroom yet) with simulation software in science investigations so that they are incorporating it throughout their own learning.

Studies of such software use in the classroom have shown that, in conjunction with reform-based science instruction, they can foster conceptual change, systems thinking, and subject matter knowledge by helping learners engage in scientific practices, such as visualizing and embodying theories of abstract concepts or ideas into models.  (Schwarz, Meyer, and Sharma, p. 244)

This too followed a similar theme as the first two articles did.  Through deduction and logic simulation models can be used by all ages.


The themes help to guide my understanding of the research I have compiled.  It helps others to better understand what I have gathered in an organized, systematic way and can help others to better understand their own research as well.


Cherry, G., Ioannidou, A., Rader, C., Brand, C., Repenning, A. (n.d). Simulations for

Lifelong Learning. Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder. Retrieved from http://www.cs.colorado.edu/~ralex/papers/PDF/NECC99.pdf

Gende, D. (2011, April 1). Science Simulations: A Virtual Learning Environment.

[web log post]. Retrieved from http://plpnetwork.com/2011/04/01/science-simulations-a-real-way-to-learn/

Schwarz, C. V., Meyer, J., Sharma, A. (2007, February 1). Technology, Pedagogy, and

Epistemology: Opportunities and Challenges of Using Computer Modeling and Simulation Tools in Elementary Science Methods. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18, 243-269. Doi:10.1007/s10972-007-9039-6


5 thoughts on “Week 5: What patterns or themes are evident in the research I read? How do these themes inform my project and/or the projects of others in this PLN?

  1. Thank you for introducing the idea of using simulations as part of course design plan. Simulations are not something I have even thought about for a long time; meaning, I’ve seen computer simulations very generically, but forgot about them! In the article, it says that students can create simulation for exploring ideas and for communicating ideas to peers. What a way to engage students into learning on several topics and thinking deeply. I especially like the example given about the EcoWorlds curriculum for 4th and 5th grade students who build simulations about ecosystems, and structuring a living system within an ecosystem. The screenshot that shows imaginary animals designed by students that would be native to the area with the particular climate and how predator-prey relationships would work out. This could be of interest to students here in our village since so many here subsistence hunt and fish, and gather. They could study local wildlife and vegetation to determine how the features of their design protect them from the elements, and the delicate nature of vegetation from gathering blueberries to careful consideration of how birds build nests in the tundra.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aleta,
      I was so glad to see that you were able to explore some of the simulations. There is so much out there! I agree that we should use simulations with local wildlife as well. When the kids see that their own vegetation and wildlife in out there, it empowers them and really gives them pride in their own culture and area. I love how you were able to incorporate it into your own village life. Then there are all of the other labs that students don’t have access to. By having them run through a simulation they can participate in lab work that they couldn’t before, due to insufficient equipment, location or even safety.


  2. Sunshine,
    I do like the way you’ve discussed labs as a way to prep students for lab experiences. That’s interesting. I’d be curious to know other ways that you think the articles you’ve shared and your project will benefit your PLN. What do you think? How do you think this simulations can help your fellow educators? Which simulation tools would you recommend to your peers? I’m excited about your research and think it could be of great use…so I’m interested in your recommendations.


    • Research has shown that math and science simulations are the most beneficial, subject wise. It’s amazing how often science seems to be left behind. Everyone is focusing so much on reading, writing, and mathematics that they tend to run out of time for science and social studies. Having appropriate simulations can be a benefit to any educator because they can use them anytime, they don’t need the lab equipment, and they could even explore areas in science that would be too dangerous for us to do in real life. We don’t even have to worry about clean up. There are so many simulations out there, it is overwhelming. I found that Phet has some pretty good simulations. (http://phet.colorado.edu/) Khanacademy is also very good. (http://mathsandscience.com/khan-academy-other-grade-9-videos-simulations-have-fun/)


  3. Hi, Sunshine…
    I am especially interested in the article related to simulations and pre-service teachers. What an interesting topic! The entire process of preparing for full-time teaching is so overwhelming, and pre-service’s teacher’s preparations really hinges on luck-of-the-draw placements in classrooms over which they have no control. Using simulation software is very “21st Century” when I think about what today’s teachers need to be prepared for the classroom. Two of my own children are in college right now, and one of them is a secondary ed major. I’m a bit shocked…and sadly disappointed…that some of the “preparation” in his coursework is so old-school when it comes to true preparation. For example, a course entitled “Teaching composition in the high school classroom” had nothing to do with teaching composition in the high school classroom and everything to do with theoretical debates about approaches to writing, in general. There was no actual “training” or real preparation that took place in the college-level methods course. The use of simulation software and connecting via technology could be a game-changer in how we prepare pre-service teachers for the realities of teaching…especially in schools with demands as diverse and unique as those in rural Alaska.


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