Behavioral Theories: Simulations

Simulation can be explained as "imitation of interpersonal or other dynamics, often using materials and roles, to help participants feel as well as understand the dynamics of a complex situation." (Knox 1987)

The computer can act as the simulation controller, scheduling the events to occur and providing the outcomes based on the actions the role players take. Because of this, the game can be played at regulated time or in real time. There are many simulations where playing in real time rather than accelerated time would be beneficial to enhancing the realism. Since people can interact at a time of their own choosing, a computer-based simulation can go on over days, weeks, or months.

The examples below illustrate some of the types of behavioral simulation programs available today. You can read the explanation of how these programs work, download a version of the program to try it out on your computer, or follow the links for further information.


Entrepreneurial Simulations: A Day in the Life of Dr. Richard Osmer

In this WWW project, behavior simulations are used to extend sixth graders' communication skills and to expand their understanding of the working world. After listening to guest speakers talk about their careers, students form fictional startup companies and take on the various corporate roles. They write resumes, conduct interviews, read and discuss articles on economics. Because of the many formats used in business communications, students gain a wide variety of writing experience.

In addition to writing business letters and memos, they each composed a fictional account of "A day in the life...." of a fictional person.

In A Day in the Life of Dr. Richard Osmer , a six grader reports her day as Dr. Richard Osmer, the head of Research and Development for Miracle Cure, Inc. and also co-head of marketing. Miracle Cure conducts research and tries to find drugs that will help cure epidemics.

The following is the opening paragraph of the fictional account of Dr. Richard Osmer's day:

This web page also includes a journal, a job description, a draft of radio advertisement , and a memo.

Click on Entrepreneurial Simulations: A Day in the Life of Dr. Richard Osmer (( to take a closer look at this project.

PC Fishing Adventures: Online Fishing Simulation

This free sample of computer fishing covers facts, definition, strategy, and secrets of fishing in a simulated setting.

For example, the PC Fishing Adventure provides facts such as fresh- water fish can include bass, trout, sunfish, catfish, perch, walleye, or many other and saltwater fish can include bass, perch, flounder, halibut, snook, and many more.

 PC Fishing Adventure also gives definitions on still-fishing and cast-and-retrieve fishing. The fishing process is described in the easy steps listed under the 'Basic Fishing Sequence' below and in greater detail under the 'Detailed Fishing Sequence'. For example, the basic fishing sequence are (1) Check the species that inhabit the current location, (2) Select a rod & reel and line, (3) Select a bait and a fishing depth, (4) Position your rod in the scene, (5) Cast your bait, (6) Wait for a strike if you are still-fishing, otherwise retrieve or reel-in your bait, (7) Set the hook when a strike occurs (or cast again if it doesn't), (8) Reel-in the fish, (9) Net the fish, and (10) Display and log your catch


To try out this trial program, you must install it on your computer's hard drive. To do that you must copy the folder called fishing to your hard drive. That folder is on the CD-ROM in the subdirectory called programs/fishing /. You might create a subdirectory on your computer named EDSoft (only if you do not already have one). Then you could copy fishing  into the EDSoft  subdirectory. Once you have copied fishing over to your hard drive you can use the standard Windows procedure to install that program by clicking on setup.exe in the EDSoft/fishing / folder on your hard drive. Then follow the directions on the screen.

Click here to know more about  installation.

Additional Information

Educational Space Simulation Project

The purpose of the web site (The Educational Space Simulations Project, affiliated with the National Association of Space Simulating Educators, NASSE) is to promote the development of education via simulation. In this Space Simulation Project, students practice posting navigation reports, weather reports, simulation related pictures, samples of student astronaut applications that consisted of a persuasive essay and experimental proposal. The site also provides for links for sites useful to space simulating educators, and space simulation information resources.


Simulation Software in the Web

This web site lists a long list of simulation software in the web free for users to download. The drawback is, the users have to connect to further links or down load and try out the software by themselves because it does not offer descriptions of program content, hardware requirements, or platform requirement.


The Online Report on Pedagogical Techniques for Computer-Mediated Communication

The "Simulations or Games" section of this web site decries several examples of behavioral simulations programs. One of the examples that is related with K-12 is the The Earth Day Treasure Hunt project. The Earth Day Treasure Hunt involved students from twenty sites. Each classroom was asked to write up five or six treasure hunt clues describing a geographical place. The clues should describe a particular location on earth such as a city, a mountain peak, a lake, etc. and it could include information about latitude, elevation, climate, vegetation, industry, ecology etc.


The Early Day Treasure Hunt: Utilizing Online Resouces as Research Tools

This web page is a teacher's report of a behavior simulation project using online resources as research tools -- the Earth Day Treasure Hunt project described in the previous paragraph.


Complaints about Simulations

The author of this web page argues that a simulation has to be designed in such a way that users live inside the simulated world. And this simulated world must react to user in ways which traditional simulations do not. In particular, lessons need to be designed that ensure that a student falls into well known traps, and thus needs to reason his way out of them.


The Advantage of Simulators

The author of this web page proposes that simulations offer two key advantages over real life. The first is that real life tends to keep marching on by. Simulations allow students to play with time in ways the real world does not permit. The second advantage is, simulations also provide teachers with better access to students. Simulations can be instrumented so that teachers can monitor students, waiting until students get into a jam that indicates that they are ready to hear something the teacher wants to convey.


Master Tools Homepage

This is the home page of MASTER Tools. MASTER Tools, developed by The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc. are the result of on-going collaborations with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), George Mason University, and other education organizations.

The MASTER tools are intended to create an authentic scientific experience. They are designed to be interactive tools and simulation environments that enable and encourage exploration and discovery through observation, conjecture, and modeling activities. All of the simulations and supporting curriculum materials are designed in accordance with the new National Science Education Standards and the National Math Education Standards.

Instructional materials are currently available for Galaxy, SimSurface, and the Fractal Microscope. Other materials will be made accessible as they are developed.

Projects appropriate for secondary school students include:


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