Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The SimSchool brings your classroom into your screen

What is the SimSchool?

Figure 1. Interface of the SimSchool
Another technology innovation has invented in educational world. It is not like common educational technology that is only focused to facilitate effective learning for students through electronic learning (e-learning) or mobile learning (m-learning). However, this innovation of educational technology is focused on teachers’ perspective. It is called SimSchool. The SimSchool is a kind of web-based technology of learning for teachers in order to enhance their teaching capacity. It is also intended for educational practitioners who want to explore about teaching approaches. Furthermore, the SimSchool is web-based classroom simulation that gives teachers experiences in making analysis of teaching approach for different characteristic of students. One thing that I thought really nice is about the immediate result. Teachers could gather data about their chosen pedagogical approach and see their teaching results of the whole class or particular students directly after finishing a model. Honestly, it is the first time for me to get acquainted with this kind of web-based technology. At my first impression, I experienced that this program is really good web-based teacher support. I presume that it really helps teachers to encourage their capacity.

How does it work?

In order to get deeper understanding about this program and to prove my first impression, I did a practice with the SimSchool. I conducted a-45 minutes teaching scenario (1 minute Sim’s time is equal to 10 seconds in real life). That teaching scenario is called “Everly’s Bad Day”. Everly is virtual student that is created and provided by the SimSchool in this lesson plan module. In this module, I should implement three different teaching approaches. To implement that intended teaching approaches initially I have to click Kiverly. Then, I can choose different teaching approaches in 4 different levels of comprehension; recall, skill/concept, strategic thinking, and extended thinking. Before that I have to make sure that I already clicked ‘play’ button. It means that teaching and learning process is on the progress. Those options are provided in the bottom left and right of the SimSchool interactive-classroom interface. At the end of simulation I could preview the Everly’s performance report based on the task that is given in this module.
Figure 2. Control panel of the SimSchool interface

Figure 3. The result of Everly's performance
In “Everly’s Bad Day” module I started with assigned Everly to go over last week’s lessons’. This task is categorized under recall teaching approach to enhance comprehension of the student.  Then, Everly is assigned to take notes during lecture. Sure, it is considered to stimulate strategic thinking of the students. Lastly, I assigned Everly to take an oral quiz. This assignment is considered same as the first assignment to enhance recall comprehension of the student. Each assignment took 15 minutes. At the end of the lesson of this module, I could see a report of Everly’s performance based on teaching module that I implemented. I found the result of academic and agreeableness aspect of Everly was decline at the beginning until the end of module. I assume that happened since the teaching strategies that are given to him are not really match with the personal character of Everly. He is the student who really talks a lot, likes varieties of learning experiences and interaction with others, and also learns best by doing. From this simulation I learnt that it is really important to apply appropriate teaching strategies to particular student. If that teaching strategies are still used for Everly, I assure it is really 'a bad day' for him. 

How did I perceive the SimSchool web-based simulation into the concept of pedagogy and tecnology?

I really acquired positive impression through the SimSchool. It helped me to attain deeper understanding about the concept of pedagogical approach. That concept is becoming clearer for me now. I consider that the SimSchool is really proper for new teachers who need to explore many kinds of pedagogical approaches without ‘hurting’ students as the experiment objects. An important thing for me is that teachers could see the feedback directly about their teaching strategies. Indeed, it gives wide opportunities for teachers to reflect in what they have already done, and makes another experiment with different approaches.
Likewise, I thought that the SimSchool is in the line of the concept of TPACK model. In the TPACK model shows that there is a relation and connection between pedagogical and technological aspect. It is called technological pedagogical knowledge. It is an understanding of how teaching and learning change when particular technologies are used (Harris, et al., 2009). Indeed, from that definition I attained new insight that teachers who are using the SimSchool as their technological support to their pedagogical approach would experience different teaching and learning process. Teacher would be well-prepared since their already attained initial experience of implementing pedagogical approaches through web-based simulation.

Furthermore, another interest thing that I inferred from the SimSchool is about the options of pedagogical strategies that are offered. As mentioned before, those pedagogical strategies are categorized into four levels of comprehension; recall, skill/concept, strategic thinking, and extended thinking. Based on my prior knowledge that I have from my bachelor studies, I attempted to connect those four pedagogical strategies with Bloom’s taxonomy in theoretical framework. I found that in this concern, the SimSchool represents the basic dimension of Bloom’s taxonomy. It combines two basic dimensions of Bloom’s taxonomy; knowledge and cognitive process dimensions (Krathwohl, 2002).  Indeed, I argue that the teachers could use this amenity to design good lesson plan for the students with considering the level of comprehension with appropriate teaching strategies.

Moreover, in the SimSchool I experienced how it helps the teacher in pre-observing their intended pedagogical strategies. From the perspective of teaching strategies, I inferred that at least five pedagogical approaches are represented in the SimSchool. Those approaches are: 
1. Traditional learning. I attained that traditional learning is a conventional teaching and learning strategies. If the teachers intend to apply this pedagogical approach, they could attempt to make simulation on it by choosing the options that are provided by the SimSchool. Those teaching options are by giving some tasks, such as: do an oral quiz, go over last week’s lessons, recite a lengthy poem, and take a written test. 
2. Problem-based learning. I inferred that the teaching and learning process is started with a problem that has to be solved. I experienced that the SimSchool provides the teacher with this options. Teacher could choose some tasks such as: apply a formula, create a graphic, compare and contrast, and develop a hypothesis. 
3. Collaborative learning. I perceived that collaborative learning is how the teaching process involves students with learning activities. I thought that if the teachers eager to implement this approach they could attempt to choose particular tasks in the SimSchool, such as take a pop quiz, do whole-class oral response, play a game, and student-lead class discussion 
4. Inquiry learning. I acquired that in inquiry learning is when the teachers assign students to inquire and explore about something in-depth. I assumed that the SimSchool provides it with some task options such as do a brief presentation from memory, do silent reading, takes notes during lecture, and analyze text. 
5. Project-based learning. Indeed, I affirm that teachers give a project to students as the process of learning. Some simulation options can be chose from the SimSchool such as do design on multiple criteria, make a creative product, and develop a project plan.

From the discussion above I perceived that the SimSchool is like a bridge that establishes connection between the concept of pedagogical approaches and educational technology. The SimSchool as a technological support surely assist teachers to getting acquainted with their intended pedagogical approaches. I imagine how messy teaching and learning process, if the teachers experiment their various pedagogical approaches in one time. And surely I assume that the teachers would not attain appropriate feedback on it.

In my perspective as CIMA student, I also experienced that SimSchool is kind of pedagogical approach that that is used by Dr. Petra Fisser and Prof Gerald Knezek. They attempted to embed web-based technology into their teaching process. Surely, it is helpful for me since I gathered understanding of pedagogical concept from this simulation. Indeed, it will support my preparation if I need to teach a group of students in real situation.
Lastly, based on my reflection of the SimSchool, I come up with two suggestions. First, it would be better if the SimSchool not only provides different teaching strategies, but also different subjects. I presume that different subjects also need different pedagogical approaches. I wonder that appropriate pedagogical subject for appropriate subject would enhance better performance. Second, it also better if the SimSchool provides options of teaching tools or media (e.g. smart-board, tablet-PC, smartphone, etc.). I consider that SimSchool will better and represent real situation of teaching and learning process in classroom by considering those suggestions. I think that is all of my idea and reflection about SimSchool. I have to stop ‘blogging’ now, since I want to play the SimSchool again :). Who wants to 'play' with me?


Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers ’ technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416.
Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of bloom's taxonomy: An overview. [Article]. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212.


  1. Nice reflection on simSchool! I think it is nice that you understand the pedagogies because of playing simSchool. Myself I didn’t realize those different pedagogies that specific in the simulation, but now you’re talking about it I started to think and you made me realize you’re right. You really look at what you’ve learned from simSchool and I think that’s interesting. I didn’t look at it that way. Also your suggestions for simSchool are interesting. I thought more of simSchool as not being really realistic, but you really see it as a way to discover the different kind of pedagogies. And you think of ways simSchool can be even better. I wasn’t as positive as you and looked at simSchool from a different angle, so thanks for showing me this angle and letting me think about it.

  2. Great job of summarizing so many important aspects. One other student's blog also looked at the categories of tasks as types of pedagogy and I really appreciate that - it had not occurred to me before now to make that explicit. Perhaps we'll think of how to do this in the interface. We have been thinking about "subjects" for quite a while and if we get an opportunity, we will develop that capacity for simSchool, so "stay tuned." We have also been asked about "media" and I hope we can also move in that direction too, which would give the user a feeling of more control of classroom resources and their impacts on learning. Many thanks for a great blog!

  3. Hi Mila, thank you for reading my blog. I perceived that the SimSchool can be technological support for teacher to enhance their pedagogical skills. However, some aspects of the SimSchool have to be developed more to make more realistic for teachers.

  4. Hi David, thank you for your appreciation. Indeed, I considered that if the SimSchool includes ‘subjects’ and teaching ‘media’ as an extended options at the interface it would be better. It will make the SimSchool so realistic and applicable for teachers to explore their pedagogical knowledge. I am waiting for the next development of the SimSchool.:)

  5. Hi Zeno,
    Thanks for your elaborate post and for sharing your experiences and thoughts. As the others I like your ideas about adding subject matter, because I believe that pedagogy and content are closely related. Actually your colleague Patrick made a similar argument, maybe you can take a look at his post too. Your suggestion to incorporate the use of media within this simulation is a very interesting one.. I am very curious if David and his colleagues can do something with this!