Exploriments on iPad: Episode II

"Simulation based educationthe most effective e-learning strategy"

A "simulation" in the e-learning context is the scientifically correct representation of a real life experiment - such as a pendulum, a chemical reaction, the archimedes principle, friction, levers, circuits and so on. A simulation allows you to move objects around, set things in motion, use a stopwatch, connect wires, measure either voltage or a pendulum's time period, and hundreds more tasks, depending on the specific application - basically, everything you can do in a physical laboratory. 

However, a simulation can take you beyond the physical limitations imposed by a physical lab. In a simulation there are no real risks, costs, or collateral damage, and this means you can easily explore conditions that are not possible to recreate in a laboratory. For example - you can view and control satellite motion, you can change the gravity under which you observe a pendulum, you can easily change the density of a bob or the liquid when exploring Archimedes principle. You can wilfully cause short circuits, cause electrical devices to fail by passing current higher than their safety rating, or increase weight or gravitational force to the point of failure. 

Understanding science by interacting with accurately modeled virtual objects (weights, springs, measuring devices, atoms, molecules, charged particles, etc), in addition to the freedom to test  boundary conditions, are the big wins of our simulation strategy.

Simulation Differentiators:

A simulation is not a "linear" medium such as a textbook or a powerpoint presentation - that is, it does not require you to go from one thing to another, in a particular order. On the contrary, a simulation lets you approach a scenario from different starting points by varying your exploration each time, in order to get a more nuanced understanding. It promotes a more wholistic and multi-perspective understanding of concepts.

A simulation is also great for progressive learning by starting a concept with baby steps, and slowly building up to the full understanding. 

In the hands of an instructor a simulation adapts to the skill level of a student. Because simulations encompass all the relevant science, it is possible to use the same simulation either for simple, intermediate, or advanced insights.

Computer Modelled Reality being what it is, it is possible for a student or teacher to simulate a large number of combinations and scenarios - indeed, it is possible to stumble upon scientifically valid scenarios that even the creators had not thought! This is very different from a static and linear medium which presents a fixed set of problems, or highlights a finite set of explorations.

Finally, a simulation is virtual which means that it resides inside a computer's memory and can be upgraded, enhanced and improved based on both experience and feedback. Being virtual means that it can take you beyond the accepted physical boundaries of an experiment. This opens wonderful possibilities such as increasing learning potential by adding more objects or insights and increasing engagement and collaboration with a set of teachers and students.

Simulations being dynamic and game-like, do wonders for creating engagement. In the hands of a guide, it becomes an effective tool for involving students. Learning by experiencing the thrill of discovery, and by doing all the tasks leading up to it, make this the ideal educational aid in supplementing traditional methods.

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