Monday, 1st September, 2014
In their book Simulation in the Classroom (Penguin, 1972), John Taylor and Rex Walford argued that an educational simulation has three main components:
(1) Students take roles which are representative of the real world and involve them making decisions in response to their assessment of the situation that they have been placed in.
(2) Students experience simulated consequences which relate to their decisions and their general performance in the simulation.
(3) Students monitor the results of their actions and are encouraged to reflect upon the relationship between their own decisions and the resulting consequences of their actions.
An essential part of a simulation involves the student playing a role of a character in the past. One of the major objectives of the creator of the simulation is to help the student understand the situation of that person. In other words, helping the student develop a sense of empathy.
In his book, The Process of Education (1960), Jerome Bruner argues that simulations encourage active learning. However, Bruner prefers some simulations to others. He argues that the “value of any piece of learning over and above the enjoyment it gives is that it should be relevant to us in the future”. That is something I always take seriously when I am constructing a simulation.
Other arguments in favour of simulations include:
(i) They are usually problem-based and are therefore helpful in the development of long-term learning.
(ii) The normally involve the use of social skills which are directly relevant to the world outside the classroom.
(iii) Simulations deal with situations that change and therefore demand flexibility in thinking.
An example of a historical simulation that is available free online involves the issue of child labour at the beginning of the 19th century.
Each student is given the name of an individual that was involved in the debate that was taking place at this time. This included factory owners, factory reformers, child workers, parents, journalists, religious leaders and doctors. The student is then given an instruction sheet with details of the Textile Industry Encyclopaedia Website and what they needed to do. This includes writing an account of their character and a speech on the subject of child labour.
Each character had an entry in the Spartacus Encyclopaedia. This provided them with biography and sources that enables the student to discover his or her views on the issue. The website also includes information under headings such as factory pollution, parish apprentices, factory food, punishments, working hours, accidents and physical deformities. There are also entries in the encyclopaedia on the machines the children used and the type of work they did in the factory.
It is interesting the way they react when they discover who their character is. Initially, they are much happier about playing the role of a factory owner. They quickly develop the idea that they are in some way responsible for the wealth that the character has obtained. Those who are given the role of a child worker are less happy at first but the more they investigate their situation, the more involved they become in the need to find ways of overcoming the problems that they faced.
The exercise helps to explain the complexity of child labour in the 19th century. The students discover that some factory owners, such as John Fielden and John Wood, were actually leaders of the pressure group trying to bring an end to child labour. At the same time, social reforming journalists like Edward Baines were totally opposed to any attempt by Parliament to regulate the use of labour. Even doctors did not agree that it would damage a child's health to be standing for twelve hours a day in a factory where windows were kept closed and the air was thick with the dust from the cotton. What the children discover from their in-depth studies is why the individuals felt the way that they did. In the debate that follows, this is revealed to the rest of the class.
Simulations in the Classroom (1st September, 2014)
The KGB and the JFK Assassination (21st August, 2014)
West Ham United and the First World War (4th August, 2014)
The First World War and the War Propaganda Bureau (28th July, 2014)
Interpretations in History (8th July, 2014)
Alger Hiss was not framed by the FBI (17th June, 2014)
Google, Bing and Operation Mockingbird: Part 2 (14th June, 2014)
The Student as Teacher (7th June, 2014)
Is Wikipedia under the control of political extremists? (23rd May, 2014)
Why MI5 did not want you to know about Ernest Holloway Oldham (6th May, 2014)
The Strange Death of Lev Sedov (16th April, 2014)
Why we will never discover who killed John F. Kennedy (27th March, 2014)
The Allied Plot to Kill Lenin (7th March, 2014)
Was Rasputin murdered by MI6? (24th February 2014)
Winston Churchill and Chemical Weapons (11th February, 2014)
Pete Seeger and the Media (1st February 2014)
Should history teachers use Blackadder in the classroom? (15th January 2014)
Why did the intelligence services murder Dr. Stephen Ward? (8th January 2014)
Solomon Northup and 12 Years a Slave (4th January 2014)
The Angel of Auschwitz (6th December 2013)
The Death of John F. Kennedy (23rd November 2013)
Adolf Hitler and Women (22nd November 2013)
New Evidence in the Geli Raubal Case (10th November 2013)
Murder Cases in the Classroom (6th November 2013)
Major Truman Smith and the Funding of Adolf Hitler (4th November 2013)
Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler (30th October 2013)
Claud Cockburn and his fight against Appeasement (26th October 2013)
The Strange Case of William Wiseman (21st October 2013)
Robert Vansittart's Spy Network (17th October 2013)
British Newspaper Reporting of Appeasement and Nazi Germany (14th October 2013)
Paul Dacre, The Daily Mail and Fascism (12th October 2013)
Wallis Simpson and Nazi Germany (11th October 2013)
The Activities of MI5 (9th October 2013)
The Right Club and the Second World War (6th October 2013)
What did Paul Dacre's father do in the war? (4th October 2013)
Ralph Miliband and Lord Rothermere (2nd October 2013)