Sunday, June 5, 2016

Simulations and the Gamified Classroom

The use of simulations in the classroom is a long-standing tradition. How else could we provide students with high end experiential learning, when our students seldom have access to anything other than basic scientific equipment, and in many cases not even that? If we want want our students to learn how to gather data, analyze it and come up with solutions grounded on evidence we need to provide them with the necessary tools, going beyond the simple inquiry that can be accomplished with household tools.

In the gamified science classroom, tech-based simulations are a handy tool to help us engage students in deep learning. Students can use simulations to develop and use models to predict outcomes. They provide them with data that is directly applicable and transferable to the gamified (and often real-life) scenarios that they are working in. Often, they have the advantage of already looking like a game, making it easy to assign them as part of your gamified experience.

The simulations best suited for a gamified classroom are interactive, animated, provide dynamic feedback, and allow for productive exploration. But, where do you find them?


PhET, created and maintained by the University of Colorado, Boulder, has hundreds of NGSS aligned simulations, complete with teaching resources. They have been working hard at converting all their sims to HTML, allowing access on any device. Not only that, they are constantly adding new sims.
PhET by NGSS for Middle School
PhET by NGSS for High School


Already completely gamified for you, Spongelab has  thousands of pieces of content that can be searched, organized and annotated. Take a look,  at their Energy Literacy collection as an example of how to integrate SpongeLab in your gamified classroom.

Glencoe Virtual Labs

VIRTUAL LABS offered by the Glencoe textbook company. These labs give the students the adventure of laboratory experimentation without costly supplies, worrisome environmental and safety issues, or time-consuming clean up. They are from all different areas of science: Biology, Physics, Genetics, Earth Science, Physical Science, and Chemistry.

Go-Lab is a EU-based site that allows science teachers access to online labs and inquiry learning applications. The students receive the opportunity to perform personalized scientific experiments with online labs with access to virtual labs, remote labs and data sets. 
Setting up is a little time consuming, but they have a very well done tutorial.


Gizmos is the only paid service on this list. This service provides hundreds of Science (and Math) simulations, aligned to NGSS and searchable by topic, grade level and/or standard. Gizmos allow for manipulation of variables and include graphing tools that help students compare the results of their experiments, creating opportunities to apply the concepts to a variety of scenarios,

Let's take advantage of our students tech skills and allow them to use simulated tools and experiments. Go ahead and incorporate simulations in your gamified classroom. Your students will thank you for the opportunity to use technology, work in groups using sims as a substitute for real-life experiences and develop the skills needed to excel in the 21-century.