Proceedings of CSCL '99

By International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning | Go to book overview
Figure 6: The Grape Boycott project Web page Includes (1) descriptions of the agents, (2) historical background and related links, and (3) the simulation applet.

As the New Vista students developed their simulations, they also used the Java capabilities of AgentSheets to create applets and embed them in Web pages containing historical information about the subject and links to related Web sites. These Web pages provide a critical connection between the course content and the simulation technology 6 a simulation consisting of brightly colored icons moving on a screen does not convey much meaning to its intended audience unless the creators of the simulation situate it in an informative context. Both projects can be accessed at http://www.cs.colorado.edu/∼13d/systems/agentsheets/New-Vista/.


Collaboration

At this level, collaboration was not technology-supported, but people-supported. Students worked in groups to develop their simulations, while teachers and researchers served as mentors helping students break up the workload, providing them pointers to content information, and guiding them in creating the simulation.

Student-Student Collaboration: Students created their simulations in groups. This afforded the students various types and levels of collaboration. For example, we observed that the initially intimidated by the computer students found the task of creating a simulation less daunting when they all worked together, sharing ideas and helping each other out with the programming. Moreover, the dual tasks of creating the Web site and building the simulation allowed members of the group to distribute the workload among themselves according to their individual interests. At the same time, communication among the group members working on the different tasks needed to be maintained, for the group to produce a coherent final artifact. Finally, collaboration allowed the group to create a more complete project than any individual could have produced alone.


Conclusions

Interactive simulations hold great potential as a communication vehicle capable of improving the usefulness of technology in education. The challenges faced to effectively create simulation literacy in education are tremendous when just using pre-built simulations and even more so when designing new simulations to fit school curriculum. Research needs to move from the exploration of issues resulting from individual people using individual computer systems towards the exploration of collaborative issues. How should students, teachers, publishers, and researchers work together to create effective teaching material and engaging learning environments? In addition to social issues, how can tech-

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