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11.127 / 11.252 Computer Modeling for Investigation and Education, Spring 2003

Photo of a game played in a classroom.
Photo of a game being played in a classroom. What is a Simulation? What is a Game? What makes a Game educational? These are some of the questions explored in 11.127. (Image by Prof. Eric Klopfer.)

Highlights of this Course

This class contains an incredible list of resources discussing the use of simulations, games and 'edutainment' in the classroom. Start with the syllabus.

Course Description

During the past ten years, simulation modeling, especially as it helps people to understand complex systems, has become a mainstream use of computational technology. The widespread popularity of "edutainment" software like SimCity and Civilization gives a clear indication of the extent to which simulation games have permeated popular culture. As these and other games have found places in the classroom, researchers have tried to ascertain what and how students learn from these environments, and what implications this has for software and curriculum design.

While it can be useful to experiment with pre-built models like SimCity, a deeper understanding can come through building and manipulating models whose underlying structure is accessible. Just as a young child learns more by building a bridge out of blocks instead of merely playing with a pre-fabricated bridge, designing and creating your own models provide richer learning experiences than simply playing with pre-built models. This learning process is critically important in domains that require an understanding of complex systems, from economics and mathematics to physics and biology.

In this project-based course, students from all disciplines are encouraged to understand how we learn from computer environments, develop and investigate systems and ideas from their fields of study, and delve into the process of building and testing models and simulations. In the first part of the course we will explore the design and use of games and simulations in the classroom, and the research and development issues associated with this software. We will then explore various modeling and simulation software packages, criteria for developing the most appropriate simulation for a given situation, and methods for evaluating the success and utility of models. We will also study what and how people learn from simulations (including field testing of software), and how modeling and simulation tools can be implemented in educational settings. All levels of computer experience welcome. Graduate students are expected to complete additional assignments.


Prof. Eric Klopfer

Course Meeting Times

Two sessions / week
1.5 hours / session


Undergraduate / Graduate


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