Teaching with Simulations and Serious Games

Check out this list of online educational simulations / serious games. Grouped by topic, you can find simulations related to biology, leadership, politics, healthcare, city management, ethics, history, and marketing, just to name a few available topics. Summary information about each simulation is provided. While some entries link directly to the simulation, others contain a link to the developer charging educational licensing or individual user fees.

How might you use a simulation or serious game with your students? An activity like this is a wonderful way to start the course or introduce a specific unit, grabbing student attention and familiarizing them with the content. Likewise, you could use a simulation as a concluding activity, letting students demonstrate their knowledge by playing. Students can then reflect on the game itself and how well it captured reality. In a face-to-face class, you can use the classroom computer to play together as a class – or use student devices to have groups play together. Alternately, and for online courses, you can have students play on their own and then share their reactions in a discussion or short writing assignment.

Is the simulation at the right level for your students? Note that in the example use  scenarios described above, the level isn’t as important as what students do with the knowledge: get interested, evaluate, problematize, etc. Of course, the simulation can’t be impossibly simple or hopelessly intricate, but, barring those conditions, there is still a lot of learning to be done from a simulation that isn’t matched exactly to the level of the course.

Do you have an online simulation that works well with your students? What about a classroom-based simulation? Personally, I’m a big fan of teaching the tragedy of the commons with a classroom-based simulation. Please share your favorite simulations / serious games in the comments!

Digital Flashcards

With final exams approaching, this is an opportune moment to talk about digital flashcards. In fact, this may be a post that you’d like to share directly with your students – be our guest!

Once students have the list of topics that the final exam will cover, you might encourage them to come up with a review plan. Smart students don’t just plunge in and review: they develop a strategy that covers all topics, allows for extra focus on areas / topics where they feel less confident, builds in repetition, and provides feedback.

Digital flashcards can help students study efficiently and leverage their classmates’ knowledge. Created through a website, an app, or a free software download, students can enter relevant concepts and review them. There are even options out there that can accommodate equations, pronunciations, and non-Latin alphabets. Many digital flashcard products also have mobile apps, meaning students can review on the go. Students can keep their flashcards private, share them with designated individuals, or opt to make them public (visible to anyone). If your students are ready to get started, we’ve reviewed some great digital flashcard options in a previous post.

But do flashcards work? It seems, for most learners, they do!

Infographic about role of flashcards in memorization process; indicates they are useful for all but kinesthetic learners


Digital flashcards are an easy way for your students to study on the go, mix up their studying strategies while in front of their computers, and study collaboratively. As the season of studying for final exams approaches, this post reviews flashcard resources you can share with your students.

All the options below are free, and allow for online and mobile flashcard use. In all instances, users can create and share their own flashcard sets or use existing sets found on the site. Additionally, all of these sites will count right and wrong answers and provide that data to the student.

Quizlet: Quizlet bills itself as the largest quiz / flashcard / study games site, so if students are looking for ready-made flashcards, this is probably the most promising avenue. Quizlet uses audio in type-what-you-hear exercises; in addition, there are several study games into which Quizlet will plug your desired content. There is an optional Facebook integration that will let you share flashcard sets with friends and see sets they have created. Quizlet has iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Nook, Windows Phone, and Android apps.

StudyStack: StudyStack really shines in the game department. If you – or your students – are looking to do something different with matched pairs of data, StudyStack has the game for you: matching, crosswords, hangman, scrambled words, etc. This site, however, also features some pretty distracting, busy ads on the top and right-hand side of the screen. Mobile apps for StudyStack (for Android, iPhone, iTouch, Windows Phone, and Blackberry) are all third-party apps into which you place exported StudyStack data – this is an additional step to make StudyStack flashcards mobile, but not a difficult one.

StudyBlue: StudyBlue flashcards also support audio files. There is also a suggestion wizard that will associate the terms in cards you create with the 30 other most relevant cards on the topic. Cards are mapped visually to related terms and ranked by usefulness. Students also have the ability to compare the answers on multiple similar flashcards. StudyBlue has flashcards for non-Latin alphabets. StudyBlue is available in iPhone / iPad / iTouch, Android, and Kindle versions.

Memrise: Memrise has a pretty slick site, although the site does note that it is still in beta / development, and has a published bug list. The focus of existing content is foreign languages. Memrise is a little gimmicky: learning is framed around a garden metaphor, in which your decision to start learning (create / enter a course and focus on specific content) is “planting the seed”, practicing the content is growing / watering the plants, and when knowledge is secure and strong, plants are then moved to “the garden”.  The Memrise concept markets itself as being built on neuroscience; for this reason, users attach a “mem” to each character / word / concept they are trying to learn, a technique designed to enhance content retention. I was only able to find Memrise apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

Anki: Anki’s key feature is format freedom, meaning that you are able to input information in any way you wish, rather than relying on predefined styles. Anki will also allow large decks of cards (up to 10,000 cards). Users note that it can handle non-Latin alphabets with ease. Additionally, Anki claims to be optimized for low bandwith access. Anki is open-source; It will run on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, any smartphone, several game systems, iPod Touch, and iPad; it will not work with Palm devices or ereaders from what I can discern.

For those who live life in the Google cloud or for those less inclined toward bells and whistles, there’s gFlash (for idevices, Android, and Blackberry), which will make mobile-friendly, shareable flashcards from the data in a Google Spreadsheet. GFlash is also a content partner of some of the above quiz sites; for an upgrade fee, you can have access to their ready-made flashcard databases.

Last, I want to mention Mnemosyne. This is a flashcard program plus an ongoing memory research project. This means that Mnemosyne will anonymize, track, store, and then submit your success rate in recalling information back to the creators of the program; they then use this to improve the algorithm that generates how frequently you see which cards. There is a high degree of transparency: you can review the log that will be sent, the software is open-source, and the data generated is publicly available. I think it’s a pretty, elegant cool idea.Your data is assigned an untraceable random number, but if participating in the on-going research makes you uncomfortable, you can also use Mnemosyne without opting to share your use pattern. There is support for images, audio files, scientific and mathematical notations, and non-Latin alphabets. You can also make a “three-sided card”: associating a word, its translation, and its pronunciation. Mnemosyne is also available in several languages. Mnemosyne is a program you download; it’s primarily aimed at computer users, although there is a plugin that will allow you to use it on Android, Blackberry, and other phones/devices that support Java.


10 Internet Technologies Educators Should Be Informed About – 2011 Update

10 Internet Technologies Educators Should Be Informed About – 2011 Update

These Technologies Are Changing Education. Are You Familiar With Them?

If not, stick with us! We have posts forthcoming about several of these – and we’d love to hear about your experiences!