Creating a Repository of Computer Simulations for Teacher Education

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Computer simulations are a useful tool for hands on learning, and a number of computer simulations for teacher training exist; however, they can be difficult to locate. This session will focus on an upcoming grant-funded project to develop an open source repository of information about teacher education computer simulations. 


Dr. Elizabeth Bradley is an associate professor in the School for Graduate Studies at SUNY Empire State College. She received her Ph.D. in school psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and she is a licensed psychologist and nationally certified as a school psychologist. Prior to teaching at Empire State College, Dr. Bradley worked as a school psychologist and conducted research in the areas of substance use interventions, child neuropsychology, and school-based interventions for at risk youth. Dr. Bradley's recent research focus has been on the use of online simulations in pre-service teacher training. More specifically, Dr. Bradley has investigated the use of simulations for teacher training in the areas of classroom management, identifying at-risk students, plagiarism prevention, and bullying prevention.

Extended Abstract

Teacher education has been criticized for a number of gaps in training experiences and curricula. Darling-Hammond (1999) and Ramsey (2000) agree that classroom training experiences are inadequate for pre-service teachers as they usually focus on lesson planning more than student behavior and functioning. The areas that are most widely missed in pre-service teacher classroom training include student discipline, motivating students, dealing with individual differences, assessing student work, and relationships with parents (Koetsier & Wubbels, 1995).  Simulation training in these much-needed areas may add an essential component to the teacher education field.

Groundwater-Smith (1996), Cambourne (2003), and colleagues have shown that the best way to train pre-service teachers is for them to have unlimited time in the classroom and to be involved in the complex decisions that teachers make every day. However, this is difficult to achieve due to budget and time constraints. Simulation training provides an effective solution to this issue. Computer simulations can provide guided practice for a variety of situations that pre-service teachers would not frequently experience during their teacher education studies (Mason, Jeon, Blair, & Glomb, 2011; Mason, 2011).  Simulations can help pre-service teachers develop the skills that it takes to properly run a classroom without the high-stakes risk of causing harm to actual students (Matsuda, 2005).

Computer simulations aren’t intended to be a substitute for hands-on classroom experience; rather, they provide specific skill-building lessons to teacher candidates (Sawchuk, 2011).  Pre-service teachers can use simulations to turn the knowledge they have gained in their coursework into real experience (Office of Postsecondary Education, 2005). Simulations can allow pre-service teachers to see their students from a different perspective, gain insight into the best ways to manage their future classroom, and understand the direct consequences of their actions in the classroom (Ferry et al., 2004).  Likewise, many simulation programs provide built in feedback for remediation.

Graduate teacher education programs at Empire State College espouse the theory of constructivism, and program faculty encourage teacher candidates to engage in active learning, both as learners and when lesson planning for their own students.  In active learning, students work together in cooperative groups to engage in experiential, analytical, critical thinking, and problem solving tasks as opposed to simply reading, taking notes, or listening to course lectures (Zapalska et al., 2012).  Computer simulations provide the opportunity for active and higher order learning through role-playing with students, as users are presented with realistic scenarios, engage in conversations with students, encounter a variety of student responses depending on their actions, and receive feedback for remediation. In addition, computer simulations are a useful tool for pre-service teachers in need of focused and in-depth classroom training experience in the face of time and budgetary constraints.

A number of computer simulations in the area of teacher training exist; however, they can be difficult for faculty and administrators to locate. Most authors or publishers create one simulation in their area of expertise, thus creating a number of independent simulations located in niches on the web. Although research articles generally do exist discussing the outcomes of the simulation trainings, they can be difficult to find, and often lack information on how to access the simulation.  Very few computer simulation authors or publishers in the area of teaching training are advertising their products.  This makes the search for computer simulations in teacher education a difficult and time consuming one.

Project Goals

The purpose of this project is the development of an open source repository of information about teacher education computer simulations. Dr. Bradley has received a PILLARS grant through SUNY Empire State College to develop this repository Spring 2019. As part of this project, information about each simulation will be summarized, including goals, attributes, program evaluation results, user experiences, sample graphics, contact/purchasing information, and cost. Some simulations are free under grant initiatives, and that access information will be provided as well. Gaps in available teacher training simulations will be identified, and future development of much-needed simulations, such as role-playing debriefing with students following a crisis or school shooting, will be discussed.

Project Rationale

Thus far, a number of simulations have been evaluated and are ready to be included in the repository, including Teacher Talk, TeachLivE, simSchool, Classroom SIM, At-Risk for High School Educators, At-Risk for Middle School Educators, Connect.ed, and Step In Speak Up. In addition to the simulations already evaluated, a number of simulations have yet to be explored and will be evaluated as part of this project. These simulations cover the following areas: parent-teacher communication, curriculum design and instruction, accommodating diverse learners, best practices in special education, assistive technology, teacher leadership, assessing teacher effectiveness, facilitating team meetings, free mobile simulation apps, and more.

Discovery Session Goals

This discovery session will allow attendees to learn more about computer simulations in the area of teacher training. Session attendees will be encouraged to provide insight into project development methods and share information about simulations they have utilized or researched, as well as gaps that they’ve identified in available simulation offerings. Discussion about the effectiveness of simulations in teacher training will be engaging for all.


Computer simulations hold great utility in the area of teacher education; however, very few teacher education programs utilize them, despite excellent training outcomes and low cost. Each of these simulations is innovative and presents an opportunity for pre-service teachers to have hands-on experience in an area of need prior to teaching in the classroom. However, the innovation is lost without widespread use and dissemination. This open source repository will help make this innovation more available to the teacher education faculty and administrators who need it. This discovery session will help alert session attendees to the availability of computer simulations in teacher training while also helping to shape the development of this grant funded project.


Aha! Proccess Inc. (2012). Classroom sims: Practice what you teach. Retrieved from

Cambourne, B., Kiggins, J. & Ferry, B. (2003). Replacing traditional lectures, tutorials and exams with a knowledge building community (KBC): A constructivist, problem-based approach to pre-service primary teacher education. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 2(3), 7-21.

Commonwealth of Australia (2014). Connect.ed – Online Learning Course. Retrieved from

Darling-Hammond, L. (1999). Teacher education: Rethinking practice and policy. Unicorn, 25(1), 31-48.

Dieker, L., Straub, C., Hughes, C., Hynes, M., Hardin, S. (2014) Educational Leadership, 71(8), 54-58.

Ferry, B., Kervin, L, Cambourne, B., Turbill, J., Puglisi, S., Jonassen D. & Hedberg, J. (2004). Online classroom simulation: The ‘next wave’ for pre-service teacher education? In R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer & R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference (pp. 294-302). Perth, 5-8 December. Retrieved from

Gibson, D. (2011). Modeling Emotions in Simulated Learning. Paper presented at the Standards in Emotion Modeling Workshop, Lorentz Center, Leiden. Retrieved from

Groundwater-Smith, S., Deer, C. E, Sharp, H. & March, P (1996). The practicum as workplace leaning: A multi-modal approach in teacher education. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 22(2), 21-30.

Koetsier, C.P. & Wubbels, J. T. (1995). Bridging the gap between initial teacher training and teacher induction. Journal of Education for Teaching, 21(3), 333-345.

Kognito Interactive (2012). At-risk for High School Educators. Retrieved from

Kognito Interactive (2015). Step In, Speak Up. Retrieved from

Mason, L. L. (2011). A Functional Assessment of the Use of Virtual Simulations to Train Distance Preservice Special Education Teachers to Conduct Individualized Education Program Team Meetings. All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 1028.

Mason, L. L., Jeon, T. K., Blair, P., & Glomb, N. (2011). Virtual tutor training: Learning to teach in a multi-user virtual environment. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulation, 3, 51-67.

Matsuda, T. (2005). Instructional activities game: A tool for teacher training and research into teaching. In S. Rei, K. Arai & F. Kato (Eds.), Gaming, Simulations, and Society: Research Scope and Perspective. Tokyo: Springer-Verlag Tokyo.

Office of Postsecondary Education. (2005, December 09). Lessons learned from FIPSE Projects I - October 1990: Teacher training through computer simulation. Retrieved from

Ramsey, G. (2000). Quality Matters: Revitalising teaching: Critical times, critical choices. Report of the Review of Teacher Education in NSW. Sydney: NSW Department of Education & Training.

Sawchuk, S. (2011). Simulations helping novices hone skills. Education Week, 30(15), 1, 18.

Simiosys (2014). Teacher Talk Game. Retrieved from

Zapalska, A., Brozik, D., Rudd, D. (2012). Development of active learning through simulations and games. US-China Education Review. 2, 164-169.