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School Sims provides safe learning opportunities

October 17, 2022

An employee comes into the principal’s office to share concerns about a disruptive teacher. What are the next steps that should be taken?

School Sims, an organization that provides a library of simulations, enables educators and aspiring educators to walk through different scenarios with options to choose from on how to respond.

Dr. David De Jong, Dean of the College of Education, first experienced a simulation for school leaders at a conference and was immediately inspired to become a client and facilitator of simulations for educators.

De Jong describes the videos as similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, which enables readers to make choices that impact how the story turns out.

“It creates a safe place for us to have deep, meaningful conversations at each decision point,” he explained.

After watching the initial video, participants can choose from several options and decide on a response to the situation that moves the simulation along. Each choice leads to a different video.

De Jong has participants commit to an answer and then places attendees in breakout sessions to discuss their option and why they chose it. He brings the group back together and has volunteers share their rationale for selecting a certain choice. This highlights how people’s decisions are often determined by past experiences, value systems, and biases.

Through polls, De Jong determines the most popular option and selects that to continue the simulation. He has helped facilitate simulations via Zoom across America and the globe for K-12 and higher education educators. He’s worked with the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals, North Carolina State, Atlanta Public Schools, Manhattan College, and educators in countries including Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Iran.

“I’ve learned so much about leadership and valuing different perspectives of people who don’t look like me, think like me, or have the same past experiences as me,” he said.

Additionally, the simulations permit students and educators to participate asynchronously when their schedules allow. This also enables them to go through a simulation multiple times to experience a variety of reactions and their consequences.

Through research, De Jong has proven that students who complete the simulations online asynchronously go through Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory, which means that participants go through a four-stage learning cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting.

“Simulations are a great way to learn,” he said. “The slogan of the company is ‘experience is the best teacher.’”

This is exciting news as DSU’s teacher preparation program will be one of the first and only programs in the United States to train their teachers with both School Sims and the Virtual Avatar Learning Experience (VALE).

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