[IAEP] What is a Lesson Plan?

Bobby Powers bobbypowers at gmail.com
Wed Jul 9 17:20:49 CEST 2008

On Wed, Jul 9, 2008 at 7:42 AM, Antoine van Gelder <antoine at g7.org.za> wrote:
> On 09 Jul 2008, at 12:38, Bobby Powers wrote:
>> On Wed, Jul 9, 2008 at 5:43 AM, Antoine van Gelder <antoine at g7.org.za>
>> wrote:
>>> On 09 Jul 2008, at 06:07, Bobby Powers wrote:
>>>> On a similar note, I'm an intern working on an activity for
>>>> graphically modeling and simulating systems using System Dynamics.
>>>> http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Model
>>>> there are a ton of lesson plans and course materials, most free, for
>>>> system dynamics lessons available:
>>>> http://www.clexchange.org/lom/default.htm
>>>> While my focus right now is getting the activity working and
>>>> simulating, I've been following some of the threads about lesson plans
>>>> and lesson bundles with interest, as the easier it is for teachers to
>>>> integrate activities into coursework the faster things will get picked
>>>> up.
>>> A single action, which - I believe - will contribute more to the task of
>>> getting humanity on track to a sustainable present than any amount of
>>> eight-course G8 dinners would be the creation of a SD simulator that can
>>> run
>>> the models in this book:
>>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limits_to_Growth [1]
>> I agree that would be cool.  Lucky for us, there is a version of the
>> World3 model that is freely available at:
>> http://metasd.com/models/Library/Environment/World3/
>> I believe the guy who runs that site (there are a fair amount of
>> models on there) would be amenable to formally releasing them under a
>> CC license.
> That's great!
> What file format are these in?

oof, they're in Vensim model format (but text-based, at the least).
Vensim is one of the 3 big commercial System Dynamics software
packages.  The full version costs hundreds to thousands per license,
but there is a limited free version that can run (but not save) models
like this.  There is talk of a common, open XML-based model format to
save and interchange models which is the best bet for getting a lot of
existing modeling content on the XO, unless someone wants to help
finish my Vensim model importer ;).

>> Beyond simply providing the model, I think where we can really add
>> something is in presenting the results.  Sure there are the classic
>> graphs:
>> http://muratopia.org/NUGW/FOCAS/Economy/world3.html
>> but I think on the XO we could do something really interesting,
>> perhaps even wrapped as a full-blown activity, to get people involved
>> in the simulation.  I don't have any great ideas right now, but I'm
>> sure with our collective wisdom we could come up with something!
> One immediate thought that springs to mind for me when I think of XO's
> running world3 is networking the simulation so that each kid's machine is
> responsible for one part of the model. (Minister for Agriculture, Minister
> for Economics, Minister for Environment etc) It makes for an interesting
> experience when kids can see the effect that systemic behavior, which has a
> good outcome for their part of the system, has on the health of the whole
> which, in turn, eventually impacts their own part of the system as the
> feedback loop closes.

That is a terrific idea.  It could make for a great example that ties
together PyGame, Model and Collaboration (in addition to the
educational merits of just playing it).  I worked on something similar
this spring for a class: an online-multiplayer game where 5 people
play as different ministers running a government.  It used a version
of a different model, Threshold-21, which I will be 'porting' for use
on the XO.  You can try the game, but it was more a proof of concept
than production game, and I haven't checked on it in a while:

> A really ambitious idea could be to replace the differential equations
> driving world3 with the output from an agent simulation such as SimCity-ish.
> (Hi Don! :-D)

Hah, I had actually talked about something like this with Don several
months ago.  Some thoughts of mine are here:

> I agree with you, the scope for drawing kids in is huge!
>>> Go Bobby!
>> Thanks for the support :)
> I followed some links off http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Model and ended up
> coming across your http://t21-interface.sourceforge.net project.
> I'd love to hear a bit about the lessons you learnt from that?

The biggest lesson I learned was don't use OpenGL primitives to draw
complicated 2D diagrams and expect it to work well on any computer
except the one you're developing on :)  But more seriously, what we
tried to do there was take the results from a GIANT model (thousands
of variables!) of US energy prospects and present the results in a
digestible way.  The audience was college-educated adults and
policymakers.  We wanted people to be able to play with a couple
policies (like CAFE standards or electrifying the nations railroads),
see the results, and understand the structure that caused the
behavior.  Its a project I would do very differently in hindsight, but
we learned a little bit about visualizing large data sets.


>>> [1] Bonus points for getting the book relicensed under a CC license.
>>> Looking
>>> at my copy I see that the copyright-holder is Dennis Meadows himself.
>> I'll talk to some of my professors who know him.  Who knows, that
>> would be awesome to be able to freely distribute.
> It should be a compulsory part of any high school syllabus IMNSHO!
>  - antoine

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