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Simulation

Unlike modelling programs, which are generic in character, simulations usually portray a particular phenomenon or experiment. They facilitate virtual experiments in which variables and parameters may be adjusted and the effects studied.  It becomes possible to represent conditions well beyond the scope of real experiments, and in this respect a simulation can extend opportunities for investigation. In this virtual environment, pupils can perform otherwise dangerous, difficult, expensive or specialised experiments. Such experiments yield ‘clean’ data without the ‘noise’ of experimental error. It is difficult to describe a general type of simulation because each simulation tends to have a unique purpose.  It is common for simulations to be presented with attractive visual representations that are often animated making a context that can be more easily assimilated by pupils.  Simulations can be useful for the visualisation of difficult concepts.

At the heart of most simulations lies a mathematical model controlling all the relationships between the variables involved. For the majority of simulations, the model is built into the program and access to it is not available to users. However, for those programs that do provide access to the model, there are valuable learning opportunities for scrutinising the model and questioning its assumptions.

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