Friday, November 24, 2006


See comments for review.

1 comment:

Kate Reber said...

AgentSheets is a simulation creating tool, but it bills itself as a “thought amplifier.” Since users can both create and interact with the simulations, the software can be used in contexts that require both the construction and modeling of knowledge. According to the product’s website, AgentSheets is “ an evolutionary authoring tool that allows non-programmers to create agents with behaviors and missions, teach agents to react to information and process it in personalized ways, and combine agents to create sophisticated interactive simulations and models.” Possible uses range from interactive world maps, in the case of the United States Institute of Peace Virtual Diplomacy program (, to immunological and epidemiological simulations like the Shodor Foundation Scholar’s Programs’ HIV and Hepatitis B in the Bloodstream (

The demo I downloaded (for a ten-day trial at already included a number of simulations. Some of these had immediate classroom applications. There were avalanche, virus, and pollution simulations, which could be used in a variety of science and social science classes. There was also a “voting game” which was developed in a social studies class in the UK. There were also a number of simulations focused on math and engineering problems, i.e. bridge-building and “Pascal’s adding machine.” Every simulation opened with a description, directions and examples classroom uses.

These model simulations are only as good as the creators who are all referenced in the “Read Me” directions section of the simulation. Some of the life sciences simulations (in particular, the Virus simulation and Predator and Prey) seemed especially useful. Simulations of this kind seem to be available elsewhere (through MIT’s Media Lab, as part of other interactive simulation tools, etc.) and some of these other options may be free. It does not seem worth using AgentSheets just for the pre-made simulations.

I did try to make a simulation using AgentSheets, but I did not have much success. AgentSheets operates with what its creators call a “drag and drop interface.” It was easy to navigate. There are buttons and prompts which ask you to create rules and methods using If/Then instructions. You can also edit the depiction of your agent. I was able to easily create an “agent” and started the steps of creating rules and methods to determine the agent’s behavior. At this point I was unsure of how or what rules and methods would make sense in a test scenario.

My problems with AgentSheets may stem from my more general inability to think through simulations. I think a simulation creation tool like this one could have a valuable place in the classroom, because I think having to think through a process in this very methodical way would enhance a wide variety of learning experiences. My one caveat is that the instructor must be very clear from the beginning about the goals for the project, so that students (like myself) are not at a loss when they initially encounter the program.

AgentSheets costs $99 for education version that has a single-user license. There is also version available for $120 and a “10 pack” that costs $450. AgentSheets runs on Windows and Macintosh operating systems and does not require much memory (60MB of RAM) to run.