Friday, November 24, 2006

Netlog

See comments for review.

2 comments:

Gretchen said...

This software is a program developed by educators at Northwestern University. The program is certainly focused on educational use, with a large Yahoo groups forum for educators asking questions and providing advice on how to use the program in the classroom.

NetLogo is an extension of the StarLogo programs that many of us used while growing up. The program can be easily downloaded (I had no issues when downloading this to my Mac), without cluttering up my desktop with files. The website had several ways of explaining the program, appealing to the different ways that students use to process information, most of which are based on manipulating pre-existing systems.

Working with the provided models was by far the easiest and most effective way to work with the software. There was a myriad of models built into the system, and I spent quite a bit of time looking at the variety of ecological, physical, and social programs that they had available. Once a model is loaded, students can work with variables (such as rabbit population and weed growth) to see how they affect growth rates. The variables are charted in both a picture representation of the population growth, but also with a line graph. Any change could easily be seen on the various graphs. Information tabs include an explanation about each parameter included in the simulation and allowed for some manipulation.

An excellent potential extension for stronger learners is the ability to look at the basic programming that was used to create the models. Students can study this and even make changes to see how programming at a basic level works. As their skills develop, they can program and manipulate their own models.

This program is excellent for educational purposes, assuming that there is a model that fits into the curriculum. However, if that expectation is met, the program is free and easy to download, allowing for easy access in the schools. The program also provides many visuals, such as animated graphs and tables, which are visually stimulating for many learners. The only question that I had when working with this program is about the accuracy of the models. While the relationships may be standard, are the ratios correct? Is the other information included correct? Once students manipulate the data, they cannot consider everything to be perfectly accurate. I wonder if students will take the information that they learn from this literally (i.e., if I have 200 weeds then 400 rabbits will grow), instead of focusing on the relationships that they are observing.

http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/

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