|At KS 1 children are expected to ‘use IT-based models or simulations to
explore aspects of real or imaginary situations’.|
At KS 2 children should ‘explore the effect of changing variables in
simulations and similar packages, to ask and answer questions of the ‘What
would happen if…?’ type. Also to recognise patterns and relationships in the
results obtained from IT-based models or simulations, predicting the
outcomes of different decisions that could be made.
When you think of modeling you may think of young ladies swanning down the
catwalk in the latest designer creations, or Airfix plastic Spitfires and
Hurricanes or even Wallace and Grommit.
A model can take all kinds of forms, it can be quite concrete and visible,
for instance a cardboard model of a new shopping centre. Or it can be quite
abstract, such as a mathematical formula or a computer spreadsheet.
Computer modelling involves taking a situation in the real (or an imaginary) world
and making a simulation or representation of it on the computer.
The computer model has factors or variables that you can alter, so it
enables you to see how the situation would work out if you did different
things. You can use the model to help answer the question ’What would happen
if I did this?’. It is easier, quicker and cheaper to make changes to the
model than to change the real situation and see what happens.
Adventure games and spreadsheets are examples of different sorts of computer
A model is not the real situation, but a simplified, cut-down version. A
model has some of the characteristics of the real situation but will be
limited in its ability to represent the whole, especially if it is a complex
situation. For example the Spex children's 3D design software represents a
room into which you place furniture. You can move the furniture around, but
there are built-in limitations which do not exist in a real room, for
instance the furniture can only be placed at certain angles.
Programs like Spex, the classic room design game let children model imaginary rooms into which they place
around, change their minds, change the prices, see the overall cost. This is modeling without all the hassle and expense of doing it for real
Computer Modeling is easy with Spex
Spex is a well loved object based computer simulation software which enables
children to design and furnish rooms in a house. Children plan the layout of
the room and choose the furniture from a library of graphics, they
can make changes to the room design and see the outcome instantly.
Spex presents the pupils with the familiar situation of home, which is
easy to relate to. They soon begin to make predictions and plans, and to
explore the possibilities of the situation.
‘I’ll make a bedroom for me and my brother’
‘How would it look if the desk was next to the bed?’
‘Would the wardrobe fit next to the door?’
‘What would happen if I move the window to a different wall?’
‘What would happen if I turn the TV around? How do I do that?’
This kind of project using Spex covers important parts of the computer modeling strand of the IT requirements. The children are learning to
select, move and rotate graphic elements as they arrange the
furniture, (QCA IT Scheme of work, Unit 5A Graphical modelling)
A further element of reality is added by using the budget facility and
setting a limit as to how much you can spend on furnishings. The prices of
items of furniture can be changed, and you can see the outcome of questions
‘What if there was a sale and all the prices were reduced by 10 %?’
‘If I get rid of one of the sofas, then will I have enough money for a TV?
When a real situation is modelled on a computer, the model has limitations
and rules which the real situation may not have. As pupils carry on with
designing a room with Spex they will come up with more searching questions.
‘Why can’t I have a round room?’
‘Wouldn’t it be good if we could add a jacuzzi to the bathroom?’
These kinds of questions give children the opportunity to discuss the limitations of the model
and how it might be improved upon.
Spex children's educational software is well suited to the teaching of computer modelling as it is set down in
the National Curriculum (KS 1, 3C, and KS 2, 3C,D)