An alternative use of the NetLogo modeling environment, where the student “thinks” and “acts” like an Agent, in order to teach concepts of Ecology.

The Multi-Agent-Based programming, modeling and simulation environment of NetLogo (Wilensky, 1999) has been used extensively during the last fifteen years for educational – among other – purposes. The learning subject, upon interacting with the User’s Interface of NetLogo, can easily study properties of the simulated natural systems, as well as observe the latter’s response, when altering their parameters. In this research, NetLogo was used under the perspective that the learning subject (student or prospective teacher) interacts with the model in a deeper way, obtaining the “role” of an “agent”. This is not achieved by obliging the learner to program (write NetLogo code) but by interviewing them, together with “applying” the choices that he/she makes on the model. The scheme was carried out, as part of a broader research, with interviews, and web-page-like interface menu selections, in a sample of 17 University students in Athens (prospective Primary School teachers) and the results were judged as encouraging. At a further stage, the computers were set as a network, where all the agents performed together. In this way the learners could watch onscreen the overall outcome of their choices and actions on the modeled ecosystem. This seems to open a new – small – area of research in NetLogo educational applications.
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