Understanding Decentralized, Dynamical Systems and Environments
Programmable modeling environments for decentralized systems, such as traffic jams and ant colonies, offer a relatively new perspective towards simulations for advanced students. A decentralized system exhibits some orderly activities but is "leaderless". These concepts are intriguing; they stimulate student thinking because the perspective is different than typical models. The work is done in StarLogo which can be downloaded from this site.
Dynamical systems at Boston University, sponsored by NSF, uses Java applets and games for understanding chaos, fractals and systems. A good site for advanced or curious students.
BOIDS shows the movement of flocking birds. Although it represents a relatively older piece of software, it had been updated with Java and good pointers for further study of these fascinating phenomena.
These projects are exemplars of "popping up" one level of student thinking about environments by focusing on modeling. It lends itself to thinking about thinking. At the same time, the environments are familiar so students can imagine their workings easily. These perspectives lay on the cutting edge. Telecommunications gives access to advanced work which has not yet been textbookized to students, ie. a decade outofdate.