Have you ever wondered how birds flock or traffic jams form? For thousands of years people have been creating models to help them better understand the world around them. Leonardo DaVinci built models of flying machines that some claim were inspired by his desire to understand the flight of birds. Sir Isaac Newton described the behavior of with sets of equations. Jacques Vaucanson built a mechanical duck that actually ingested (and eliminated!) its food. These models not only helped their creators better understand the phenomena that they were studying, but also helped them convey their new ideas to other people. Throughout history, most people, like the pioneers mentioned above, have created models out of wood, paper, metal, and mathematical expressions. In more recent times, computers have provided a new medium for building, analyzing, and describing models. Using computers, economists build models of the stock market, biologists build models of cell division, and historians build models of ancient civilizations. Computers also make it easier for novices to build and explore their own models and learn new scientific ideas in the process. Adventures in Modeling introduces designing, creating, and investigating models in StarLogo.
The StarLogo language was designed to enable people to build their own models of complex, dynamic systems. Unlike many other modeling tools, StarLogo supports a tangible process of building, analyzing, and describing models that does not require advanced mathematical or programming skills. Using StarLogo, you can build and explore models and in the process you can develop a deeper understanding of patterns and processes in the world around you. In StarLogo, you write simple rules for individual behaviors. For instance, you might create rules for a bird, which describe how fast it should fly and when it should fly towards another bird. When you watch many birds simultaneously following those rules, you can observe how patterns in the system, like flocking, arise out of the individual behaviors. Building up models from the individual, or "bird," level enables you to develop a better understanding of the system, or "flock," level behaviors.
The Adventures book can be used in a variety of settings: A professor can use it as a main or supplemental text in a course at a graduate school of education; a ninth grade social studies teacher can use it to enhance a unit on population demographics or to support an after-school club that enables kids to explore innovative uses of computers; workshop leaders can use it in a professional development seminar as a platform for drawing connections between using technology and addressing the new science standards. The Adventures book is a great resource for the parents of home-schooled children and other parents in search of meaningful computer activities for their children.
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