Welcoming Students To The Global Economy Through Interactive Internet Learning


Background: Simpolicon© is an educational simulation that has been used in high school classrooms for 25+ years in several different iterations. Initially students used paper and pencil, and all transactions were managed manually by the teacher. Later it was programmed for the Apple IIE, then the Apple IIGS, and finally for the MAC. Simpolicon© was nationally acclaimed as one of the top computer programs for classroom use in 1984. Classroom Computer Learning Magazine’s review and award included the following:

In awarding Simpolicon© an “outstanding” designation, the judges said, “Simpolicon© is an incredibly complex and fascinating simulation of the economic, political, social and cultural development of nations. Students balance such factors as national goals, economic necessities, interest group demands, political needs, natural disasters and fortuitous events. Using the computer’s unique capabilities to the fullest, this program successfully integrates diverse socioeconomic and political concepts and skills. An entire social studies course can be planned around it. ‘Superbly documented with a tutorial provided for teacher and students.’”

“. . . the outstanding programs were clearly rich in recognizable educational goals. . . . Simpolicon© is probably the best example of a program with such richness. Here is a simulation that helps students comprehend the complex relationships between a country’s natural resources, its population of unskilled and skilled workers and the overall well-being of every citizen in that country. In working with the simulation, students come to realize that in order to efficiently harvest rice to feed their country’s population, they must first have the semi-skilled labor to manufacture appropriate machinery. In order to get semi-skilled labor, they must first build schools. In order to build schools, they must have lumber and handtools. In order to make lumber, they must first have forestlands and the ability to produce steel. And so on. The simulation is incredibly complex, but ultimately it asks some of the most basic economic questions that any nation faces: What products and services will be made? Who will make them? Who will get them? And who will decide all of the above.”

From 1983 through 1998, approximately 750 self-published sets of Simpolicon© were sold to schools in 48 states and seven foreign countries and according to the Minnesota State Department of Education in 1987, it was "High-quality course ware.''

In 2006, responding to demands from students and their parents, the Akwaaba Foundation was formed to raise funds for reprogramming SIMPOLICON© so that it can be used on modern computer systems and interactively on the internet.

While students have enjoyed this simulation, and even referred to their work as “playing Simpolicon©,” it is not a game---it is a unique educational tool.

What is Simpolicon© ? It is a simulation of economic development, environmental sustainibility, and international political relations in which teams of students (typically 2-3 on each team) work together to simulate running a country which exists in the real world. It is a realistic portrayal of the complex process and problems of national economic development.

Simpolicon© participants represent individuals within a group within a country. They fill the roles of the economic and political leaders of their respective nations. The simulation starts with each country being given a limited amount of productive resources such as various types of land and mineral deposits, unskilled labor, and hand tools. The students act as their country’s leading economic and political experts, and they must make decisions on how best to use their basic resources. Their goal is to create and maintain a stable, secure country with a well-balanced and sustainable economy.

The students’ decisions determine their national production from agricultural land, mineral deposits, and international trade; the education, health, and happiness of their people; the creation of machines, equipment, and other capital goods; the military security of their country as a whole; and the sustainability of their national economy.

The challenge is to provide for their country’s unlimited economic wants easily and efficiently through advanced economic production. At the same time, however, they must limit pollution and be prepared for natural disasters, military conflicts, and other real-world issues.

How long does the simulation run in the classroom? It has traditionally taken 10 days of classroom time, representing five simulated “years.” In the real world, one of the simulation’s “years” could actually be 20 to 50 years. Each year has taken two classroom hours, although many educators have said it could be used throughout a semester-long course as the basis for stimulating research and analysis of the issues and learning objectives.

What is the object of the simulation? The object of the simulation is ultimately to teach today’s students, who will become tomorrow’s world leaders, how to make good decisions that will help the world develop and maintain a sustainable environment.

This is done by giving the students the opportunity to make choices (as if they were the political and economic experts of their respective nations) that will produce products to keep the citizens of each country alive, give them the opportunity to be educated, stay healthy, and have jobs; to do the necessary international trade transactions for natural resources and products of other nations; to keep the level of pollution caused by each country’s activities to a reasonable level. In doing all of these things, the students learn how their roles as national leaders impact the entire world, and how their decisions and actions related to economic cycles and events, internal development, education, political methodologies, international communications, dispute resolutions, and informed decision-making can be used to promote the welfare of the peoples and nations of the world in a sustainable way, or the opposite.

What are the learning objectives of the simulation? There are a multitude of possible learning objectives, some of which depend upon the choices made by the students; however, at a minimum, the students will have the opportunity to learn each of the following:

  • ATTITUDES. Students may experience a range of attitudes, such as:

  • Blindness to insight
  • Discouragement to excitement
  • Callousness to empathy
  • Ethnocentrism to universalism
  • Competition to cooperation
  • Selfishness to selflessness

  • SKILLS. The simulation puts a premium on the following critical thinking and problem solving skills:

  • Setting goals
  • Making decisions
  • Interpreting and using data
  • Accepting consequences
  • Weighing alternatives
  • Adapting to changed circumstances
  • Reaching consensus

  • CONCEPTS. The simulation develops some of all of the following concepts, depending on
       student ability, teacher/facilitator objectives, and mode of play options:

  • Economic Concepts
  • Absolute advantage
  • Division of labor
  • Acquired advantage
  • Economic growth
  • Allocation
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Balance of trade
  • Factors of production
  • Barter
  • Bilateral trade
  • Labor
  • Birth Rate
  • Land
  • Capital
  • National wealth
  • Comparative advantage
  • Opportunity cost
  • Consumer goods
  • Producer good
  • Death rate
  • Scarcity
  • Depreciation
  • Social overhead capital
  • Political Concepts
  • Conflict Management
  • Militarism
  • Consensus
  • Nationalism
  • Decision-making process
  • Pluralism
  • Majority/Minority
  • Political spectrum
  • Power distribution
  • Social Concepts
  • Achieved status
  • Sanctions
  • Ascribed status
  • Social class
  • Elite
  • Social mobility
  • Norms
  • Stratification
  • Roles
  • Values

  • Open/Download Simpolicon© (.pdf) Brochure