SchoolSims Overview

SchoolSims provides a risk-free environment through software simulations where current and aspiring school leaders, teachers, and counselors can fail as they face difficult situations. Our simulations give participants a unique opportunity to navigate challenging situations without fearing failure. As they face complex scenarios, they can make decisions, implement actions, and witness the consequences within the same exercise. By immersing themselves in these choose-your-own-adventure simulations, participants can accelerate their learning, gaining invaluable experience in a condensed timeframe. It is a transformative journey that cultivates critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, preparing educators to excel.

SchoolSims began as a concept back in 2008 when Ken Spero became an outside faculty member for the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) doctoral program offered by the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at the University of Pennsylvania in association with Wharton. Ken was later introduced to Michael Johanek, the Director of the Mid-Career Program within GSE. Mike worked with principals and superintendents who were increasingly forced to make difficult decisions with little time and resources. Ken’s background in simulations led him to believe that we could capture some of the best practices from the alumni to provide field leaders with purposeful practice on actually making decisions, regardless of the issues. Read More

Preview the SchoolSims Simulation Library

Unlike a training manual or a case study, simulations allow participants to immerse themselves in an environment where they can explore learning objectives. The learning is achieved by enabling users to consider options, make mistakes, and draw conclusions from experience. Therefore, the overall goal of a simulation is not to provide participants with a recipe for effective leadership but to demonstrate to K-12 stakeholders that they need to understand the situation they are facing fully, evaluate it, identify possible responses, and choose the most appropriate solution. In other words, the simulation’s focus is to encourage judgment and conscious competence and identify and correct implicit bias.

The SchoolSims library includes many engaging simulations that create a collaborative environment where current and aspiring school leaders and teachers can improve their critical thinking and judgment skills. Our simulations can be used in both a K12 setting and higher education educational leadership programs.

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Experience Design Process

Our simulations all start with an idea, from the scripting through the filming to the final cuts. We use real-life experiences from people who have gone through them firsthand to teach others. All of our team members put in time and effort during the writing process. Filming must be done flawlessly, which might take up to a day. The editing procedure is carried out to guarantee that what we captured is exactly as we intended. Finally, the construction of a sim is critical. Here is where we bring the story to life.

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Best Practices for Using SchoolSims

Aspiring Leaders need experience as leaders, and SchoolSims provides aspiring leaders relevant experiences that help them grasp the complexity of these leadership roles. Novice Leaders need experience in the intricacies of school leadership, and SchoolSims can provide these experiences in a safe environment. Many district-level leaders find it challenging to provide relevant and engaging professional learning for their Experienced Leaders. Many Teachers have a natural curiosity for what happens when the principal’s door is closed. Teachers who experience SchoolSims tend to come away with a broader perspective of what happens at the building-level, promoting a more positive culture and climate.

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What Are Simulations?

Simulations are a powerful tool for leadership pipeline development and teacher development that are Engaging, Authentic, Realistic, Interactive, and can be used in a Synchronous or Asynchronous manner (both in-person or virtual). Simulations are a series of linked scenarios, in a choose-your-own-adventure format, that capture the challenges of school-based leadership problems of practice that sitting and aspiring leaders can experience in a safe manner so they can fail forward.

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Watch a Facilitated Simulation

Every month, we host webinars in which a thought leader in educational leadership leads a simulation from our SchoolSims Library of Simulations. Schools from all over the country have requested facilitated sessions for their professional development meetings, in which an educational leadership specialist will lead a simulation for them. Having an expert facilitate a simulation encourages debate and allows participants to convey their emotions while participating in the simulation. Past facilitated simulation sessions led by industry leaders from across the country are listed below. Do you want to be a part of one? We hold facilitated sessions almost every month; to see our upcoming events, go to our events page here, or to request a guided session, go to this page here.

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Manufacturing Experiences for School Stakeholders via Simulations

This page will discuss how simulations essentially accelerate time and help to “manufacture experience” for current and aspiring K-12 school leaders and teachers. You will see how simulations improve judgment and decision-making, as well as read comments by those who have benefited from using simulations in professional development and educational leadership programs. Finally, we will discuss how simulations can be used in synchronous vs. asynchronous environments, including remote, virtual learning. We hope you take the time to read this page and benefit from its content.

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EdSurge Product Index


SchoolSims Leadership
Brian Biddulph-Krentar | Chief Executive Officer

Brian is a proven executive and respected leader. He has founded three companies based on product ideas he felt he could bring to market. Brian has been involved in education technology for the past 10 years.

Before joining SchoolSims, Brian was the CEO of Magnus Health, which was acquired in April 2019. As a 4-time CEO and former Chief Strategy Officer and Vice President of Product, Brian has significant experience in business core competencies.

When not working, Brian likes to play soccer and coach his two children. He also enjoys mentoring other entrepreneurs.

Ken Spero | President & Co-Founder

Ken is an avid believer in the adage that Experience is the Best Teacher and for over 30 years has been utilizing computer-based simulations to allow professionals to safely learn from decision-making mistakes around some of the most challenging Problems of Practice. For the past six years, Ken has been focused on the challenge of the “Silent Crisis of Leadership in K-12” working to enhance leadership capacity and improve critical thinking amongst school administrators.

Ken is originally from Cleveland, OH but has spent his sims career in the Philadelphia area, specifically in Bala Cynwyd. He earned his MBA from Columbia Business School.

James Allen | Lead Simulation Developer

James has been designing and implementing simulations as part of a blended learning solution for over 20 years. James works with a very creative group that partners with educational practitioners to create high-impact, leadership simulations.

Originally from Allentown PA, James now lives downstream in the Philadelphia area where he earned a BA at Temple University prior to an MS in Instructional Technology upstate at Bloomsburg University. A proud dad of two teenagers, he enjoys spending time with his kids engaging in Philadelphia’s rich cultural offerings, as well as hiking and biking on local trails.

Advising Team & Strategic Partners
Dr. Michael C. Johanek | Co-Founder & Advisor

Dr. Johanek is a Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Education (GSE), University of Pennsylvania, where he is also Director of the Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership; Co-Director of the Inter-American Educational Leadership Network; founding Director of the Penn Educational Leadership Simulations (PELS) Program; and affiliated faculty for the International Educational Development Program, and Education, Culture and Society Division. He teaches as Profesor Invitado Internacional at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Before coming to Penn in the spring of 2007, he served as Vice President of Professional Services for Teachscape, a for-profit blended technology services company, where he managed all service engagements nationally. He is the former Executive Director for K-12 Professional Development, College Board, where he managed programs supporting over 500,000 middle and high school teachers, college faculty, coordinators, and administrators, including those involved in the Advanced Placement Program. He founded, developed, and managed a program development and operations department with responsibilities including new product development, in-person training, web services, electronic and print publications, regional office operational support, marketing, and research. A former high school teacher in Cleveland, New York, and Lima, Peru, he taught in and managed the Fellows in Teaching Program and Urban Fellow Program at Teachers College, Columbia University prior to joining the College Board.

There is much more to Dr. Johanek’s journey, which you can read here.

Dr. David De Jong | Advisor

David De Jong, Ed.D., is the Dean of the College of Education at Dakota State University. Previously, he was an Associate Professor and Chair of the Division of Educational Leadership in the School of Education at the University of South Dakota. He taught graduate online and hybrid courses and chairs doctoral dissertation committees. In the past few years, he was awarded the University of South Dakota School of Education Teaching in Excellence Award and the Research in Excellence Award. His research agenda includes 25 published peer-reviewed journal articles about educational leadership, innovations in PreK-12 education, mentoring, and innovations in technology for teaching in PreK-20 education. He is currently the President of the International Council of Professors of Educational Leadership (ICPEL). His previous experience includes serving as a teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent.

Dr. Patrese A. Mason | Partner

Known to her educational clients as the Superintendents’ Chief ConsultantTM, Dr. Mason went from aging out of foster care and being homeless to being a successful principal and consulting superintendents.

With twenty years of proven experience in public education, she was selected as an administrator for elementary, middle, high schools within rural, suburban and urban settings. Today, as an international speaker, educational consultant, coach and full time CEO of the Dr. Patrese A. Mason, LLC, she supports departments of education, and districts in preparing principals and educators for equity and excellence. She utilizes a five-prong proprietary model known for results in decreasing staff turn-over, increasing student achievement, and building leaders’ endurance.

Dr. Mason packs a phenomenological and inquiry-based approach when building the capacity of educational leaders. She develops others starting with her personal lived experiences as a child and practitioner through the lens of an equity-based model. She knows that experience is the best teacher and has found that SchoolSims allows for leaders to gain rich experience risk-free. Her services and those of SchoolSims can work in alignment to provide districts and universities the full-solution to create a powerhouse preparation program – the result: Qualified, equity-based, student-focused, excellent educational leaders ready to serve.

Client Breakdown
Schools & Districts

Now more than ever, schools need capable, visionary leaders and teachers to manage increasingly diverse schools in our ever-changing, ever-challenging world. School and school district leaders have extraordinary responsibilities to satisfy multiple and distinct stakeholders while they constantly face new challenges.

Higher Education

The most effective Educational Leadership Development Programs provide students with the conceptual tools and professional preparation to become accomplished school leaders. Successful, capable leaders must develop the critical problem-solving skills necessary to positively influence their classrooms’ educational practice and manage the diverse demands of the overall communities in which they serve.

Associations, Support Agencies, DOE & COE

Current and aspiring leaders require leadership experience, and SchoolSims helps to manufacture relevant experiences that help current and future school leaders appreciate the complexities of these responsibilities. Our simulations can be used during synchronous sessions, including mentorship programs, in-person or virtual, and asynchronously.

Client Map