Gossip Simulation

DiScoro writes about inquiry-based learning, digital resources, and ways to encourage higher-order thinking. We focus on STEM education and the use of technology.

The Gossip Simulation shows how fast gossip spreads through a group of a hundred people. The simulation enables the user to change the number of people that start to spread a message. Besides the variable number of initial processes (= number of people) there is the variable message loss. The value behind message loss can be attributed to different factors. It could for example be based on the percentage of the people that is not likely to pass on the message.

After the students have familiarised themselves a little with the simulation, you as a teacher could discuss what (other) reasons may lie behind the variable message loss.
The value will be different when the message is a secret and when people are being asked to keep the secret, than when the message contains interesting but harmless information. The value of message loss will also vary in different groups . Some people may be too busy, ill, travelling and are therefore not communicating intensively within the group for a while. There are more factors that could influence the value of message loss.

To explore the simulation students could be asked technical/mathematical questions such as:

  • How many rounds does it take before everyone has got the message with x processes and a message loss of y?
  • Why is the outcome not exactly the same if you run the program several times with the same values for the variables?
  • Can you calculated/estimate the amount of rounds it takes? Explain how and what you did?
  • How could you extrapolate to a thousand people, or to the whole population?

The simulation could be used to discuss group behaviour in real life and on social media. Also topics related to safety/security systems based on communication could be discussed. Warnings about oncoming disasters (tyfoon, floods, earthquakes, pollution etc.) and messages related to evacuations need to reach as many people in a short timespan.

Additional questions for students could be:

  • Considering different scenarios, what could the rounds represent? (minutes, hours, days, weeks ….)
  • When is rounds more likely to be days than minutes?
  • If you want to prevent a message to spread on Facebook, how could you prevent or stop this?
  • What else could this model represent? (spread of warning, spread of a disease, spread of a product, ….)
  • Could you come up with a better name for the simulation.
  • If the police wishes to spread a warning as fast as possible, how could they best go about it?
  • In what way could you use this model to visualise a disease from spreading too fast?

Proposed age group: grade 5-10.

 Purchase  Free
 Hardware  PC, iPad
 Requirements  Browser
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