Agent-based modeling described by Van Lehn would be important to incorporate when having students model Zika. It should be highly effective because creating such a model requires students to tell the computer “how to think”, indicating that they acquired a deep understanding of the process. However, it is necessary to properly scaffold the modeling activity so that students do not rely on poor problem solving strategies when constructing the model. For example, students may construct a large model before ever testing it, and then wonder why it does not work. It is therefore important to provide students with “meta-tutoring” - guidance and feedback that focus on process and not just domain knowledge (pg. 391).
In addition, students need support in learning the modeling language itself; using a completely unfamiliar language to model a phenomenon may become frustrating (it would feel similar to being asked to write a story in a foreign language). The modeling language is thus “non-trivial for students to learn” (pg. 388), and scaffolds should be in place to support students’ understanding of the modeling language.
Finally, when creating a model of Zika, students should be supported in decomposing the system into separate parts “so that one can focus on one subsystem while temporarily ignoring the rest of the system” (pg. 393). This is often a skill that students need to practice in modeling, as it is very tempting to create a complicated model without testing the validity of the individual components.