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Posts tagged ‘simulations’

History Nerd Fest 2013 – Minecraft EDU and geography

Yes. It’s that time of year. National Council for the Social Studies conference time. This year? Saint Louis.

History Nerd Fest. Thousands of social studies teachers all in one place, having a great time learning as much as possible in two and half days.

I’ll be trying as best I can to live blog all of the sessions I attend. I’ll also try to align each of the sessions to my C4 Framework. Keep your fingers crossed! I’m usually pretty good for the first day or so but start dragging by Sunday.

And we’re off!

Minecraft to teach geography. Read more

Tip of the Week: SimCityEDU

Yesterday I talked a bit about the pedagogy of video game theory – a little of the hows and whys of how game design can be used to help teachers develop high quality instructional units.

And I promised a practical example of how video games can be embedded into lesson design.

There’s been some buzz from the SimCity people over the last few months about a possible online video game tool. The promise has been that this tool would include an educational-based version of the game and a collaborative network designed just for teachers.

Read more

Gamification in education: Ya got 100 seconds?

I can still remember the exact time and place when I first realized the power of video games in education.

1986. Derby, Kansas school district. Educational Support Center. History / Social Studies stacks.

It was my first year as a teacher. School was scheduled to start in less than a week and I was looking for anything, absolutely anything, that I could use to start the year. Think back to your first year – clueless, stressed, unsure, and in my case, unplanned.

I wanted to start the semester with some sort of activity that helped kids understand not just why we studied history but how we know what we know, the process that historians use to find out what really happened. I couldn’t have articulated it at the time but I was looking for a way to teach kids historical thinking skills.

I wasn’t having much luck. Pre-world wide web and without any of my own resources, I was at the mercy of the stuff stored on Derby’s ESC history stacks. And the stacks did finally come through. I ran across a simple computer simulation simply called Archeology. Designed to run on Apple’s IIE computer, it was a turn-based game that included teacher materials, handouts, and suggestions for integrating the simulation into history instruction.

It was perfect.

Of course, I still had to find an Apple IIE computer that I could use (there were three in the entire building of 1200 students), order copies, plan lessons – you know, actually figure out how to make it work.

Basically, the game asked kids to “dig up” a square of dirt, make sense of what they dug up, and apply that information to figure out what used to be on that particular piece of land. It was a great exercise – for both kids and teacher. I begin to understand, even without knowing it at the time, that kids need to solve problems, not be given answers.

I used that game / simulation for years in a variety of ways and every time, kids were engaged, asked great questions, collaborated with others, and became better problem solvers.

Over the last five years or so, more and more research is proving what I discovered back in Derby – video games are good for kids and excellent learning tools.

I love the idea of using video games as part of education. And I’ve always said that we need to use the theory behind video game development as a way to create lesson and unit plan design.

Game developers are great believers in learning theories and brain research. They know that unless the brain is engaged in lots of different ways, people won’t play the game. If people won’t play the game, the game developers lose money. Educational game researcher James Gee in his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Literacy & Learning says it this way:

Better theories of learning are embedded in the video games many children play than in the schools they attend.

The idea of using game theory as a way to create lessons or to use actual games as learning tools can sometimes be a bit confusing. So an infographic from the Edudemic people that came out over the weekend is incredibly useful. I love it.

Ya got 100 seconds? Check this out:

(Need even more? Browse through some of my video game stuff right here on History Tech and over at Social Studies Central.)

Webby Awards Mean More Cool Goodness for Social Studies

Just a warning. Don’t go to the Webby Awards site unless you have a couple of hours to kill. Seriously. You’re gonna need to budget some time for this.

The Webby Awards highlight excellence on the Internet. Established in 1996 during the Web’s infancy, the Webbys are presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for the best web sites published in a particular year. There are over 100 categories and each category has four to five nominees.

And because they’re all very cool sites, you can quickly and easily get sucked into their web.

Feel free to ignore the Beauty / Cosmetics  and Fashion sections but you can find useful history / social studies stuff in all sorts of categories. Though you can find the excellent PBS site, The Freedom Riders, in the

Virtual Capitol

Education category, the incredibly cool Anne Frank House – Secret Annex 3D is not in a history, education or language arts section at all. You’ll find it in the Cultural Institution section.

Captain John Smith Chesapeake Bay Trail is in the government category. As is the nicely done Architect’s Virtual Capital, with maps, multimedia and great info on Washington, DC.

You can find the useful current events site, Truthdig, in a political blog section. The British Museum’s Time Explorer, a great online game that asks you to travel to Ancient Rome, China or Mexico to retrieve lost artifacts, is in the Game category.

Time Explorer

You get the idea. Lots of stuff all over. And don’t be afraid to explore winners from previous years.

But I’m serious. Don’t go unless you’re really committed.

Two hours.

Minimum.

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Historical reenactments with fingertip control

To be or not to be, that is the question.
Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your ears.

Go on.

You know you want to.

Who can resist the impulse to strike a pose and recite these and other famous lines?

A friend sent me a link highlighting the MasterPuppet Theatre web site and resources. Basically for around $15, you can get everything you need to recreate your own Shakespearean production.

The catch?

Your production will be really tiny. You use fingers puppets and small paper sets to “stage” your plays. Your $15 gets you a 96 page “folio” of scenes, dialogue, backdrops and 60 character cards.

But I started thinking. Maybe social studies teachers could use the very cool finger puppets, sets and props to re-enact actual historical events.

Why not use the cards (and ones your kids create) and sets (and those your kids create) as a way to encourage research and to promote writing skills? What about the Continental Congress of 1776? The Lewis and Clark expedition? Treaty of Versailles? Civil Rights Movement?

Looks fun!

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Mission US – educational AND fun!

For too long, most educational video games seemed to be of the Reader Rabbit variety – colorfully packaged animated worksheets. Writing and coding quality games with high production values and interesting stories was just too expensive.

And forget about good history games. While the Oregon Trail game was okay, history teachers have long been forced to find ways to integrate off-the-shelf games such as Medal of Honor or Civilization III.

But recent improvements in game creation software and internet technology has enabled developers to create some pretty sweet history games. One I’m falling in love with is Mission US.

Created by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Mission US

is a multimedia project featuring free interactive adventure games set in different eras of U.S. history. The first game, Mission 1: “For Crown or Colony?,” puts the player in the shoes of Nat Wheeler, a 14-year-old printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston. As Nat navigates the city and completes tasks, he encounters a spectrum of people living and working there when tensions mount before the Boston Massacre.  Ultimately, the player determines Nat’s fate by deciding where his loyalties lie.

Designed specifically for the educational market and aligned to national standards, the game has extensive teacher materials and resources. Students playing the game will walk away with a solid knowledge of the pre-Revolution period. And for the most part, the game does a good job of engaging kids in thinking and asking questions.

My pet peeve?

For the most part, much of the action doesn’t involve any of the game’s characters. In future missions, the designers need to provide more opportunities for the player to directly interact with other characters and events.

But even given that, Mission US is a great addition to the history game genre. And the best part? It’s free! So play in streaming format or download and play on your hard drive.

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