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Posts tagged ‘video games’

Gaming the Past: Using Video Games to Teach Secondary History

It’s one of my favorite times of the year. I mean, it’s not Christmas or the first four days of the NCAA basketball tournament or the magical three consecutive days in Kansas when it’s 75 degrees and there’s no wind. But it’s pretty close.

It’s MACE. I really enjoy this annual Kansas tech conference ritual. Great sessions. Great people. Great venue. And the best part of MACE 2014 last week? I got the chance to lead a conversation with a full room of folks about using video games to teach social studies. We spent 45 minutes talking about reasons to use games, ways to use games, and different kinds of games – including the potential of MineCraftEDU, SimCityEDU, and serious games.

And no, 45 minutes is not enough time. It was definitely a tip of the iceberg sort of the thing.

But still a great time. My hope was that people would walk away open to the idea of looking into the idea of using video games and sims as part of their social studies instruction. In Kansas, we continue to push the idea of historical thinking skills and video games can be a huge part of that process.

My sticky idea for the presentation? Rewiring brains is a good thing. It’s how kids learn. And video games can help you rewire the brains of your kids.

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Video games as historical content

Think about it for a minute.

Using video games not just as an instructional tool but as pieces of historical content that students analyze like they would a photograph or primary source. Incorporating sections of games or game trailers or perhaps even an entire game into the learning process with the expectation that kids will learn social studies / historical foundational content from that experience.

Yeah. It’s a little weird.

Even today, with lots of research suggesting a positive impact on learning, many educators have a hard time seeing video games as a legitimate teaching tool. I’ve been pushing the idea of both the use of games as an instructional tool and basic game theory as a way to re-work lesson plan and unit designs for a while now. But the negative view of video games and those who play them dies hard. To think about video games as a valid part of teaching and learning is still a bit uncomfortable.

And so even for me, to think about the idea of using games as actual pieces of evidence that students can pull apart as part of the historical thinking process is something I’m trying to wrap my head around.

But why not? Current video games, and even some older ones, contain huge amounts of historical, geographical, and economic data that we need to find ways to use. I’m flashing back to a conversation I had almost ten years ago with an AP US history teacher from outside Kansas City. He was using the game Medal of Honor to help his students understand the events surrounding D-Day and the impact they had on post-war relationships.

He shared how his students laughed while they watched the first 20 minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan. He knew he needed to find way to create an emotional connection to the historical events. The next year, Read more

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

7 geography games that align to the Common Core

I’ll be honest. I threw that “align to the Common Core” phrase in there to suck in more site traffic. But, hey, you’re already here. You might as well browse through these sweet geography games that really are good for kids.

(Kidding! Common Core and C3 alignments at the bottom of the page!)

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Classroom battlefields, recreating history, and emotional connections

It was a massacre. Bodies lying everywhere, draped over rocks and sprawled in the road. The cries and moans of the wounded loud in our ears. The smell of gun smoke wafting through the air. Other soldiers hiding in ditches and behind trees, yelling instructions at one another.

And then . . . the bell rang and we all went to lunch.

Welcome to my 3rd hour 8th grade American History class sometime in the early 1990s. Before standards or state assessments, and without a clear district curriculum, I could pretty much do whatever I wanted.

And one of the things I wanted was for my kids to understand a bit about how historical battles were fought and how terrible war could be. So during our study of the American Revolution, we recreated the battle of Lexington and Concord.

Kids were assigned roles as British regulars or colonial militia. Tactics were discussed and practiced. We talked about historical context. And we carefully handed out the weapons – left over paper from the teachers’ lounge, wadded up into balls. Each soldier was allowed only so much, based on their role.

The colonial militia was allowed to turn over the desks to act as rocks and trees. British regulars, with red construction paper taped to the chests, had to march down the center of the classroom – surrounded on both sides by over-turned desks and angry Massachusetts farmers.

I would strike 10 or 15 old fashioned matches, blowing them out quickly so the room filled with smoke (pre-smoke alarm days) and the battle was on.

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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.

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