Gaming in the Social Studies Classroom

While I’m not convinced that gaming has a permanent place in the classroom for every student, I do think many students learn very well when playing content-based games or simulations.  There is a lot of research that supports game-based education, but the simple fact of the matter is…gaming does not work well for everyone including students who are “gamers.”  In fact, I would go as far to say that gaming is probably best used as a supplemental tool in most classrooms, which is exactly how I have used content-based games in my classroom in the past.  Perhaps there is a more permanent place for gaming in online environments, but until I see an obvious advancement in gaming for education I am not convinced.

For me personally, in order for gaming to be truly accepted into the class they are going to have to rival the graphics, gameplay, storyline, etc. of today’s entertainment-only games like Madden, Call of Duty, and Angry Birds.  When kids have games like those literally in their pockets 24/7, then the Oregon Trail and the Stock Market Game are just not going to cut it as primary teaching tools in the classroom.  Is there still a place for lower quality games in the classroom? Sure, but until vendors are able to provide games that rival more modern games then I believe gaming will always be a supplemental teaching tool.

With all that said, I do use games from time to time in my class.  I usually use games in Learning Stations that we do in class.  Even the games that do not rival the graphics and story lines of today’s games work well in my classroom when I am teaching a particular topic and I am looking to challenge my students.  The problem lies in the fact that these games are usually only entertaining the first couple of times.  That is why I use the list of games below in Learning Stations because may only have a chance to play the game once or twice depending on time.  Below is a list of games I have used in my classroom to reinforce the content

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 Game – http://games.sunnylandsclassroom.org/Preview/Games/?gameid=1 – The Constitutional Convention game is designed for students to be able to see what it was like to ratify the Constitution.  Students take on the role of one of the state delegates and navigate through the process of writing the Constitution.  Depending on what state they choose determines the level of difficulty in the game.

Mummy Maker – http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/games/mummy_maker/index_embed.shtml – Egyptians are known for mummifying their dead, but a lot more goes into the process than just wrapping up the body.  Parts were removed, things were stuffed, and much more.  In this game, students take on the role of an Egyptian who is in the process of burying a prince.

Pyramid Challenge – http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/games/pyramid_challenge/index_embed.shtml – Egyptians were just as well known for building pyramids.  Pyramids to this day are still some of the most fantastic man-made structures in the world. In this game, students are the project manager for building a pyramid and must decide what to build the pyramids out of, routes to transport goods, and workforce to use to build the pyramids.

Darfur is Dying – http://www.darfurisdying.com/ – (taken directly from their website) Darfur is Dying is a viral video game for change that provides a window into the experience of the 2.5 million refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan. Players must keep their refugee camp functioning in the face of possible attack by Janjaweed militias. Players can also learn more about the genocide in Darfur that has taken the lives of 400,000 people, and find ways to get involved to help stop this human rights and humanitarian crisis.

The Road to Citizenship Game – http://www.history.com/interactives/the-road-to-citizenship-quiz-game – Students take a road trip across the United States as they answer questions about U.S. citizenship, civics, history, and government.  During their trip, students will visit cool monuments, national parks, and other places of historical significance.

The Road to Revolution Game – http://www.pbs.org/ktca/liberty/road.html (taken directly from website) Test your knowledge about the American Revolution, and see if you can navigate your way to independence. Every correct answer gets you closer to liberty!

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3 comments

  1. What about the idea of allowing gaming to inform the design and style of the classroom? This mostly focuses on content-based games for the classroom, i.e. the game as an addition to the classroom, rather than the idea of the gaming style environment. You mention simulations, but you don’t really address how that plays into your view of gaming in the classroom. I’d love to hear more! I wrote about game informed learning environment in classrooms for my post this week. Check it out (http://makeofmyself.blogspot.com/2012/10/game-informed-learning-and-rpgs.html).

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