9.25.2009

Civilization Project - Step 2

I've been using Civilization in a co-teaching project with Mr. Hawkins' World History class for about three weeks now. I think we're approaching the end of our whole class civilization, but it's been interesting. (For those of you not familiar with the game, you can find some more information in a couple of places.)



In most classes (5 in total - two Honors classes and three on-level classes), over half the students are engaged in the progress of the civilization. The most interesting level of engagement has come from the impromtpu debates between students (2 or even more) about what the next choice for our class civilization should be - do we develop a military unit, or one that will improve our cities? Do we research Animal Husbandry to be able to utilize Horses (and therefore faster weapons later), or Bronze Working to build better weapons sooner? Do we declare war on Mongolia, or remain on peaceful terms (at least for now)?


The students seemed to react well to having a teacher (or more of a "game expert") navigate the board itself, and they provide input into the civilization's advancement. However, this method does allow for some students to fade into the background by choosing not to make suggestions. (One could argue that that is no different than in a normal World History classroom, but part of the reason for using this game is to see if it could lend World History appeal to students who aren't otherwise engaged in the classroom...)

As a sign of the modern-video-game times perhaps, almost all of the classes wanted to see some military action. This might have been as drastic as declaring war on a neighbor (although no class actually went so far as to follow through with that desire), or purposely attacking local Barbarians (which sometimes turned out for the worse).

Here are my anecdotal observations from the past three weeks:
  • Students were initially very interested in playing a game in class. It would be a departure from traditional lecture, and perhaps more of a "time-waster" than an actual lesson. That's our primary challenge - structuring the lessons and the use of the game in class to provide some educational benefit.
  • The broader-picture, conceptual nature of the game is starting to be apparent, but only through teacher guidance. It's unclear whether the students are picking up conceptual knowledge on their own.
  • There is definitely a desire for war and action in the game. Across all five classes, comments from students wanted to see at least some combat to have the game "do something." Mr. Hawkins and I agree that this stems mainly from the types of video games that students are used to - turn-based strategy are not in the milieu of most teens.
  • The pace of the game is pretty slow - slower than it should be to effectively hold students' attention. This might be remedied by allowing students to play independently (individually or in small groups) - the only problem with that is having enough copies of the software.
Our next step is to try to give the students a more hands-on experience with the game. We'll let them play in small groups, one group at a time, playing a civilization of their choice in the same game world as the rest of the class.

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