An Interesting Simulation

Currently I am taking not one but two education classes at the university. One, most obviously, is education 222, but the other, not as well known is education 462 about the Arab-Israeli conflict. This course takes “simulation” to a completely different level.

Simulation, as we have spoken about in class, is video game based with an emphasis on real events. Now this is similar to what we do in EDUC 462, but with a spin on the “game” theory. This is not a traditional video game simulation as many know and play daily, but in fact it is an educational conflict simulation connecting college students to high school students.

What we do in this class is serve as a “mentor” for high school students who are assigned to a nation and, more specifically, a diplomat who they will be portraying throughout the simulation. The students begin by providing an overall statement of the goals of the nation, and our job as mentors is to provide feedback to the students, providing them with points of emphasis and places to learn.

Throughout the simulation the mentors and diplomats converse back and forth regularly while depicting actual events in a simulated world. The educational experience is unbelievable and is something that is invaluable to these students in high school who have a college student mentoring them.

I highly recommend this class to anyone who has an interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as those who are interested in how simulations are used in classroom activities.

Love and Video Games

While doing some random surfing of the net, mainly via stumbleupon.com, I came across an interesting article that especially is relevant to the festivities of Valentines Day. As the article states, “Valentine’s Day is the time for couples to show how much they mean to each other, but when most couples are dining at fancy restaurants or cuddling at the movie theater, some of us just want to stay at home and play video games with the person that makes us the happiest.”

Here is the list of the top 8 video games that couples should play together on the big V Day.

-Splinter Cell: Conviction

I know, shocking to me as well, but it appears that this game involves great amounts of teamwork and is perfect for those couples who feel that their skills in gaming match up well.

-Blur

Sexy cars, hot car on car action, make this game a perfect one for those who desire some fast paced action with their partner, or partners as you can play split screen with multiple players.

-Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

No words necessary for this one. Kind of a dark and demented message. But then again, this is a pretty weird list as it is.

-Saint’s Row 2

Interestingly enough, the question they ask about this one is “Do you and your sweetheart share a fondness for beating up hookers, spraying the town with feces or pimping out cars so you can run over pedestrians in style? If you answered yes then I highly suggest giving Saint’s Row 2 a go as it provides all that and so much more.” Once again, no words necessary.

-Resident Evil 5

Not only does this game incorporate teamwork, it also provides for some fun role-play after gaming is completed.

-LittleBigPlanet 2

Fun, friendly, simple, this game is especially perfect for the partner who is not a big gamer. The maps and ability to pick out the ensemble of the “Sackboy” or “Sackgirl” will lead to endless hours of fun.

-Rock Band 3

I mean, who doesn’t want to spend a romantic evening rocking out to some of your favorite songs with the one you love.

And last but not least…

-Dead Space 2

These words were just too good not to quote. “They say horror movies are the ultimate aphrodisiac, so assuming that rule also applies to video games, that would make Dead Space 2 the skeleton key to your other half’s lower regions. Just light some candles and cozy up on the couch for some raunchy strategic dismembering action. Or, if you have Extraction and a partner that’s willing to brave the Necromorph filled halls of the USG Ishimura than that could be just as fun. Just make sure they know what they’re getting into.”

So there you have it. If you have that special someone and are looking for something to do next year around this time, look no further. Video games are the answer to your prayers. Enjoy gaming, responsibly of course.

A New and Improved Classroom

I just recently read an interesting article that discussed the effect that video games has had on students interest in certain topics. The article, “Let the Games Begin: Entertainment meets Education” written by Jenn Shreve, begins with an anecdote of a western civilization class in which many of the students had to repeat due to prior failure. This new class, however, students were coming in “armed with strategies to topple colonial dictators” and “kids who didn’t know Pompeii from Plymouth Rock were suddenly mapping out the borders of the early Roman Empire.” The teacher notes that the reason for this newfound interest and success is directly due to Sid Meier’s Civilization III, a best-seller in the computer game industry.

The article then dives into what we have already spoke about in class, that there are not many, if any at all, truly successful video games that can be used to direct a class. There are software programs available, but a majority of those programs are unsuccessful and are very costly.

How to approach this problem?

One way researchers decided to approach this issue was not to develop games for students to use in the classroom, but instead have those students design the games themselves. One might see this as an extreme tactic, saying “how can you ever expect a student to design their own game unless they have background in that field.” Interestingly enough, this method was used on a fourth grade math class. The students were provided with some basic design software, and were told to develop a program that would help solve fractions. What the students didn’t realize was that an underlying motive of this method was that multiple skills were being developed. Those students were not only learning about fractions, they were also developing their computer skills.

River City

This article continues on to talk about something called River City. What River City is is a “Multi-User Virtual Environment for Learning Scientific Inquiry and 21st Century Skills.” In other words, River City is a simulation, with a video game feel, that incorporates information from many prominent scientific resources.

Quite simply, River City is a town that has been plagued by illness. The way the simulation works is students are broken into teams and are sent to explore, interact, and create hypotheses as to why the illness has occurred. Each time the simulation is run, it is followed by a teacher led discussion and therefore students can analyze what they experienced in a more formal setting. Eventually, at the conclusion of the simulation, the groups will present their hypotheses to the class, of which there are multiple correct answers (similar to Scot Osterweil’s reward for effort).

In conclusion, this article emphasizes the necessity for video games in the classroom, but not as a complete substitution. Like River City, video games that are educational should supplement traditional teaching methods. An important aspect of these games, as we’ve discussed before is used to close the article:

“And if everyone has a little fun along the way, better yet.”

Sources:

http://www.edutopia.org/let-games-begin

http://muve.gse.harvard.edu/muvees2003/index.html

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