Company: Kimball Union Academy
Your job title: Chair of History
Quick 1-2 sentence
biography/background of yourself:
secondary school educator with seven children and four
grandchildren. Attended Dartmouth and Harvard.
Q. When did you first start playing Sid Meier’s Civilization?
My son was playing it back in the 90’s and I decided I would try it in a classroom setting. I asked my IT people to help me set it up and they thought I was crazy [for] playing games in the classroom.
Q. When did you realize Sid Meier’s Civilization could be used in the classroom?
[It was] when I saw that my son had developed skills applicable to critical thinking and motor skills that we try to teach at different levels in secondary school.
Q. What kind of obstacles did you face getting Sid Meier’s Civilization into the classroom?
At first, I had to create a project with just one class and keep it under the radar. However, it became popular and the administrators of the school noticed that my AP scores were quite high as well. By the time I began experimenting with freshmen projects, the entire freshmen class were doing the “Civ Project.” [At] my current school, the entire freshmen class has been engaged in the project each year for the last six [years].
Q. Have any of your detractors become supporters?
Over the years, I would say all of them. For many years, either I was ignored or tolerated. Now I’m one of 25 teachers of the future for NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) and many of my projects have been copied and put online [for others to use].
Q. What is the normal students’ reaction to playing Sid Meier’s Civilization as a part of their school work?
Initially there are two predominant reactions - either total intimidation or complete enthusiasm. By the end of the project, all [of them] have realized the value that “playing games” can have on the learning experience.
Q. What is the normal parent reaction to their kids playing Sid Meier’s Civilization as a part of their school work?
Over the years, it took some convincing. Now, the admissions office hopes [that] some classes are playing [Civ] while giving tours because potential students and parents will be impressed.
Q. What are the benefits of using video games in the classroom?
There are many, but some of the most important [are]: students finding out that learning imbeds some of the basics of game fundamentals and if they can carry this over into other studies they’ll be successful; that intrinsic motivation is a powerful tool for incentive; that thinking on the larger scale is the key to any critical thinking process; taking risks is required. There are many more but these are some of the most important. Ironically, I use Facebook and Twitter and get students “where they live.” Although they’ll still socialize with these tools, they will also understand that there’s another dimension to these tools that facilitates their learning as well.
Q. What are some of the down sides of video games being used in the classroom?
It requires patience. I’ve encouraged gamemakers to make it easier for classes and schools to download and use games. Firaxis was extremely supportive of me, and they have been trying to design ways that are facile for the teacher and user. But although there needs to be strict parameters and an analog component, I can’t think of a good reason why games wouldn’t’ be used as another tool in the classroom.
Q. How do you avoid the pitfalls/dangers of video games in the classroom?
I’m not sure that the pitfalls and dangers wouldn’t be due to lack of control or guidelines, and I would imagine that those classes struggle with lack of control regardless of game playing.
Q. There was a question asked of a Miss USA contestant about not being able to find the United States on the map. Can your students find it?
Yes, I’m confident my students can find the US and describe the evolution of scientific and economic process over the last 200 years. They may even tell you the challenges the US has had in detail and describe the shifts in emphasis and structure they would focus on if they were running the country. This is their task in the “Civ Project.”
Q. How often do you and/or your students visit the Family Friendly Gaming website?
I visit quite often. I go there to explore games for different skills and processes.