Sunday, July 27, 2008

Games and social foundations classes?

I've been pondering how to engage students in an asynchronous class this fall, and I'm going to take a turn trying a game (that I've audaciously named Strata because, well, it starts out with a straightforward stratification focus). I may well fall flat on my face, but there's a deeper question: what are the possibilities for using games or simulations in social foundations classes? My interest here is in generating discussion about the game (and the meta-gameplay I'll plan for partway through the semester), but there are other purposes that could be served by such activities. We create a simulated case for our multi-section undergrad social foundations class, and both my colleagues and I have run one- or two-class simulations.

But those are in my limited experience. If you've taught social foundations, have you used simulations or games, and in what structures?


A. G. Rud said...

Indeed, Sherman, I have only given some thought to games in a social foundations class. I got a grant several years ago to rework my undergraduate class, and I built into it a visit to chat with Jim Gee, now at ASU but previously at Madison. Alas, all I did was have a website constructed and some "webquests" done. But I am interested to hear about this, won't be teaching at all this fall due to new assignment.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the students should develop a game that simulates professors teaching social foundations classes. Now that would be something.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

A fascinating question that I wish I had better answers to. I could see using simulations for such topics as educational funding, charter schools, or whether magnet schools benefit democracy. What would be really interesting would be to have a group of foundations students CONSTRUCT such a game.

In a similar vein, I have been a fairly active user of Second Life, a Multi-User Virtual Environment, which is ideal for the creation of simulations, although I don't think beginners at using SL could construct them easily. However, if someone familiar with SL were to set the parameters of a simulation or game, and then provide scaffolding for the learners to gradually participate, it could be quite exciting. I would be happy to participate in such an experiment; just haven't had time to make it happen with one of my own (quite rare these days) foundations classes. (I'm currently teaching mostly technology in education.)

Here are a couple of links to simulations/games that are used for teaching/learning in Second Life:

See also:

Craig A. Cunningham said...

Dear Anonymous:

Or perhaps it would be fun to create a simulation of how, when people write a blog about serious educational policy issues, one of the minor annoyances is always the sniping from the sidelines by people with opinions but not the courage to take ownership for them. Perhaps we could build in some kind of system of points for eventually convincing such anonymous commenters to find something more productive to do.

Sherman Dorn said...


Constructing a game (e.g., using Inform 7 as the base for text games) would be an interesting challenge for students to demonstrate their knowledge of something. I know of one secondary teacher who has tried it with students. If faced with a choice between asking students to climb the learning curve of constructing a game and climbing the learning curve of the course content (however you want to define that), I'd choose the latter. One exception might be game modding. The Values at Play website has some ideas for guiding thinking about game structure.

I have similar concerns about the tradeoffs involved in using SecondLife. SL is computing-intensive, and for social foundations classes, I don't think it's currently worth the time/headache it would require for students (or faculty).

Anonymous said...

Craig ... If you think it would be fun to simulate what you find of minor annoyance, go ahead, although increasing your level of annoyance seems like an odd notion of fun.

Mike said...

Asynchronous classes is a innovative idea here the pupils can have a array of learning as well as be part of the curriculum.

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doug said...

As a teacher for middle school children, I don't qualify to speak for the proper teaching methods of undergrads. However, I can tell you that straying from the traditional and "spicing up" the classroom with a little computer software is a welcome break for students. My classroom often turns to critical thinking question games like Thinkin' Things Collection 3 software that I get at or the Learning Company. The open ended questions often stimulate a much needed class discussion on the topic of choice. I can't say that Thinkin' Things would be age appropriate for a College sophomore, but a student is a student and I guarantee yours will breathe a sigh of relief and you'll get more eye contact as soon as you have then close their textbooks.