Teacher Develops Game To Make History Interesting

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vansau:

Formica Archonis:
So.... End of the road, huh, Vansau? Your stuff's been good reading. Will we be seeing you somewhere else around the net?

Yeah, I'll still kick around the forums. I got a new job at Inside Social Games, so you can find me there on Monday. Thanks for the kind words!

WHaaaaaaa your leaving? since when?

Having been brought up on a diet of Civilization, Stronghold and Age of Empires, I can honestly say that my knowledge of history is much the better for gaming!

Really think this teacher should publish the game. Wouldn't mind shootin' me some redcoats. Being Scottish, its my natural state of mind :)

I would like to see a adventure like game where you can wonder around the whole thirteen colonies and talk to people. You have a job to do, somehow america lost the war for independence and you have to figure out how. You have been sent by Chrononouts to correct the historical time line. It should take to major historical events during the war and let you make changes to see how they would have worked out. It would encourage people to look up the answers else where and they force them to repeat them many times to complete the goal in the end. Hell you can put in the fetch quests and sell it as an MMO.

What? History isn't bor-

Oh, right. You guy only get American history.

Shame. It's very monotonous. Just war after war. And there's barely any of it.

Anyway, I suppose that could be an okay idea. As long as EA and the likes don't get their hands on it, that is.

Heh. I can imagine poor Van Dunk freezing his ass off at Valley Forge, counting the days until his enlistment's up.

Only a week until the New Year and he can go home and forget this stupid war. But what's this? Marching orders in the middle of winter? Can't General Washington just admit it's over and give up with some dignity? But no, now we gotta have one last hurrah so he can look tough in front of the bloody useless Congress. Damn it George!

Redryhno:

Darth_Dude:

uzo:
I have two words for you all.

Oregon Trail.

Hell, I'm not even American and I still love that game and the history of the whole Manifest Destiny, westward-ho kinda thing. It sounds incredibly adventurous and, despite the dangers and the hardship, it is the kind of thing I would attempt were I alive at such a time.

Imagine it - travelling a looooong road, through barely known lands, past treacherous rivers and perilous mountain passes. At the end, the opportunity to stake a claim in a new world; to provide for your family and your descendants. To, essentially, establish a new country.

Don't forget murdering all the Natives and stealing their land. :)

Hey,hey, we never murdered anyone, they just refused to move and we exercised a more aggressive form of eminent domain.

I see what you did there....

There's no other subject I suck up more than history. I breezed through AP Euro and AP US History without much of an effort and I'm doing the same with Government (although that isn't really history). I was thinking of majoring or minoring in that for college.

The whole problem with learning that period in American History is not that it's uninteresting, it's that we were taught that same period every single year from like 4th grade on. It is boring because people get tired of hearing the same stories over and over again. The shit part is that it's always taught so poorly, it may as well be new every year.

History is made boring up until we are taught history other than American history. That is the problem.

I think this is a really good idea. Mainly because, if the kid's learn anything from it, it's that history isn't a simple case of good guys versus bad guys as is portrayed in popular history. I dare say there are some pop history text books which portray the American Revolution as something which all Americans united under the hero George Washington against the wicked British- as is the way with how history is imagined. With this learning program, with kids saying they would have fought with the loyalists, shows them how history is lot more complicated than how they otherwise may have been taught.

Baresark:
The whole problem with learning that period in American History is not that it's uninteresting, it's that we were taught that same period every single year from like 4th grade on. It is boring because people get tired of hearing the same stories over and over again. The shit part is that it's always taught so poorly, it may as well be new every year.

History is made boring up until we are taught history other than American history. That is the problem.

In Britain we have the opposite problem, we have more history than we know what do with so massive and vital chunks are left out of the history curriculum. You occasionally get threads here asking what Brit's think about the American war of independence/war of 1812- and the answer is always not much, we simply aren't taught about those wars.

And after reading that article I realize that the Escapist needs a like button!

I might be a bit sore that i had to learn about history in a dry text book, but i think this is an awesome teaching tool! I hope more teachers use it!

Waaghpowa:
History needed to be more interesting than it is now? Boy do I sound like a nerd...

I agree wholeheartedly my friend, and all it takes to make history interesting for those who think it isn't is a good teacher. Honestly, the only reason I like history as much as I do is that I had a great teacher for it.

Thaliur:
Interesting idea, but the real question is: Can this game also manage to make history relevant?

This is pretty much what I was going to say. While other classes at least have a use up to a point, History (along with Gym) has no relevance to practically everybody. How many people are going to get a job involving history? Next to none, and those few that do go to College to learn what they actually need for said job.

OT: This game reminds me of Oregon Trail, Number Munchers, those games I played back in Elementary. From my experience with those I can tell you, turning a class subject into a video game doesn't really teach people anything unless it has practical application. In fact, nobody learns anything unless whatever they're being taught has practical application on a frequent basis. I can barely remember ANYTHING about the Revolutionary War or any other history subject anymore, and that's because I have no reason to remember it.

I remember my history teacher did this with WW2. He split the students into various countries (I was Russia... Fuck yeah!), gave them all stats (like army and navy strength, resources, etc.), and said that if we can resolve the situation without going to war we can get 100% in the class...

Unfortunately, it was set up so it was impossible to not go to war. the conditions for each countries "victory-through-peace" were inter tangled enough so, although not obvious, no one could be attained without violating another. Afterwards however, he just let us have a war to see who would win! The British-Russian forces decimated the world through trickery, deceit and (presumably) the black arts...

damn, i wish my teacher would come up with this idea over 10 years ago, but the problem is, he is a damn pacifist and would not even allow any kind of violence. doesnt matter if its history or not.

what about the age of empire games? i have learned a lot from them. especially AoE 2.

Waaghpowa:
History needed to be more interesting than it is now? Boy do I sound like a nerd...

I second this.

vansau:

Formica Archonis:
So.... End of the road, huh, Vansau? Your stuff's been good reading. Will we be seeing you somewhere else around the net?

Yeah, I'll still kick around the forums. I got a new job at Inside Social Games, so you can find me there on Monday. Thanks for the kind words!

We shall miss you on this site, take care and good luck!

OT: Kudos to him for the endeavour, I'd love to see more follow suit.

These games can be fun, one of the moral choices I remember most from a game was in one of such game.

immortalfrieza:

Thaliur:
Interesting idea, but the real question is: Can this game also manage to make history relevant?

This is pretty much what I was going to say. While other classes at least have a use up to a point, History (along with Gym) has no relevance to practically everybody. How many people are going to get a job involving history? Next to none, and those few that do go to College to learn what they actually need for said job.

OT: This game reminds me of Oregon Trail, Number Munchers, those games I played back in Elementary. From my experience with those I can tell you, turning a class subject into a video game doesn't really teach people anything unless it has practical application. In fact, nobody learns anything unless whatever they're being taught has practical application on a frequent basis. I can barely remember ANYTHING about the Revolutionary War or any other history subject anymore, and that's because I have no reason to remember it.

General knowledge is fairly important to most jobs. Most history classes actually have a hidden importance. They teach you how to do research and develop your ability to think in different ways. So is knowing why the American revolution was fought particularly relevant, no. Is understanding how to look at various events and seeing different variables beyond the obvious useful, of course. I can't remember the exact numbers but most successful CEOs actually have a background in the humanities rather than business, since it allows them to think outside the limitations of the business models that are drilled into them.

In sum: an accountant will know how to crunch numbers, but no necessarily the reason why hes doing it.

This sound awesome! History cant be taught as just dates and names, you have to create stories that have some context and that students can related to, or at least find interesting. Minor historical point though: the idea that many loyalists in New Jersey joined out of fear of being killed by the British is rubbish, more American colonists were killed, beaten and coerced by the Continental forces than by the British, who knew how badly they needed to retain American public support.

dobahci:
Teachers are always thinking that they have to make dry subjects interesting for students, but it's completely the wrong view.

If they view the subject as dry, then naturally that's what's going to get communicated to them. They need to have passion for the subject. Then it's not so much a matter of making the subject interesting as it is just a matter of showing students how interesting the subject already is.

Having said that, I think this is a wonderful idea.

I disagree, it doesn't matter how passionate the teacher is if the students find it boring. It's like listening to a fanboy chatter on about their favorite videogame franchise that you have no interest in. Therefore it's the teacher's job to MAKE the subject interesting for the students.

uzo:
I have two words for you all.

Oregon Trail.

I have heard about that game for years now, but I've yet to either see or play it. Mostly because I can't be bothered to look it up.

I think that this guy should continue making games like this. Who knows, maybe one day a majority of schools will be using his games to teach instead of doing it the old fashioned way.

Gatx:
I disagree, it doesn't matter how passionate the teacher is if the students find it boring. It's like listening to a fanboy chatter on about their favorite videogame franchise that you have no interest in. Therefore it's the teacher's job to MAKE the subject interesting for the students.

I think that's misunderstanding just how much influence teachers have over their students.

Students are young and pliable. What they find interesting is partially inherent, but it's also partially based upon what they see around them. Peer pressure, environmental factors. If a school has beautiful athletic facilities and a really rundown, shitty-looking, ill-equipped chemistry lab, which will the student tend to gravitate towards? Between science and athletics, it'll be pretty obvious to the student which is considered a higher priority for the school, and more worthy of respect, prestige, and funding.

The issue I think isn't so much one of some subjects being inherently boring as that schools often create an environment in which students are basically taught to think of those subjects as boring.

I come at this from the perspective of someone who has privately tutored math and science to college athletes, and heard them say, "Wow, this math stuff isn't all that hard after all, and some of it is even interesting! Why didn't any of my teachers ever show me this?"

Dastardly:

vansau:
Choosing Sides sounds like a great way to make history interesting for students, and it also doesn't sound like Allocco is finished making educational videogames. The man has stated that he wants to create more games that put students in "key moments" of American history.

It's a neat way to get kids thinking about the issues... but two days is a lot of time to spend on such a small part of the material.

Now, I think it's good what he's done, sure. It makes a nice lead-in to a unit on the American Revolution... but we shouldn't confuse something like this with "teaching," in the same way we shouldn't confuse flavor with nutrition.

I think what this should show people is that, while beneficial, it's simply not the most efficient use of time. This isn't something that is sustainable for long-range instruction, as long as we're still expected to deliver the same horrifically bloated curriculum. We would need 500 days a year to cover it all at this pace.

I foresee a lot of people pointing to this as an example of how teachers should "change their methods." I see it being used more to criticize teachers than to look at the total situation. But teachers aren't the ones making the bad decisions right now. Some things to keep in mind:

1. Teachers are often paralyzed by the weight of the "standard course of study." Why should 5th graders know what a dodecagon is? Why do 6th graders need to learn the nitrogen cycle? They shouldn't, but we have to teach it, and that's time we lose reinforcing more relevant and useful stuff. We're forced to teach "a mile wide, but an inch deep."

2. The standard course of study is set by the test, despite the assurance that it's the other way around. And we don't write the tests. We don't even get asked. Multiple choice? Worst way to measure learning... but it's quick and easy to grade, as well as cheaper, so that's what is pushed on us.

3. Areas like history are still, by and large, not tested. Thankfully, that gives them a little more flexibility (for now) to innovate. That should be the lesson: when you give teachers control over what and how they teach, they do great stuff.

4. It would be just as wrong to force this method on every classroom, too. Our problem in education right now is that as soon as a higher-up notices something that works for one person in one classroom, they immediately begin over-applying it to everyone -- the belief seems to be that there are a million ways to learn, but only one way to teach (somehow).

I think you would appreciate this lecture.

OT: I personally love history (see the hours Ive clocked into the Total War/Civilization series), and I would definitively like to try out this game if I ever get the chance.

NewYork_Comedian:
I think you would appreciate this lecture.

OT: I personally love history (see the hours Ive clocked into the Total War/Civilization series), and I would definitively like to try out this game if I ever get the chance.

Oh, I definitely agree with a lot of what he has said here. The odds of us getting a ground-up reform of education are pretty slim, but it could be a huge help. For one, I'm a huge proponent of gutting the curriculum.

Now, I do believe there is a certain amount of basic knowledge that should be common to everyone who finishes school. (Those that do not believe so are simply taking a lot of that knowledge for granted, because they don't remember what it feels like not to have it.) The world isn't full of tutorials, so there's a certain amount of basic capability within certain subject areas that each person should have.

I just happen to believe it's about 25% of what we currently try to cram in there. As a for instance: The quadratic formula is very useful in Algebra... but can you think of any instance in which 95% of the world would use this? I can't. And knowing that formula didn't make me any "smarter" or more "productive" as a worker, either. Cut it.

The notion of "literary classics" is another tricky one. What makes Romeo and Juliet interesting is its cultural impact... but do students have to read the entire play to understand that? Do they need to grasp the finer points of iambic pentameter in order to find modern, familiar stories based on the same basic plotline as this "classic?" No. Cut it (partially).

See, there are two big problems with our current curriculum model:

1. We decided kids needed to know X facts by the time they leave high school, where X is about three to five times the actual number.

2. We decided that the 13 year curriculum is best paced by teaching "X / 13" facts per year, resulting in some concepts getting shortchanged, while others are being taught at developmentally inappropriate stages.

We could cut out 75% of the facts we try to teach kids. And instead, teachers like me could spend all of that newly-found time teaching skills instead. We could spend more time in math class making sure Timmy understands why 5 X 4 = 20, rather than just knowing it as a discrete fact. And by doing that, we're laying a framework in Timmy's mind so that, if he so chooses, he can learn more advanced math much faster later on.

Now, where I disagree with some of the suggestions being made are when they start to buck the system too much. For instance, the lecturer wonders why kids are group by age, insisting that it's just a convenient mathematical sorting device. Perhaps a bit, yes, but one also has to consider that kids of different ages are developmentally different, separate from their academic performance. You might have a kid who's sixteen, six feet tall, and ridiculously immature -- do you want him in the same room as your four-year-old?

(This is especially true given the huge push in the lecture for "group learning.")

School is about teaching kids how to learn -- that is, how to seek and acquire knowledge for themselves. Right now, we're in "give a man a fish" mode, when we need to be in "teach a man to fish" mode. On that, I can wholeheartedly agree.

HOWEVER.

The other extreme is this misconception that kids will always "enjoy learning." Fact is, they can't and they won't. Learning is an uncomfortable process. It will have its ups and downs. There will be things kids don't want to do, and there will always be things they would rather be doing. We can't fall into the trap of trying to "make learning fun" all the time, because it doesn't work and it's not good for them.

Real work and real life aren't always fun, and kids need to learn how to maintain focus and responsibility in not-fun environments. And they will learn that... either the easy way (in school) or the hard way (when the world mercilessly beats them with that fact). I'd prefer to spare them that by making sure they get started early on.

It is a child that bases the value of a thing based on how fun it is or isn't. And adult bases the value of a thing on how useful or effective it is. Our job is to turn children into adults. So that means we need to wean kids off of the "fun-only" diet and gradually onto a more realistic "work first, play later" model.

As for me? I teach band. One of the arts. However, it's not the carefree, freewheeling "exploration" that people seem to think it is. People misunderstand how it works. It's not like "coloring time." It's more like "flight lessons":

Flying a plane can be very liberating, a feeling of complete freedom. However, there are some necessary skills a person needs to correctly and safely use an aircraft... and these skills aren't open to interpretation and individual taste. Now, once you have those skills, choosing where and when to fly are up to you... but the process of acquiring those skills is not as free and open.

People have trouble understanding that this is how teaching an instrument works. You can't just read a pamphlet and know how to play trumpet. There are muscles that need developed, listening skills that are important, and reading/understanding musical notation is a must. Why? So that the child can then choose music for themselves, and actually be able to use their freedom. At first, though? Not free.

That kind of encapsulates the current problem in education for me. We don't collectively understand what we should be teaching (HINT: Teachers do.), and so we don't recognize that we're building the wrong machine for the job that needs done (and for the "fuel" that we have -- the kids). Instead of changing the machine, we're adding bits and bobs on that alter the "fuel" to fit the machine, and we change the goal so that the result is what we want.

Let the teachers run things for once, and you'll see that change. We're experts on teaching and learning, and we're aching to use all that knowledge.

That actually sounds really interesting. It's good that the teacher's doing something to keep the students engaged.

Guffe:

Waaghpowa:
History needed to be more interesting than it is now? Boy do I sound like a nerd...

I don't think it needs to be made any more interesting either.

I don't know about America but in Finland 90% of the students love history.
I don't know if it's about the fact that USA is such a big country and has been involved in most things happening and therefor they only talk about the stuff they've been doing. But here our History since grade 3 (age 10) is about the world and only small portions about our own country so history here is REALLY wide.

History doesn't need to be made more interesting, but the way it's taught does. Some teachers are -really- bad at teaching.

uzo:
I have two words for you all.

Oregon Trail.

Hell, I'm not even American and I still love that game and the history of the whole Manifest Destiny, westward-ho kinda thing. It sounds incredibly adventurous and, despite the dangers and the hardship, it is the kind of thing I would attempt were I alive at such a time.

Imagine it - travelling a looooong road, through barely known lands, past treacherous rivers and perilous mountain passes. At the end, the opportunity to stake a claim in a new world; to provide for your family and your descendants. To, essentially, establish a new country.

Doesn't help that I'm a nutjob survivalist who makes and eats his own hardtack because I like it.

You forgot to mention the forced removal of Native Americans. No offence but it sounds like you've been fed a sugar coated romanticized version of US history. Westward expansion was made possible through forced migration and good ol ethnic cleansing.

Commissar Sae:

General knowledge is fairly important to most jobs. Most history classes actually have a hidden importance. They teach you how to do research and develop your ability to think in different ways. So is knowing why the American revolution was fought particularly relevant, no. Is understanding how to look at various events and seeing different variables beyond the obvious useful, of course.

If so, why not just cut out the middleman and have a class that teaches people how to do the above specifically?

We need more ways to get truth and knowledge to our children's generation, so they aren't raised on the lies and ignorance of our parent's generation. *Eyes Heartland Institute* Right?

gphjr14:

uzo:
I have two words for you all.

Oregon Trail.

Hell, I'm not even American and I still love that game and the history of the whole Manifest Destiny, westward-ho kinda thing. It sounds incredibly adventurous and, despite the dangers and the hardship, it is the kind of thing I would attempt were I alive at such a time.

Imagine it - travelling a looooong road, through barely known lands, past treacherous rivers and perilous mountain passes. At the end, the opportunity to stake a claim in a new world; to provide for your family and your descendants. To, essentially, establish a new country.

Doesn't help that I'm a nutjob survivalist who makes and eats his own hardtack because I like it.

You forgot to mention the forced removal of Native Americans. No offence but it sounds like you've been fed a sugar coated romanticized version of US history. Westward expansion was made possible through forced migration and good ol ethnic cleansing.

Oh yeah. American Independence was NOT a good thing for the various Native peoples. The US got to throw out the big territorial line they weren't, as British subjects, supposed to cross in their colonization efforts, and kill their merry way to a brighter future, not to mention disregarding Native rights, etc. Not that the French or the British weren't bad, but the Americans were worse.

That's one of the things I love about history. Pretty much every party did vicious, unspeakable, and interesting things, and centuries later people are proud of them. And they have such lovely names for everything. 'The First Defenestration of Prague' sounds so technical, you wouldn't think that it refers to that one time that diplomats were thrown out of a window and only survived by landing in a dung heap. AND YET THEY HAVE A NAME FOR IT.

I'm sort of curious - how much do you folks from the US learn about Native history? I'm Canadian, and the curriculum o far has thrown a lot at me.

I love that he's found a new way to get students interested in history.

I'm a huge history buff here, I absolutely love learning about the past (Mostly the Glorious Roman Empire, although I've slowly become fascinated with the Middle East's history as well) It's a shame the only History related game I've played is Oregon Trail.

uzo:
I have two words for you all.

Oregon Trail.

Hell, I'm not even American and I still love that game and the history of the whole Manifest Destiny, westward-ho kinda thing. It sounds incredibly adventurous and, despite the dangers and the hardship, it is the kind of thing I would attempt were I alive at such a time.

Imagine it - travelling a looooong road, through barely known lands, past treacherous rivers and perilous mountain passes. At the end, the opportunity to stake a claim in a new world; to provide for your family and your descendants. To, essentially, establish a new country.

Doesn't help that I'm a nutjob survivalist who makes and eats his own hardtack because I like it.

A few states actually WERE their own countries at one point in time (They don't call it the Californian Republic for nothing).

Although I find Early Colonial America to be interesting as well (as long as you got to head to a proper Colony with semi-competent leadership) You'd have a village surrounded by untamed and unknown wilds. With Natives lurking in the woods that could become great friends or terrible enemies. You'd live a life full of labor, but at the end of the day you got to retire to a small, yet cozy, home with your family and children and sleep under the real stars untainted by light pollution.

Then again, that's my own romanticized version of events, we've got things pretty easy over here.

This game taught me more about medieval history than any book or teacher. At least til I went to college. Seriously, the people who did this game read their history.
image

Smiley Face:

I'm sort of curious - how much do you folks from the US learn about Native history? I'm Canadian, and the curriculum o far has thrown a lot at me.

We learn a decent amount on Manifest Destiny and various conflicts the natives had with the US.

If you're wondering about US schooling whitewashing our history though, what we mostly don't learn is the US occupation of Cuba and the Philippines, the US involvement in the Panama revolution, the crappy stuff the US agreed to in the Yalta Conference, and newer Cold War stuff in Iran, Nicaragua, etc. But we do learn about the natives.

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