(Originally posted on PlaythePast.org 5/21/14 http://www.playthepast.org/?p=4737)
Before I begin, a short preface. I have made it something of a personal mission, both as a researcher and writer on historical simulation games and as a classroom teacher, to crack the Civilization IV code. In other words, to find ways to make its educational value commensurate with the significant amount of time and effort it takes for my students to learn to play and become really familiar with the game. Over the years I have made progress here and there building on what I have learned in each implementation. This coming year, I plan to take a big step forward in using Civ in my 9th grade ancient world history class. In the hopes that my process of reasoning, planning, and implementing may prove useful, or at least interesting. I am going to “work out loud”, so to speak, posting blog entries of the work I’m doing reconceptualizing the use of Civ 4 in my classroom. It may well be that some readers will find me to be stating what is obvious to them or confirming ideas and practices they have already adopted in their own classes. I am hopeful, though, that enough readers will find something of interest. Don’t hesitate to let me know whether you find this useful or mundane.
For some time now I have been struck by the parallels between the world systems that Civilization IV presents and the world systems of agrarian civilizations presented by Big Historian David Christian in his excellent, Maps of Time. And it occurs to me that, so long as one believes comparative work and big-picture trends are important components of an ancient world history course, Civilization IV might well be an outstanding tool for examining those trends. So that’s what I’m going to do with Civilization IV in my next course in Ancient World History, use it explicitly to illustrate the core features of agrarian societies and the major trends in ancient world history. I have certainly done bits of this in the past, like using Civ to illustrate Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel hypothesis, but I have never systematically approached the year-long play and investigation of Civ in this way.
I’ve stayed pretty quiet about IPads. It’s clearly becoming increasingly important that people who are making a decision whether to go with an IPad or with a Windows/Mac option for games and learning in history or any field know this important detail. At this point, going with IPad effectively shuts one out of playing most (80-90% ?) of the commercial history games and all of the free Flash-based games (which are essentially 99% of web games) (please correct me if IPad now runs flash programs (not just the movies)).
I was doing a bit of foraging today for some friends on the IPad and came up with a few games that are excellent options for gaming in the history class and are all on IPad (they do require purchase). I wanted to share these for those who need IPad assistance. Please feel free to post more — there are thousands of apps to browse through, and a lot of dross around the gems.
One of the really promising areas is historical board games that have been ported to IPad.
Catan — I love board Catan with my kids and the computer version is not bad.
Agricola – 17th century peasant agriculture but fun, and applicable to any subsistence society. In some ways it is perfect for IPad: you don’t have to mess with all the fiddly bits of the board game, and there is a fair amount of management/upkeep that the Pad does for you.
Civilization Revolution – not nearly as good as Civ IV , much simpler model, but definitely workable
Sid Meier’s Pirates
The History Teacher published my article in the November 2012 volume. It reflects my latest research and theory on simulation games as a medium, how they compare to more familiar narrative media, and what that means for the classroom. Give it a look and let me know what you think.
The History Teacher is available at most college libraries and through many online databases.
Listen to Zack Gilbert, Gerry James, and I discuss the Playful Learning Initiative and find out how you can participate.
Edgamer 86 Jeremiah McCall and the Learning Games Network
Edgamer 80 Playful Learning Initiative with Jeremiah McCall
Both are also available on Itunes.
I had the pleasure to talk about my work and GTP on the latest episode of Edgamer: EdGamer 61: Gaming the Past with Jeremiah McCall (It’s in a streaming format now but will be out on Itunes soon).
Make sure you check out Edgamer in general for the great work they are doing on video games in education.