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Interactive History Class 2019 – Teacher’s Log #1 (Week of 8/19)

August 30, 2019 2 comments

disclaimer: shockingly little/ sometimes no proofreading; I’m just trying to get the information and ideas out there fast.

So as some may know, I launched the second iteration of my Interactive History class, a senior elective at Cincinnati Country Day School. Last year it ran as a third quarter elective. While the class was very successful, I found it readily apparent that a reformed and expanded semester-long course could be even more successful. I had learned it was overly idealistic to suppose, in the first run of the course, that, say, reading one article on World War I would provide students enough refresher and new evidence to deeply critique a game on the topic. Hence the key difference (other than class time) in my approach this year: rather than encounter a briefer and necessarily more superficial investigation of the relevant history before playing a game, teach a small number of historical units in-depth and focus most of the games on these units.  Then, arguably, students could learn and do history in a deeper more meaningful way through a variety of media and channel that learning into more rich and substantive play, analysis, and critique of historical games.

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A Brief Intro Letter to US History Teachers

Taking a page from Emily Short and Chris Klimas’ blog playbooks, I was recently responding to a request from a teacher for suggestions using games for the first time in a college introductory-level US History survey courses\. I get requests like this every so often, and I’m delighted when new people find my work. I realized, though, I should probably post my suggestions on Gaming the Past for others to, hopefully, benefit from. So I polished it just a little bit, and here it is.

If you have more questions or want to dig deeper, I’m always willing to help out: jmc.hst@gmail.com

 

Hi

Thanks for your email. It’s always a pleasure to talk shop about these things and find that someone has interest in the work I do. I’m assuming from your email this is first-year US History? … I’m just going to get started there …
So first off, let me stress that, I think, the goal is to get students learning about historical systems and actors’ choices within systems (Historical problem spaces), but I also think the goal is to get them to use their historical knowledge by actively critiquing any game they play using the evidence of class notes and readings. So, having a historically accurate game (a problematic concept anyway because we are constantly revising and shifting and challenging historical interpretations in the field) is not the goal per se. Rather the sweet spot is a game that presents some reasonable propositions about the past (past systems and past problem spaces) but also is problematic in some more and less subtle ways. That way students engage and exercise their ability to critique, not just passively learn from a source of authority: textbook, article, lecture etc.

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