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Open Teacher Letter – When Rivers Were Trails

November 17, 2020 1 comment

I received this email the other day asking about using When Rivers Were Trails in a 7th grade Social Studies Class in Minnesota. The game is available for free and runs on Windows and Mac. As the developers note on the itch.io page, https://indianlandtenure.itch.io/when-rivers-were-trails, “When Rivers Were Trails is a 2D point-and-click adventure game in which Oregon Trail meets Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. An Anishinaabeg in the 1890’s is displaced from their traditional territory in Minnesota and heads west to California due to the impact of allotment acts on Indigenous communities, facing Indian Agents, meeting people from different nations, and hunting, fishing, and canoeing along the way as they balance their wellbeing.” It is a terrific game for students studying US and Native American history and present at any grade level including college. The basic lesson guidelines will work for any age/grade level; just adjust the historical research part with appropriate readings. Here is my response to the letter, with a bit of editing and expansion. For more information, see my earlier post on this game

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Interactive History Class 2019 – Teacher’s Log #3 (Week of 10/21)

October 21, 2019 1 comment

Disclaimer: often shockingly little/ sometimes no proofreading; just trying to get the ideas out fast and frequently for those interested

In the second teacher’s log, I wrapped with a historical problem space diagram for “Courtisans [sic] of Versailles.” I received solid analytical papers from the class; we talked about them, then moved on to the meat of the French Revolution itself and playing Polyslash’s We. The Revolution (Steam   &    Good Old Games.)

And then, we got bogged down. Partly because it was my first time teaching this permutation of Interactive History and the first time I had taught the Revolution in years. Partly because of the complicated beast that is, We. The Revolution. I’ve learned some lessons in the process that hopefully will be helpful.

First, the parts where I’d like to improve. If we study games about the French Revolution again next year, I need to cut the lengthy classes on the early years of the Revolution (1789 – 1791) and focus on the years 1792 – 1794 where the events of the games are

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

August 30, 2019 3 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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