SITE 2010 - From Oregon Trail to Peacemaker: Providing a Framework for Effective Integration of Video Games into the Social Studies Classroom


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Charsky, D. & Barbour, M. K. (2010, March). From Oregon Trail to Peacemaker: Providing a framework for effective integration of video games into the social studies classroom. A paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education, San Diego, CA.

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  • Opening Gambit
  • Unique selling point
  • Point B
  • Agenda
  • I: where learners can organize and sequence events chronologically. Students at this level typically view history as a timeline of events with no rationale to explain the sequence. II: Students at this level typically explain history very logically, this event happened because this preceded it. III: . For example, students understand the impact that nationalism has played on many historical events. IV:For example, students understand the American Revolution as a unique event sparked by different incidents that are tied to the circumstances and context of that period
  • Students’ historical understanding is developed through a variety of experiences both in and outside the classroom. Games, like TV and movies, are one experience that can have a tremendous impact on the development of historical understanding. Games can have an impact because they can provide sound instructional strategies and an environment that can accurately represent history. In order to create games that can assist in developing historical understanding innovative teaching practices need to be melded with game design practices. Wineburg observed two teachers who facilitated students developing a mature historical understanding because of their unique pedagogical methods.
  •  ) framework focuses on providing students with practice or experiences that help develop a mature historical understanding. Martin’s four types of games provide engaging historical contexts, but the types lack a structure facilitating historical understanding, aside from placing students in a historical context or role. We seek to craft a framework that details the context of the game, along with the game play and guidelines for integrating various instructional methods and strategies.
  • Method games are like detective games where learners find clues, decipher documents, and interview characters in order to find out what happened and why.
  • To date, research on the use of video games in the social studies classroom has been of limited value (Squire, 2002). One reason has been methodological limitations. For example, in discussing the use of SimCity with a seventh grade social studies class, Teague and Teague (1995) concluded that students were “able to identify with and relate to [these] projects that [had] a significant bearing on their everyday lives” and that students seemed “to be motivated by ‘gaming’” (p. 32) – but they failed to consider how that sense of realism or increased motivation affected the learning of these students. Further, the learning students do develop from playing games like SimCity and Civilization does not transfer to academic tests. Charsky (2004), in a study using Civ III with students in a grade nine advanced global history class, found that while the students seemed to understand the complexity of history as “more than a sequential series of cause and effects events” (p. 134), he observed no statistical difference in students’ performance on historical understanding essay tests. Squire (2004) who also integrated Civ III in the classroom, argued that by playing the game the students increased their level of “background knowledge and, for some, a nascent systemic level understanding of world history” (p. 326). However, there was no evidence that this knowledge translated into improved performance or consistent historical understanding.  Charsky (2004) concluded that students might not have been able to engage in all aspects of their Civilization game play because they simply didn’t have enough time to finish the game. Many of today’s video games take 50 to 100 hours to complete. Over the past two decades there have been two seminal reviews of the potential for technology integration, such as the use of video games, in the social studies classroom (i.e., Berson, 1996; Whitworth & Berson, 2003). Both reviews discussed the potential value of simulation-style video games, but made no references to any research confirming that value. This is not to say that all research into the use of video games in the classroom will be problematic. Martin (1993) identified four types of computer games for teaching social studies content: re-run, ideal-type, counterfactual, and method.  
  • It is our contention that each game genre can create an equivalent learning experience similar to the one provided by Wineburg’s teachers. It is also our contention that certain game genres are better suited for developing specific levels of understanding. Integrating these game genres into the reality of typical classrooms and guiding teachers in the use of games are critical aspects in utilizing games to develop historical understanding.
  • SITE 2010 - From Oregon Trail to Peacemaker: Providing a Framework for Effective Integration of Video Games into the Social Studies Classroom

    1. 1. FromOregon TrailtoPeacemakerProviding a Framework for Effective Integrationof Video Games into the Social StudiesClassroomDennis Charsky, PhD Michael Barbour, PhDRoy H. Park School of College of EducationCommunications Wayne State UniversityIthaca College
    2. 2. We are assumingYou are possibly here because you are interested in: • Integrating games into your social studies class • Teaching perspective K12 teachers how to integrate games • Framework for creating history based games
    3. 3. Our presentation draws fromResearch and the literature on • Integrating games into the classroom • Integrating technology into the classroom • Historical understanding in students
    4. 4. In the next 30 minutes You will learn the strategies successful social studies teachers employ and how those same strategies can, or are, replicated in video games.But that is not all… You will also learn the types of games that help facilitate different levels of historical understanding as well as some ideas for integrating games.
    5. 5. Agenda• Wineburg’s (2001) Levels of Historical Understanding• Methods for developing a mature historical understanding• Linking Games to Historical Understanding• Implications and ideas
    6. 6. Wineburg’s Levels of HistoricalUnderstanding• Level I as “just because” understanding• Level II superficial cause-effect understanding• Level III patterns or themes that span time understanding• Level IV original, unique context understanding • As Wineburg (2001) states • “…learners are able to transcend the search for overall historical patterns, themes, theories, laws, etc. and come to understand history as a complex, ill- structured, context based, and context sensitive domain” (p. 42).
    7. 7. Developing a Mature HistoricalUnderstandingWineburg’s(2001) analysis of exceptional history teachers, he detailed some innovative teaching practices:• Created representations• Deep Knowledge of History• Use Outside Resources Wisely• Employ a Variety of Teaching Methods• Make Judgments about History
    8. 8. Linking Games to HistoricalUnderstandingMartin’s (1993) framework of history games Re-run history games • You re-play history exactly how it happened • Students compare their choices to the actual decisions • Students learn the exact chronology of events Ideal-type history games • You play a fictional story consistent withthe historical era • Students appreciate the historical era by learning to play the game according to the norms of that era.
    9. 9. Linking Games to HistoricalUnderstandingMartin’s (1993) framework of history games Counterfactual history games • You replay history by making choices that differ from actual history • Students must compare their fictional history to real history • Students learn that history is complex and influenced by people’s decisions Method history games • You play a game as a historian or archaeologist – detective games • Students contemplate “what if” questions and predict outcomes • The Mysteries of Catalhoyok and Egyptian Tomb Adventure
    10. 10. Linking Games to Historical UnderstandingLevel I as “just because” understandingEdutainment & Re-run: Typical classroom teaching methodsLevel II superficial cause-effect understanding and activities• Assist students in learning basic facts, concepts, and placing events along a timeline• Allow students to see the cause – effect relationships• Helps students memorize facts, concepts, and dates• Can help students do well on standardized examinationsExamples All most any edutainment title Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Oregon Trail
    11. 11. Linking Games to Historical UnderstandingLevel III patterns or themes Created representations . Deep Knowledge of History . Use Strategy games & some Counter-factual. games: Outside resources Wisely Employ a Variety of Teachingthat span time understanding • Best for showcasing Methods . Make Judgments about History over overarching theories • Typically requires students to negotiate a variety of resources or driving forces in order to manage a historical event. • Students to learn about and apply different theories of history. Examples • A Force More Powerful • Civilization series • Age of Empires series • SimCity • Railroad Tycoon
    12. 12. Linking Games to Historical Understanding Ideal-type games & some Counter-factual games:Level IV original, unique Created representations . Deep Knowledge of History . Use • Provide experiences that facilitate understanding Variety of Teachingcontext understanding Outside Resources Wisely . Employ a the Methods . Make Judgments about History uniqueness of each historical situation as well as its context in history • Typically role-playing games (RPGs) and massive multi-player online games (MMOGs) o RPGs are best at delivering engaging narratives with tantalizing characters situated in authentic contexts o MMOGs allow collaboration and access to experts/teachers Examples • Revolution (MIT, 2005) • Elizabethan Court (Blow, 1990) • Peacemaker (Carnegie Melon, 2004) • Making History (Muzzy Lane, 2006)
    13. 13. Linking Games to HistoricalUnderstandingCombination of AllThe game genres (edutainment, role playing, strategy, MMOG)+ Martin’s (1993) framework (re-run, counter factual, ideal type)= Powerful framework for developing history games• How to combine the different games?• Would a single title integrate into the classroom structure?• Or, would it be better to develop shorter games for each level?
    14. 14. RecapitulationLevels of Historical Understanding +Methods that facilitate a mature historical understanding ~> Link games to the latter = Framework for history games Implications and ideas
    15. 15. Implications& IdeasCreating games to teach mature historical understanding• Target game design to specific levels of historical understanding• Better games that are fun AND facilitate learningEdutainment and Re-run for Levels I and II• Need to be coupled with high level instructional methods • Wineburg’s exceptional teachers’ methods• PowerPoint Games
    16. 16. Implications & IdeasStrategy&Counter factual games for Level III • Need to correct inaccuracies – teachable moments • PowerPoint RPG => Level IVIdeal type, Counter factual, MMOGs, &RPGs for Level IV • Charsky & Mims (2007) activities to integrate COTS • Learn the game • Crossover • Game as theory of the content area
    17. 17. Implications & IdeasEvaluating games • Use our framework to asses the educational potential • What level is a title best suited for? • Use the levels of historical understanding as a guide to supplement what levels the game doesn’t achievePerspective teachers • Guidance for integrating games and designing complimentary instructional activities
    18. 18. Thank YouEnjoy integrating games into your classroom!Games are fun, motivating, and adored by many students. We encourage you to employ our framework in assessing, selecting games and as a guide for designing complementary instructional activities.
    19. 19. FromOregon TrailtoPeacemakerProviding a Framework for Effective Integrationof Video Games into the Social StudiesClassroomDennis Charsky, PhD Michael Barbour, PhDRoy H. Park School of College of EducationCommunications Wayne State UniversityIthaca College