Today, my grade 11 English and Social Science class had their first lesson of a four week unit where we will be using Civilization 4 as a learning tool. This will be the third year that I run this unit and I´m truly excited to get this run properly on the road.
This time around I have opened the classroom to researchers from the University of Bergen who will be studying the virtues and caveats to the use of games. Though I feel very confident that my use of Civilization in class has significant value for my students, I am also acutely aware of my own bias. I look forward to receiving critical feedback from actors who do not have my level of personal involvement in the project.
Class today passed in a frenzy. All of my students arrived to class today with the game ready to play. In previous years, installation difficulties has been a major frustration during the first few days of the project. Thankfully, this year installations were completed without so much as a hiccough.
There is significant variety in the students familiarity with the game. Some were familiar with the Civilization series from before, some had played around with the game for a couple of hours, while others had not tested the game at all yet.
If students are to have the learning outcomes I wish of them for such a project, it is absolutely crucial that they learn the basic game mechanics as quickly as possible. Though students are not assessed on how well they play the game, they need to be able to play fairly well to draw the necessary analogies between concepts in game and concepts that we want to examine in English and Social Science.
Many of my students left class fairly frustrated today. Unlike Tetris Battle which seems to be the game of choice for a fair portion of the class, Civilization 4 requires a significant investment for gameplay to have value both for entertainment and for education. However, based on the experiences we´ve made over the last two years, most students should be fairly up to speed by the middle of next week.
My students have just completed their first blog posts for this project about their expectations regarding the use of games in the classroom. I will share a selection of these on the student blog LearningWithCivilization.wordpress.com.