Professor uses role-playing, video game to teach history

Historians in the News
tags: digital history, Colorado State University, Robert Jordan

Several groups of students, some dressed up as Vikings and Romans, are discussing maps and strategy in hushed voices. After listening to their empire’s “national anthem” of Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling,” each group takes turns going to the front of the classroom, where Jordan relays information from Sid Meier’s Civilization V video game on his laptop. In a hushed circle around the screen, the instructor quietly tells each group about the newest developments in their virtual world and requests their next set of policy decisions.

“It looks like you have mountains with snowpack to your southeast,” Jordan tells one group. “Also, your new laborer is ready to begin construction of a farm.”

As unusual as it might seem, this kind of classroom environment is an exciting and effective way for students to engage with historical learning using role-playing and the latest digital simulations of living worlds. Jordan and a colleague from his graduate school days, Andrew Wilson, created the hybrid learning environment they call ImmerCiv through the synthesis of “gamified” roleplaying curriculum and the dynamic virtual environments of contemporary video games. Students in the upper-division course pretend to be citizens within a fictional ancient society controlled by the students’ ability to work together as a functioning government.

“I’m more excited to come to this class because I know we’re going to do something different,” says junior Brittney Zemlicka. “I didn’t understand before that history can be more than a book. It’s so much more by adding a digital component to it — I feel like it brings it to life in a way that makes you want to learn more about it.” ...

Read entire article at Colorado State University

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