Simulations – Can they be Effectively Used in a History Class?

Have you ever played the video game “Civilization”?  I have.  It allows you to create a society in which you build your city while other groups are developing around you.  You have to make decisions regarding how to spend your resources, where and what to construct or plant, and with whom to ally with or war against.  It is interesting, teaches some basic human progress techniques, how to manage time and resources, and can be fun in moderation.  This game is just a simulation platform in the guise of a game.

While researching educational simulations on the Internet, I found this YouTube video

about Dr Steven Hoffman’s integration of this type of learning technique in his history class at Southeast Missouri State University.  He uses a platform called The Calm and The Storm to immerse his students in the historic decisions of World War II.  It does not just consider military tactics and strategy, but also economic, domestic, and infrastructure decisions.  It is particularly good for showing how the actions of one country effect the people of other nations.

Hoffman believes by using this simulation he is able to get students to better connect with the topic of World War II, and therefore improve learning results.

You can read more about The Calm and The Storm in the E School news article, Computer Simulation is “Making History”.  The author of this article likes the realistic scenario-based simulation because it challenges its participants to use higher level thinking skills, and allows for a type of competition against the actual events in a tasteful manner.  Could you develop a plan to outwit the prime minister of Japan during World War II?  This lets you see how you would perform, and compares your results with actual events.

Have any of you ever used simulations in your classrooms with positive results?  Do you think this type of platform is an effective way to reinforce basic tenants learned in class, while adding students to use higher levels of critical thinking skills?

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