1st steps to Civ Lab

As I promised I am beginning the journey of explaining Civ Lab to the world.  Below are links that will help to explain everything I have written on gamification so far:

Finding the words to describe how to use this as a teaching tool has been difficult, but I am going to try. I think the best way to share how to use this is to take you through how I do it from the beginning.  I think for the sake of my own brain I need to chunk this down into small mini concepts that can be explained in shorter bursts.  Every time I have tried to wrestle with this concept to find the words I tend to become overwhelmed and my brain tries to jump from one concept to another.  I have tossed out several different drafts and attempts so I am hoping the chunking will make it more effective for you all as a reader.  Below are a few things that will help you get started.

1.                Create the Game Environment:  I have been very fortunate.  Adam and Nate Parry have basically coded the Civilization IV world to meet our needs for me.  They have created the map, added the locations of all the civilizations, and changed the coding for things like science or how fast you ca build military units.  You use the XML for this and change the values so things work smoother.  Playing Civilization can take days, but we have it down to a science now that makes it work so much better.  

2.                Each class must be given their own civilization to run.  Once they have been placed on the map it is best to have your classes in the order they will be played by period.  I am fortunate to have several other great teachers to play with, which makes the environment richer and full.  Once I input all of my moves I email the game file to the next teacher.  This means that we have to input multiple times a day, but it really has not ever been a problem.

3.                Create some sort of checkpoint to make sure that the students are getting the concepts you want to have them use in the game.  I use a journal where the students write down our events for the day and their feelings, which I then use at the end of the quarter to have them write a history of their nation.  They use the journal as a primary source and look back to see what happened before writing a secondary source.  I know Adam Parry uses a system that gives everyone a job and each students is responsible for their money, which then turns into a grade.  Nate Parry uses a system where he does a check at the end of each week that requires students to describe the concepts that were used in the game.  Both of them teach government while I teach US history so we have different goals and we all developed these independent of each other. 

4.                Decide ahead of time what concepts you want to teach.  Inevitably the game will demand certain concepts at certain times.  Especially when the classes interact, but if you lay out ahead of time what concepts you want to teach you will accomplish much more.  In the past I tried to make it up as I went along and it is not as successful. 

5.                Have a plan for how the students will make decisions.  The government aspect of the game is where it can be the most powerful.  For my class I begin using the town council format where everyone has a vote.  I know that Nate Parry begins here as well stressing the importance of direct democracy.  MCPS values government a lot in their curriculum and really at any level reminders about these concepts are important for the testing my students endure.  So modeling and practicing these concepts is best.  

6. Make sure you have a working computer that has all the necessary devices to play the game.  I ended up having to bring in an outside computer that I wiped and only had the game on.  MCPS would not let me install on their machines because of a licensing issue.  So we just play it on my machine and we go back and for on the Promethean Board as necessary.    

If you lay out all of these things your Civ Lab experience will begin on the right foot.

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