Category Archives: Using Making History In Class

Trouble in Paradise


It has been quite some time since I have blogged about the use of games in education.  It is hard to believe the amount of time that has passed since I first met the people from Muzzy Lane in Washington D.C. at NCSS years ago.  Since then I have done many things promoting the  use of games in education.  But the winds of change have come to Oak Hill High School.  We have recently completed an upgrade in our technology which included a change in servers and systems.  I often describe myself and tech friendly but not tech literate.  I have never been interested in the nuts and bolts of technology….just what can I do with it.

We now have some nice equipment at Oak Hill.  However, it is not compatible with my ancient version of Making History.  I have always used the oldest version.  It is the one that was more targeted for education.  The newer versions of the game are much more “gamer” friendly but not so much for the classroom.  So my continued use of MH The Calm and Storm is now in serious doubt.  Other changes this year…..I have not had a class blog to this point.  This may be more of a timing issue than anything.  When our school year started our computer labs were down.  No access at all.  So I didn’t set blogs up with students.  And now that the year is rolling and I have defaulted back to pen and paper for writing it is hard to stop the wheels of education.

I am teaching sociology again for the first time in a couple of years.  However, I have yet to play The Sims.  Again, when I was playing before I used a laptop and a portable projector.  I now have a projector mounted in my room that runs through a splitter for my desktop, sat tv and dvd player.  I now have some issue trying to hook up my laptop to the projector and my desktop is as old as father time.  So the logistics of The Sims have not come together.

Anyway….I could go on but I have really not been using games this year.  I do miss it.  I will return to it.  I will have to change with the new system.  Now that football is over for the season I will have some additional time to work out the details of some of these things.


Cluster Maps and Sociology

Always a little sad yet somewhat exciting to see my cluster map get archived and start fresh!

It is also now official.  I will be teaching Sociology again this year.  It has been a couple of years so it will be fun to get back into social norms, birth order etc…  The only drawback of this new plan is my AP World History course has grown to 29 students.  Which is great!  However, I would love to see those 29 split up into two sections but that is just not going to happen.  Budget restraints don’t give us the ability at this point to divide the class up.  It really is too bad.  I think 29 in an AP class is a mistake….but something I will just have to deal with.

Summer Update

It really has been quite some time since I have blogged and in all honesty I really feel like I don’t have much more to say about Games in Education that I haven’t already said.   I am still a huge fan of games and still use them when I can.  I just feels like every time I think about posting it seems redundent to me. 

I did use Muzzy Lane’s Making History again this year.  As like every year I have used this game the kids loved it.  They always ask for more.  I now have kids taking my classes at the high school because they know I use games.  This is a double edged sword.  First, it is always nice for kids to desire to take my classes.  But I always want that popularity to really be based upon learning not just gaming.  Second, I really spend very little time during the course of a year in games.  Sometimes kids are a bit let down by that….but with the lack of gaming titles that translate well for educational use I do what I can.

I would also say that my teaching with Making History this year was by far the worst I have ever done.  More due to illness factors than anything else.  I had to leave school during the middle of the day during our game action.  I was at that point with my illness that I had to concentrate in order not to throw up.  After two class periods of that agony I informed the principal that I had to leave.   I didn’t think I could make the day like I felt.  So I got in my car to drive home and I had to stop for gas on the way home because I was running on fumes.  I was fairly certain I was going to puke at the gas station but I made it through.  I jumped back in my car for the 20 minute drive home.  Well, I made it about 3 minutes before I pulled over in a panic and barffed all over the road.  I just stood on my breaks, openend my door and let it go.

Anyway, I missed one and a half days of game play and when I returned to school I tried to salvage what lessons I could from the game play.  I know it was mediocre but it was better than me blowing chunks all over the USSR team as they invaded Latvia!!

I also used The InQuizitor this year as well.  I did post about that experience earlier.  But just to recap my students loved this quiz game.  More than I thought they ever would.  They asked for the InQuizitor more than I was cabable of putting quizzes together.  I would highly reccomend buying either of these two games if your budget has the funds. 

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Finally, we are in the midst of planning our next student trip to Europe.  We will be traveling from Rome to Munich on Spring Break 2010.  Student travel is one of the most rewarding things I have done as a teacher.  Sure, it can be a tremendous pain but the rewards that come to students is incredible.  We started these trips 11 years ago and I have talked to many former students who traveled with us and they have expressed the positives of the trips to me.   Some students have studied over seas, some have majored in foreign language in college, and some have traveled on their own back to the areas we first visited.  It is a nice thing to see the fruits of our labor!

It has been a while…

Well, it has been quite some time since I sat and blogged my happenings as a teacher and coach so before the New Year hits I thought I should post an update.  During this school year I have starting teaching AP World History which has been great fun.  I love the challenges that teaching a classroom full of motivated studetns provides.  I also continue to teach my regular world history survey course. 

In my daily activites of teaching there are a couple of activites that have become common.  First is that of blogging.  I have talked before about the value of blogging with students and I continue to be a large supporting of this outlet and tool for self expression and educational reflection.  Blogging has become a steady source of activity in my classroom and I feel it offers incredible benefits.  It also saves a couple of trees here and there.  Second, I continue to be a large supporter of the use of games.  The InQuizitor is a game developed by 3MRT that I have recently started using.  I also continue to be a supported of Making History by Muzzy Lane.  Both games are mainstays in my courses.  Making History has become something that kids expect to play when they enroll in world history.  It no longer is “new” ….it is just what we do.  The expectations are different but students still enjoy the fact that their aging teacher likes a good computer game.  Who can’t enjoy a good round of Civ or Age of Empires?  I also am becoming  firm believe in web based games.  I know Muzzy Lane is working on this aspect and has been for some time.  I do think this avenue has potential.  It will be much easier on the classroom teacher to use games in the class if the game is web based versus installation of games on individual machines/servers and then the tech problems that sometimes come with that.  Textbook companies are getting much better with their use of technology to aid instruction and a lot of what publishers are offering is web based. 

I have mentioned in this blog about the pace of change in education….or better the lack of a pace of change.  That issue still plagues us.  Since I started using games in my classroom nearly four years ago, there has been some growth.  However, the growth has not been what I would have expected in our digital world.  What are the causes?  Cost, hardware, software, inexperience?  I don’t really know for certain only time will tell what form games in education will take…..Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

What is going on at Oak Hill….

As always life has been incredibly busy and I have often find less and less time to sit down and blog.  My kids are getting older and active, our football team is 6-0 and playing some very good football, I am still teaching World History, and have added AP World History to my schedule.  As for my use of games in the classroom:  I will continue to use Making History this year.  I am also using the InQuizitor.  Both I have blogged about here.  I also have my AP kids blogging.  So like too many people in America I have a lot going on but it is all beneficial to me and my students.  I had a great moment the other day in my AP class when we were discussing Acient Egypt.  The topic turned to taxing districts that occured at regular intervals along the Nile.  Somewhere in the conversation it hit me that this discussion is not normal for Sophomores.  That the thoughts that the AP kids were having were pushing me to become a better teacher and to gain more knowledge.  That was one of those moments in teaching when I realized that the kid was making me get better….I like that.

Also, I have blogged here about student travel and the benefits of exposing students to the cultures of the world.  I have submitted the necessary paperwork to  our Board of Education for the approval of our next trip overseas. (it will be our 7th trip) I am confident that the approval will be forthcoming and I will take a new batch of kids to see the wonder of Europe.  These expereinces are beyond anything I can do in the classroom and are activites that I can not replicate.

Just wanted to post an update.  When football is over hopefully I can become a bit more regular with my postings.

Games In Education

It is hard to believe that I will be entering my 5th year of using COTS games in my high school history classroom. But as I prepare for the upcoming year it always lends time for me to reflect why I continue to use games and why I look for opportunities for even more.

1. Kids don’t love this stuff…….thay ARE this stuff. It never ceases to amaze me how streamlined technology and young people have become. Using a computer/game as a part of the educational process is such a normal process. I was shopping for my daughter’s birthday yesterday and there were two young ladies working in the store my old man guess is these young ladies were 19-23 years old. Anyway, while they were working, and they were very good moving around the store and talking to people including me, my wife and my mother in law…..then I would watch them retreat to the desk where one computer was being used to check out customers and the other was logged on to one of the gals facebook account. My point here is that these gals were doing their jobs and doing it rather well. They were helpful, pleasant, and an assest to the store. They wrapped gifts while I was there, showed customers how some toys and games worked. And they did all of that while networking with friends on facebook. The two entities have nearly become one.

Another story that explains the same world……I was sitting around a room of 15 football players and two other coaches. We were eating pizza and shooting the breeze. Of the 15 guys I would estimate 10 of them had their phones with them. And during our time together guys were texting and taking part in the real time conversation in the room. Some could say they were being rude but the setting was very informal and relaxed. But how these young men could effortlessly particiapate in two forms of communication was interesting. I text from time to time…but when I do….the world has to come to a stop. I have to concentrate to get it right or close to right. When I hit send then the world is allowed to start spinning again. I am so old (40).

2. Digital as a Second Language. I had this thought the other day. In education we are very concerned, as we should be, with teaching kids that English is their Second Language. ESL kids. But when are we going to become adequately concerened about teaching Digital as a Second Language? I am not talking about programming I am talking about teaching kids in a way that they live. Which is essentially my first point of this post.

3. Creation and Evolution. I used to be a teacher that played games with his studets but I have become a teacher that sees the value in creation of games as well. The cognitive process that all teachers are looking for is a higher level of thinking. To climb Bloom’s Taxonomy. That can be achieved in the creation of games or parts of games by students, and also by letting students evolve through the play of a game. Both scenariors lend themselves to pushing kids to think beyond their normal, everyday level.

4. A dawning of a new generation. This has been happening slowly over time but recently I sat on an interview team to hire a new teacher. The candidates that earned interviews had two subsets. Subset one was 30 plus years old with some life experience. Subset two were the younglings, right out of college and not experienced in life. But another big difference that was evident was the level of technology that the younglings talked about. Things that were talked about were blogging, youtube, and daily or frequent use of technology. They weren’t saying these things because they thought that is what we wanted to hear. They said them because that is what they are. The candidates that were older didn’t talk about technology in the same way.

Well, what does this next year hold for me? I will not be teaching Sociology. So my use of The Sims has come to a stop (for now). I will continue to use Making History. I have also added The InQuizitor to my use. I am also thinking about using a couple of other things but as always I have no money to spend from the school (budget woes continue) but if I find the right thing I will certainly buy it for my classroom. I will be teaching AP World History this year which I am very excited to do. I want to use some of the things I have done with my Gen Ed World History but do them at a deeper level. But as always teaching is a craft, an art, and a difficult thing to do well. Anyone can sit in a room to supervise kids but only those who challenge themselves can challenge others. So let the games begin.

Summertime, AP World History, Professional Development and more!

I have been on summer break for two weeks now.  That is one of the nice things about working at Oak Hill….we always end the school year before Memorial Day.  Some teachers don’t like ending so early but I do.  Anyway, next year I will be teaching AP World Hisotry for the first time.  I worked up my syllabus and submitted it to AP College Board and was approved.  I am looking forward to this.  I plan on using Making History, The InQuizitor, and Blogging.  Blogging will be a very frequent tool in my AP course.  I will use it for my essays as well.  I haven’t decided if I will make the student blogs public or not but I will certainly update this site with how things are going.

Another thing that I have kicked around for a year or so.  I have been approached many times about doing some speaking for professional development for teachers.  For those of you who know me you understand that public speaking is certainly right up my alley…..but doing professional development for teachers is a very dangerous area in my opinion.  Too many times in my 14 years of public education we have brought in outside speakers for professional development.  Some have “earned” a hefty speaking fee and their value has been…..well……hard to find even by the most dedicated teacher.  I certainly don’t want to be a speaker that has very little value to the classroom.  Is gaming in the classroom, using 21st century technology in the classroom, and an old, bald, father of three, football coach in demand for professional development?  I don’t really know the answer to this question.  I am considering this and welcome all comments or advice about possibly starting this venture.

Other activities of my last few weeks include a trip to the Indy 500 with my father.  This year was my dad’s 49th Indy 500.  Next year we will have to do something special to celebrate his 50th.  The first pic is of my dad, brother in law, sister and me on pit road prior to the running of the race.  It is an incredible experience to be on pit road on race day.  The second pic is of Scott Dixon’s car.  A few hours later Dixon and his car were in victory circle.  I have grown up being and open wheel racing fan and was certainly glad to see Dixon win the race.  He is a good guy and easy to root for.  Probably the most memorable moment of the race was when Danica Patrick marched down pit road to go and get Ryan Briscoe who had knocked her out of the race.  She was ticked off and wanted a piece of him.  She took some crap for acting like a bi***…..but that was crap!  Tony Stewart acts like that in BORECAR all the time and everyone thinks he is a competitor……so Danica….kept getting after it!