Our social studies department rarely has elective courses to offer our junior high students. I don’t know why, but ever since I’ve been at my school, most of the “unique” elective courses go to other content areas, such as phy. ed and language arts. This year was different, however. All departments were asked to submit ideas for new elective courses. Since I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate technology, increase student engagement, and because I myself enjoy video games, I proposed a class titled: Civilization 5: A History of Empire Building. Here is the description I wrote for our school’s course catalog:
Why do countries make the decisions they make? How do nations relate to each other? What types of resources does a country need to achieve its goals? These are essential questions all nations face to varying degrees. The answers to these ideas and others will be explored using the video game Civilization 5. This class will use Civ 5 as a way to look at common issues all nations face. In addition, students will look at primary source documents and interpret statistical data from around the world. Projects and assignments will be posted on blogs, forums, and class websites.
The intent of the class is to critically analyze how historically some nations rise, and some nations fall. The centerpiece of the six-week class would be based on Sid Meier’s Civilization 5, an extremely popular (it is the fifth one after all) computer game. Great idea. Except for one thing: not enough people signed up. Not enough kids = no class. Bummer.
Since I was the one who proposed this class I was obviously chomping at the bit to teach the class, and I we disappointed in the lack of response to it. But what I am most curious to figure out is why there was a lack of response. I thought for sure, that in a school with at least 900 students in it, I could easily get at least 25 7th and 8th grade students to sign up for a class that not only allows you to play a computer game, it encourages it. And, it’s not as if computer hardware was going to be that much of an issue because the way I had the class structured, gaming would have taken place during class hours.
So I’m curious. Did I overestimate student’s desire to use a computer game as a tool for learning? Are students wary of the idea because they’re so unfamiliar with that concept? Are parents scared off by that idea because they don’t think it’s rigorous enough? If I propose the class again in the future, how can I make it more appealing?
I’d be interested in getting some feedback from a teacher or school who has successfully pioneered a class that uses gaming as an instruction tool. If that’s you, drop me a line.