In James M. Lang’s article titled, “How Students Learn From Games” he discusses the process of teaching through a game called “Reacting to the Past” in a college setting.  Reacting to the Past is a historical simulation game that allows students to adopt roles and help solve complex problems in multiple fields. Each role is a character with specific objectives and is outlined with a 20 page role sheet. The game originated in the subject of history, but has since been expanded to various disciplines such as chemistry and political science. Students who play the game are challenged with real life problems that they can only solve by applying their course content. A game can take up anywhere from three to six weeks of class time.

One detail of the reading that I found especially relevant was the author describing how he was reading essays by Gandhi and other Indian thinkers in order to help him make arguments about the future of India. My original view on historical-based games is that they are primarily focused on some sort of physical strategy i.e. battle tactics in World War II or the best ways to get across the country via the Oregon Trail. I never considered that games could be used to explore more abstract concepts such as politics and culture. The sentence about Gandhi was the most impactful for me because it changed my understanding and appreciation for what these games have the potential to do. One of the biggest challenges when teaching history is to make the concepts relevant to what is happening today. These games can help history teachers and their students make the connections between what happened in the past, what is happening today, and the implications for the future. I wish I had a game like this when I was in high school. I sometimes wonder why I did not enjoy history classes more because I love to read and enjoy learning about history and other cultures. Looking back, I think I often did not make these connections and I think a game like Reacting to the Past would have really engaged me to do so.

There are many ways that gaming technology could be used to teach our employees. Our employees in the School At Work program learn concepts such as communication, customer experience, reading, writing, grammar, and math. Half of the class is led by a DVD and the other half is devoted to online computer work. If there was a game like Reacting to the Past that addresses concepts in communication and customer experience, I think our employees would learn the concepts at a deeper level. I also think our students in the Environmental Services Department who are learning computer basics would react well to a game like this. We want them to feel less intimidated by computers and technology overall. A game would be a way to make the material more relatable and more fun, which would contribute to their overall understanding and enjoyment. Gaming could also be used by employees within the organization both in the clinical and non-clinical areas. The article mentioned a game called Virulent where players learn biological concepts and try to prevent the spread of a virus. This made me think about some of our healthcare professionals and although they have already obtained their licenses and credentials, a game like this could help refresh their skills. For employees in the non-clinical areas, perhaps there is a game similar to Reacting to the Past but instead focuses on business strategies in healthcare.

Gaming allows players to see the world through the eyes of someone else, which is one of the most impactful ways that a person can learn. Games like this can help us learn from the past and prevent the same mistakes from occurring in the future. The implications from these games are exciting and I can’t wait to see where they take us.

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4 Comments

Michelle Di Liberto · February 23, 2019 at 10:56 am

Hi Michelle!

I enjoyed reading your blog on the article from James Lang. While I didn’t choose to read this article, I found your interpretation of it quite interesting. It’s great that you explained how the game Reacting to the Past is played. I think it would be so interesting to use this not only in a history class, but for students in general to learn how their past actions can affect future outcomes. You also made a connection to the employees in your company, and that’s terrific. Too many times, people take their jobs for granted and don’t always learn and grow in their positions. I do agree that gaming is an exciting and possibly something that is here to stay. Many of us need to learn to look at things in a new light in order to learn what is necessary.

Diana L Roberts · February 26, 2019 at 9:02 pm

Hi Michelle

While studying history at Stockton, one of the Professors introduced us to a game she helped create that dealt with a disease outbreak in England. It was meant for educational purposes and quite impressive. I believe the topics that gaming could tackle are endless, but I also think there has to be an effective learning strategy employed throughout. From what I understand, Reacting to the Past is well designed to engage learners and includes such features as feedback and practice. I would also be interested in exploring their games for my lessons.

Suzanne · February 26, 2019 at 10:24 pm

You state that the employees can use gaming for the School At Work Program for all different subject areas, we use simulation games that have levels at work that I just found out about for similar reasons. I would love to be able to test one because I have never used gamification personally.

Anjanette Christy · February 27, 2019 at 11:47 am

Hi Michelle,

This article represents the perfect example of how a well thought out plan with thematic instruction such as “Reacting to the Past” can turn a game into a wonderful learning resource. I too wish I had a game like this in my history courses when I was in High School. I love learning about history, but during my time in school, instruction was straight lecture style with textbook. With so many facts and dates to learn, the content can be quite dry without engaging lesson plans. This would have been a perfect solution. I also like how you realized that these types of games could lead to mastering more abstract concepts and critical thinking. Most students really do want to be engaged in school, and are longing for opportunities to showcase their strengths. These types of simulations promote collaboration, out of the box solutions, and leadership!

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