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.