I am a teacher of history at Cincinnati Country Day School and a researcher and writer on the effective use of simulation games in history education. I presented a talk titled Gaming the Past, as part of the Goldberg Center Technology and Teaching Series and the Digital Union’s Game-Based Learning brown bag lunches. I discussed how I use video games and other historical simulations to teach history to advanced high school students and how the principles and practices of simulation game learning can be applied to college classrooms. I began by outlining my understanding of history education as the practice of training students to think and act as historians do—a privileging of methods over content, though the two are inextricably linked. I then introduced the argument that historical simulations should be treated as interpretations of the past. Any given commercial or non-profit simulation game may contain a host of historical inaccuracies, but so long as a game’s core models offer a defensible interpretation of the past, it can be used to good effect to allow students to explore historical systems, develop procedural literacy, and practice historical criticism. I then surveyed a few of the many historical simulation games available today and closed by providing guidelines for structuring and assessing student work with simulations.
I have been teaching high school history for the past decade, mostly at Cincinnati Country Day School. My first professional love is high school teaching, especially designing instructional strategies that will engage and challenge my students to learn and grow. In addition to more conventional courses, I also teach a senior elective on (tabletop) historical simulation design, and the intersection of serious games and contemporary global issues. I am also in the late stages of publishing a guidebook for teachers who wish to use simulation games in the history class, titled Gaming the Past (Routledge, projected for June 2011). As an extension of his teaching philosophy — that history is primarily the study and evaluation of competing interpretations of the past — I have conducted numerous classroom implementations of historical simulations as historical interpretations. I maintain the website, Historical Simulations in the Classroom, one of the primary sites devoted to the use of historical simulations in classroom teaching.
A recording of my presentation will be posted through the Digital Union blog early this week.
Dr. Jeremiah McCall