Well, not really. . .but close: How to effectively use Civ IV in higher education
Is there a place for games at higher levels of education? Schwartz would definitely argue yes, but he suggested that the role of the games would be different. Rather than developing basic skills, the games help give people an intuitive grasp of a subject, after which explanations for their intuitions can be supplied in the classroom.
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The big surprise is that this effect spills over to commercial games that aren’t designed for educational purposes at all. Schwartz’s team had junior college students play about 15 hours of two different games: Civilization IV and Call of Duty 2. Afterwards, they were given short descriptions of real events from World War II that either focused on international relations or on tactical situations. The students were asked to formulate a series of questions they’d ask to better understand the circumstances.
Hmmmm. Not sure about all of this. But there’s this:
In this sense, Schwartz seemed to be arguing, games can help people develop an intuitive feel for everything from math to diplomacy. Classroom instruction can then build on these intuitions, providing explanations for specific behaviors and familiarizing students with the terminology involved in the field. In turn, the gaming experiences can make the classroom material seem less dry and more likely to have applications outside of class—and maybe outside of the virtual worlds of the games.
I can see using a game as something of an adjunct as it’s presented here, but I see that as a very minor role, especially in science: As much as you can make science “fun” by doing experiments and stuff, the basics are still theory and math, math and theory. Science is as much ideational as it is phenomenological; you really can’t do science without, for example, F=ma. I mean, it’s really kind of fun to drop things of similar size but different weight and watch them hit the ground at the same time, but that’s kind of a parlor trick. The real guts of it comes in applying the theory and the equations to tell you why things do what they do and how to use that to predict other things.
I think I’ve commented on Civilization before though. I like how it makes certain inventions dependent on other inventions — e.g., you have to have pottery before agriculture, for example — and it makes you consider tradeoffs, like if I build up my army I won’t have enough money to support agriculture or what have you. It can, I think, introduce students to history in a general way. But it’s limited because the rules of the game are very specific to the format. Still, I like the way Schwartz describes it as giving students an intuitive feel for the subject before getting into the nitty gritty.