The use of simulation games to teach concepts is apparently a very advanced way of integration technology into the curriculum, but I didn’t know that at the time, I just wanted to come up with a cool project to teach a dull unit. We had new laptops in the school with an endless string of wireless headaches, so using anything web based wasn’t feasible. I thought a software based project would eliminate many of the tech issues.
It was a huge success. I started the students with a very small base city and a set of outcomes they had to achieve. They were to develop new zones, build and maintain essential services, develop and maintain a budget, and respond to lobby groups and the concerns of citizens. The grade six social studies curriculum had several tricky outcomes to teach including understanding the role and responsibilities of an elected official, and how elected officials respond to and balance the needs of citizens. The game SimCity brought these outcomes to the forefront of the students’ thinking. They usual comment from the students’ was – we can’t keep everyone happy! An ah ha moment in my teaching – the simulation software allowed the students to empathize with and understand the difficult job of a city councillor.
I extended the project to have the students write to our local city councillor and write letters to the editor about our experiences. Over the three years I ran the project my students had twelve letters published in the Calgary Herald and I presented the project and the Alberta Middle School Conference in 2007.