Since I’m an avid gamer, or at least I was before the baby came, I always question the usefulness of gaming and simulations in the classroom. I like to have my students create board games and card games to help reinforce concepts and vocabulary, and I’ve used variants of the lemonade simulation that can be found on many Math game web sites. However, I’ve never used a full-fledged video game in the classroom; NOT an educational game, but one developed and published by an entertainment software company.
Which leads me to the question, why haven’t I? I’ve seen teachers use SimCity and other games in the popular Sim series while I was substituting and student teaching. Unfortunately must teachers I know don’t have the funds to purchase multiple copies of a single piece of software once consumables and other classroom supplies have been ordered. However, with the advent of a free, yes FREE, online version of SimCity I’m wondering how I could use the game to help students understand the concept of city management, and the importance of civic buildings and municipal services.
For those not familiar with the game, it has a plethora of management tools that mimic real life civic management. City services and payroll must be carefully balanced with tax income so as not to bankrupt the town (economics & budgeting). Utility infrastructures must be built and properly maintained, as well as transportation services (civil engineering). Properly zoned areas must be balanced to encourage just the right amount of residential, commercial, or industrial growth (civic planning) in addition to having to cope with unpredictable natural disasters (think Katrina) and civil unrest if you’re a less than effective mayor.
I know there are plenty of Social Studies concepts that the game touches upon, so I’d love to have an economics or civil component to my grade level, but our curriculum focuses heavily on world culture in sixth grade. In case anyone else is interested you can have your students play SimCity Classic online for free (or indulge yourself for awhile) with nothing more than registering for the site. I think another generic class login is in order for this one.