Friday, April 30, 2010

Glenn Wiebe - Guest Post as part of Blog Swap

As part of the I Love EdTech blog swap, Reyn has allowed me to write a guest post. I work as a curriculum / technology consultant for an educational service center based in Hutchinson, Kansas and spend a lot of my time with social studies teachers around the Midwest.

Part of what I do is to find ways of integrating video games into classroom instruction.

I happened to glance out the window the other day and noticed my son swinging in the hammock with his iPod Touch. He seemed completely focused and so I asked him later what he had been playing.

Jake, knowing that I’m a big believer in the power of games in education, was smart enough to say

I was doing world history.

Of course, now I needed to know specifics. So Jake shared his latest iPod app called Civilization Revolution. And as a social studies guy, the title got my attention. I’ve played Sid Meier’s Civilization series for years and have even used those games as part of history instruction. Some of what I borrowed was created by Kurt Squire, from University of Wisconsin-Madison, who put together a wonderful unit design using Civilization III as the centerpiece.

And if there is a mobile app that can do the same thing, I had to play. While it’s not exactly like the full version of the Civilization series, it’s pretty close.

Like the original, you get 16 different civilizations to play, famous historical leaders with special abilities, the option to explore randomly generated planets, multiple difficulty settings to vary game length and an integrated tutorial to ease you in. The mobile version does have its own distinct visuals and the gesture-based interface unique to the iPod Touch.

The research on video games is becoming clearer – used appropriately, games encourage high levels of learning.

The big question now is not whether games are good for kids. The question becomes one about delivery and about which tool works best in the classroom. And the more I see my own kids using iPods and web-based cell phones, the more convinced I become about the power of handhelds in the classroom.

Why spend anywhere from $400 for a netbook to $1500 for a high-end laptop if as a teacher I can have students access the same material using a $200 (soon to be less) iPod Touch? And while there is no Civilization app for other sorts of phones, more and more games are being ported to those types of platforms.

As educators, we need to be willing to look at all of the ways that content can be delivered, not just those we’re used to. And like it or not, handhelds such as iPod Touchs and cell phones aren’t going away.