Education - Page 8 - Games, from page 5

- Page 8
Games, from page 5
Games, from page 5

in a cross-disciplinary team, learning to work with people with completely different skills. That happens in just about any real-world job, but it is experience that is often missed until you get into those real-world settings,” says Olano.

At McDaniel College, learning through games doesn’t include gaming in the modern sense. In fact, it goes back, way back, asking students to take on the roles of great scholars, artists and historians to understand the outcome of world events, art history or other complex issues of the past. “Reacting to the Past” was created at Barnard
College in the late 1990s as a way of teaching that didn’t rely so heavily on lecturing from the teacher, and instead encourages the student to dive deep into their subject, using writing, critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork to better understand the ins and outs of their assignment. They must rely on what they’ve learned in context to formulate their argument, maintaining the philosophical and intellectual arguments of the time and character they are playing.

“This is an active learning technique. They learn the content better than if I were just jabbering. Every game is very carefully orchestrated. Every student gets a game book, historical material, historical outline and victory objectives. They have to prepare speeches, give oral arguments in a debate-like format, and they have to write up the debate afterwards. This is a deeper learning, and the retention is astonishing,” says Gretchen McKay, professor of art history at McDaniel. McKay has been using Reacting to the Past for over a decade, and has even written her own games. Initially a skeptic, she was blown away but what she saw, and went on to chair the national Reacting to the Past consortium board, which oversees the curriculum.

Reacting to the Past is rooted in the facts. Students must have a strong understanding of what actually happened before they can argue what should have happened or a different solution to a historical event. “Throughout the game you do research. I had to give a speech on neo-impressionism, and I broke down the parts, did the research and really got to know it and understand it in a deeper way. It also lets you really focus on the parts that you are confused about at first,” says Qwentin Dobbs, a sophomore at McDaniel, majoring in communications.

“The game really drew me into class and grabbed my attention, because it’s a different way of teaching. It’s hands on. I took three classes with [Professor McKay] because I was so intrigued, and it brought out the best in me. And it’s a lot of fun and competitive,” says John Chamberlin, a junior at McDaniel, majoring in exercise science.

After every game, which vary in number and length depending on the level of the class, there is a debrief, where students discuss, as their 21st century selves, what they
learned. “Kids can often get upset. They learn that history is not predetermined. People are the reason that history happened the way it did. Reacting to the Past encourages civic engagement,” says McKay. •