For a recent professional development workshop, I set out to create learning modules that would introduce middle school teachers to some interactive online games and simulations. Finding quality interactives that met my search parameters proved be a challenging task, but one that resulted in a good collection of digital interactives.
First, the interactives needed to align with one of five themes based on our middle school social studies standards (created as Google Classroom “breakouts” for the PD experience): American History/Civics, Ancient History, Economics, Medieval/Early Modern History, and World Geography.
Second, to align with the pedagogical emphasis of the PD experience, these interactives also needed to go beyond trivia or review games. They needed to emphasize process standards in the areas of historical or spatial thinking and decision-making skills. Our state content standards are mostly conceptual in nature (cause-and-effect, patterns, processes)-- so most military simulation games really didn’t fit the parameters well.
Third, the interactives needed to be web-based (not downloaded software) and free of charge. Since we are a chromebook district, I did not worry about mobile capability with iOS, so flash games were fair game.
After searching with a variety of keywords and using many online lists (and finding many broken links), I came up with the collection below, organized by theme. (Note: the quality of these interactives varies greatly, but I avoided a rating system for now.)
- DocsTeach provides access thousands of primary sources. Teachers can borrow from a collection of document-based activities created by the National Archives, copy and modify activities for their students, and create their own activities using the online tools.
- Mission US engages students in the study of transformational moments in American history. The game immerses players in rich, historical settings and then empowers them to make choices that illuminate how ordinary people experienced the past.
- Dig into History - Mesopotamia has students begin in Collect and Catalog to dig for Mesopotamian artifacts in Iraq. Then they curate a Museum Exhibition using photographs of the artifacts they found.
- Discover Ancient Egypt provides six games on life in ancient Egypt: The Three Pyramids, Egyptian Tomb Adventure, Land of the Egyptians, Dress Like an Egyptian, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, and Temple Store Games
- Gen i Revolution includes 16 interactive missions in which students complete a variety of activities to help them learn important personal finance concepts.
- Trading Around the World allows students to experience the challenges and excitement of international trade. Players try to get the best price for the goods they sell and the biggest bargains for the goods they buy.
Medieval/Early Modern History
- Renaissance: Become a Spice Trader makes players the owner of a large sailing ship. They sail around the world and trade goods with other countries.
- Merchants of the Great Exchange is based on a book written by British merchants traveling and trading in the East whose goal was to return alive and with enough goods to sell in England to make a profit.
- Map Maker Interactive allows users to create and analyze custom maps with physical and human features.
- National Geographic Educational Games includes a collection of more than 20 games ranging from science & engineering, history & culture, and geographic decision-making.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Feel free to comment below)
1. What do you see as the benefits of online simulation activities?
2. How could you incorporate these activities into classroom instruction? (even if you do not have 1:1 devices)