Futuristic Classroom is “Making History” in Missouri

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A futuristic "concept classroom" at Southeast Missouri State University is a showcase for Digital Age learning. Using multiplayer video games, Tablet PCs and interactive white boards, students are thinking more critically and learning the why behind the what of history.

In one of the most futuristic settings on any college campus, Digital Age students at Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) are discovering the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of history.

“This isn’t about being high tech, it’s about unleashing the new dynamics of learning,” says Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., associate professor of history at SEMO. “Our students walk into the classroom with more gadgets than your average Radio Shack, and we expect them to stare at a chalkboard and feel motivated?”

Enter, Room 311 of the university library, “a true concept classroom designed for flexibility and interactivity,” according to David Starrett, Ph.D., Dean of University Studies, who was instrumental in designing the facility, which includes special reflected lighting to reduce glare on the computer screens; an LCD projector linked to an interactive white board; and two dozen Gateway Tablet PCs connected wirelessly to the Internet and to each other in a peer-based network.

It’s here that Professor Hoffman orchestrates his interactive learning sessions using “Making History,” the multiplayer history simulation game from Muzzy Lane Software.

“We used Making History for the first time in the fall semester and based on that I’ll be using it as a regular part of my curriculum,” says Professor Hoffman.

In a group of 20 Honors students, 17 of whom were women, professor Hoffman’s fall class relived the world-shaping events of 1936 to 1945, playing in teams, each operating a different country, including the USA.

According to professor Hoffman, the lessons learned went far beyond the names and dates of treaties and battles.

“When an 18-year old understands how the textile shortage in the Soviet Union in 1942 helped determine the course of history, you’ve entered a whole new realm of critical thinking,” says Hoffman. “With ‘Making History’ my students felt immersed in the material and wanted to discuss it. That’s when the teachable moments truly occur.”

Professor Hoffman plans to expand his use of the game in the spring 2006 semester.

“Making History” offers both single- and multi-player modes so players can challenge each other or duel the AI-controlled software by themselves. Built-in chat lets students confer with allies and enemies alike. A real-time scoring system shows how each country is holding up, and how the students’ in-class performance compares to actual history.

“Making History” operates on Windows 2000 or XP, requires a Pentium 4 processor (or Athlon equivalent), 2 GB of hard disk space, 512 MB of system RAM and 64 MB of video RAM.

For more information or to purchase “Making History” online, visit http://www.making-history.com.

About Southeast Missouri State University

Southeast Missouri State University was founded in 1873 and sits on a 200-acre campus in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. With approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students, SEMO, offers degree programs in Liberal Arts, Health Professions, Education, Business, and Science & Technology.

About Muzzy Lane Software

Founded in 2002 and based in Newburyport, Mass., Muzzy Lane Software is delivering the next-generation video game platform for learning. For more information about the company, visit http://www.muzzylane.com.

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Peter Greer