NEWBURYPORT, MA (PRWEB) May 13, 2005
A new kind of interactive software is being used for the first time in high school and college classrooms across the country. ÂMaking History,Â a PC-based learning simulation from Muzzy Lane Software, has debuted this spring at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Ill., Salem State College in Salem, Mass., and Oak Hill High School in Converse, Ind.
Nearly 300 students participated in multiplayer game sessions. Grade levels ranged from high school Freshman taking Social Studies to college Seniors majoring in History.
ÂIt has taken us two years to engineer the game platform to the point where we believe it is ready for mainstream use in schools,Â said Muzzy Lane vice president Nick deKanter. ÂThe results weÂre seeing from these first in-class projects are very exciting, proving that the technology is ready but, more importantly, that the teachers and the kids are ready.Â
Unlike any lecture or homework assignment these teens have ever had, ÂMaking HistoryÂ literally put students in charge of France, England, Germany, Russia and Italy during the momentous decades of 1930 to 1950, the period before, during and after World War II. In teams and individually they made decisions of war and peace and everything in between.
Observing, coaching and sometimes playing against the students were three innovative teachers: Chris Mauriello of Salem State; John Ramsbottom of the University of Illinois; and Dave McDivitt of Oak Hill High.
ÂIÂve never seen so much energy in a history class before,Â says professor Mauriello. ÂAnd not just the students. Even the dean of the department stopped by to see what was going on. Kids were negotiating, laughing, talking, debating. And it was all about history, not what band is playing this weekend.Â
Salem State is taking advantage of a Massachusetts Laptop Initiative that provides funding to equip all incoming Freshman with Dell laptop computers.
ÂMaking HistoryÂ is the schoolÂs first major software application to utilize the new laptops as well as the schoolÂs intracampus wireless network.
Over the course of a week Professor Mauriello cycled 40 students Â half enrolled in an entry level World Civilization class and the other half representing upper-level History majors Â through the ÂMaking HistoryÂ game.
As a multiplayer simulation ÂMaking HistoryÂ emphasizes teamwork and critical decision making. The software employs a sophisticated artificial intelligence engine and a deep database of historical facts to keep players grounded in the reality of the subject matter.
ÂAlmost every country ran out of money in the early game going,Â said Professor Mauriello. ÂIn addition the dynamics of history, the kids are learning invaluable lessons on leadership and responsibility.Â
The University of Illinois, led by Professor Ramsbottom, hosted 90 Freshman and Sophomore students through a two-week sequence of game play as part of its ÂSurvey of British HistoryÂ course. The game sessions were conducted in the schoolÂs suite of computer labs, with four-student teams playing each of the countries.
ÂItÂs no simple business to run a country,Â says Ramsbottom. ÂMy students found that out the hard way as they realized that every move they made in the game was accompanied by a consequence, just like in the real world.Â
To demonstrate how well the video game integrates into everyday curriculum, Ramsbottom will base several final exam questions key historical points the students learned from the video game.
Dave McDivitt, the instructor who led perhaps the most ambitious ÂMaking HistoryÂ project of them all at Oak Hill High School, had 134 of his Sophomore World History students play the game over the course of week, engaging game sessions in teams of two to four students.
ÂThe real value of this technology is that it forces students to navigate complex and unpredictable things like land and power struggles, political unrest, economic uncertainty and even the vagaries of human personality. You canÂt get that kind of direct and personal learning from a textbook.Â
Neither McDivitt nor his students are new to video games. But the way in which ÂMaking HistoryÂ fits into the ecosystem of a classroom is entirely different.
ÂWeÂve looked at using games before, but the Muzzy Lane game is the first program that can satisfy the kidsÂ desire for entertainment and my desire for better learning. Based on this first project, itÂs clear they love playing it, and want to come in after school to keep playing. I look at that and realize that this game is a powerful tool for teaching tech-generation teenagers.Â
About Muzzy Lane Software
Muzzy Lane Software is based in Newburyport, Mass. Founded in 2002, the company is creating interactive learning simulations for colleges and high schools. Combining the fun-factor of multiplayer video games with deep educational content, Muzzy Lane is addressing the growing software gap in higher education. For more information visit http://www.muzzylane.com.
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