29 October 2012

Gaming or simulation?

I recently started designing an economics unit idea based on the use of two table top games: Settlers of Catan and Monopoly. Both are resource management and expansion games, but the first uses an agricultural/products model, while the second is more about property, currency and investments. The basic idea is that students would play the first game, accrue resources and products, which would create a market. The supply and demand of this market would determine prices for those resources which are held by the students at the end of the game. Thus, the resources from Catan would determine how much money/property each student had to work with in Monopoly at the start. This would demonstrate how products drive the macro-economy and how businesses and financial investing build off of that. All of the game play would be supported by class lectures and discussions so that students understand the economic terms and concepts in play.

I see this as a way of using games in the classroom in a context that allows for real world knowledge to be transmitted in an engaging way.

Recently this website was recommended to me: http://www.winthemoneygame.com/ . I think this is a great idea, but it doesn't accomplish the same thing. This is more focused on the management of personal finances - salaries, paying bills, budgeting for things we want/need, etc. While I believe that this is equally important, it serves a different purpose. The Catan/Monopoly set up is highly theoretical and is about larger economic concepts - understanding how the nation's economy works and also a brief history of economic practice (e.g. bartering vs currency). The Win the Money Game would give students a much more practical notion of what it is like to get paid and what to do with that money once you have it. Both are good lessons for students to learn.

The more I think about this entire project, the more I think there are ways to bring content into the classroom via gaming. My Catan/Monopoly idea brings the engagement of traditional table top games to economic concepts, while the Win the Money Game brings a more literal simulation aspect to the table.

What do you think about gaming in the classroom? Can it deliver?

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