When using games in the classroom, you can use those that have a really clear learning outcome or those which facilitate further learning acting as more of a stimulus. Sim City is one of those games which does both brilliantly. In fact, I began using it as a game to tie together a topic and ended up seeing a whole host of direct learning outcomes which I just didn't realise would be there!
Note: I used the iPad version although I'm sure the PC version would suffice.
If you've never played it, you start with a blank landscape. You can edit the position and size of the water and foliage (something that users will want to do after they've played the game for a bit - position of these can be quite crucial). From there you can select the year your city will come into existence, give it a name and declare yourself mayor. Now you set to work constructing your new utopia.
Another note: If you elect to start in the year 2000 you'll have pretty much everything unlocked and open to you in terms of energy sources, sanitation options etc. If you start in 1900 these become available as time passes in line with when the developments were made originally. This means you can effectively play through the 20th century and see how developments and advances in certain areas affect your decision making processes. It also opens up great discussion around how the decisions world leaders are affected not only by the benefits of new developments, but their financial and human costs as well. Pretty deep for a £4.99 app - and we've barely scratched the surface!
As you (and students) play the game you'll learn first hand about so many things. Here's a short list of the main challenges I saw students face when using Sim City.
- The need for balance between residential, commercial and industrial areas - with supply and demand constantly shifting as population fluctuates.
- The need to balance the books by changing taxes, ordinances and departmental budgets.
- The different options available for powering a city and their environmental and cost implications.
- The need for effective town planning in regard to public services (schools, colleges, universities, police stations, fire stations, hospitals, prisons, libraries, museums)
- The need for effective town planning in regard to transport links (road, rail, air, sea).
- The need to ensure water supply and sanitation to all areas of a city.
- The need to budget to replace items that reach the end of their useful life.
- The political issues that confront leaders when trying to please the masses (advisers and petitions come rolling in regularly).
- What to do with waste.
- How to manage pollution.
To be honest the list goes on. And on. For a long time. The outcomes and outputs that arose from these challenges were fantastic and where further clarification or depth was needed, we'd had the perfect introduction.
The game is complex. It does take a little while to get off the ground with a new city. But we all know that games teach problem solving really well - and this is no exception.
So what are you waiting for? Get this loaded onto your iPads and turn your upper KS2 class into a games-rich classroom.