I’m Lindsey Whitton Christ, the new Insideschools staff writer. Although I am new to the Insideschools team, I have used both the blog and the website for years, first as a social studies teacher at IS 143 and then as a journalism student at Columbia. I am thrilled to begin contributing!
On a visit to PS 183 on the Upper East Side this week, I watched a group of excited fifth graders distress the edges of the paper on their own pioneer diaries, and I was reminded of my favorite computer game as a child, Oregon Trail. The students were undoubtedly so enthusiastic (they were falling all over each other to tell me everything they had learned about westward expansion) because the project let them imagine that they were pioneers experiencing the trail. The computer game had allowed me to do the same thing – although on a clunky 1980s Apple computer it was hardly the degree of computer simulation we are now used to.
While computer games can be a distraction, they can also be a great tool for learning. With social studies, computers can help students to model life in the past and understand social history. Sandra Day O’Connor has even gotten in on the game. My seventh graders would have loved to use the website the former justice is helping develop about the American justice system. My sixth graders each spent a short time on computers doing an activity on mummification and then they talked about what they learned for weeks. And I know several, otherwise mature, adults who would never admit that they occasionally stay up late creating civilizations on their computer.
During summer vacation when it’s too hot to go outside, which games do you encourage your children to play? And which (be honest) do you like to play with them?