Sunday, February 22, 2015

10 Educational Games That Teach Kids About Social Issues

     The following list is really incredible. there are so many great implications from issues in the US to international ones. This would be a great way to differentiate instruction in your classroom using a jigsaw, different levels and students can create their own enduring understandings.  A credit to Matt  Farmer who compiled this list. He is a teacher at Valleyview Middle School, in Denville, New Jersey.
10 Educational Games That Teach Kids About Social Issues

Incorporating games into the classroom is a great way to engage students and increase motivation.

But how can social studies and history teachers use games to help students better understand social issues? Our guest contributor and expert on gamification, Matthew Farber, shares his favorite tools:
Social impact games are a genre that seek to effect positive changes in society through play. Often, players are put in roles (known as “player agency”) and must make decisions that have impactful consequences. These games are not necessarily designed for teaching; rather, the goal is to enable players to have empathy about a social issues.
As a social studies teacher, I have found that they are effective in putting students in authentic situations in which difficult problems get engaged.
Here are some of my favorite social impact games that I use with students (listed alphabetically; not ranked). Be sure to assess learning by asking your students about the decisions they made, as well as the reasons behind it!


Ayiti: The Cost of Life (free; PC/Mac)
A human rights game in which the player is a young, poverty-stricken child in Haiti.

Darfur Is Dying (free; PC/Mac)
One of the first social impact titles, its message still resonates today. Missions task players with foraging for water while outrunning the militia, as well as experiences daily life in a refugee camp.

Gone Home (paid, inquire via email about educational bundles; PC/Mac)
An award-winning first-person exploration game set in the 1990s. The narrative is pieced together as players find objects in the empty house in which family problems unfold.

The Migrant Trail (free; PC/Mac)
Tied to a documentary about undocumented immigrants, players assume two roles: a migrant and a patrol agent. It teaches themes of empathy through simple role-play.

Mission US games (free; PC/Mac)
There are currently four missions to play: For Crown or Country, set in the pre-Revolutionary Boston; Flight to Freedom, told from the point-of-view of an slave; the award-winning A Cheyenne Odyssey, about the plight of the Cheyenne people; and the newly released City of Immigrants, about life in the tenements of New York City.

Never Alone (paid; PC, Xbox, PlayStation)
Never Alone is from E-Line Media and Upper One Games. It is the first game adapted from an Iñupiat folk story.

Papers, Please (paid; iPad and PC/Mac)
Papers, Please won multiple awards in 2014. It is an ethical decision-making game set in a fictional communist country during the Cold War. The objective is to checks immigrant papers. The penalty is delayed, such as a reduction in income that can affect the health of your family. (It is recommended for older students; Preview first. suggestive content can be toggled off in “Settings”).

Nightmare: Malaria (free; iPad/Android)
Nightmare: Malaria is a social awareness game about malaria. The narrator is voiced by actress Susan Sarandon. The game features facts about malaria and how simple solutions, like nets, can save lives.

Third World Farmer (free; PC/Mac)
Third World Farmer is a simulation game about the difficulties of farming in a developing country. Familyeconomicsare among the issues to resolve.

Quandary (free; PC/Mac)
An award-winning game about ethical dilemmas, or quandaries. In it, players must assemble a team to colonize a new planet.

Aside from this list, I recommend reviewing the games curated on the Games for Change website.
Similar to independent films, social impact gaming has a community of enthusiasts who recognize achievements with awards and recognition. The idea is that games, as “new media”—compared to “traditional media,” like books, theater, and film—can influence people in a positive direction. For example, in 2014, the Games for Change Festival joined forces with the TriBeCa Film Festival in New York City.

What are your favorite games that you use to teach specific subjects? Tell us in the comments!

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