I love history. I love to stand at a place that has been around for a long time and just imagine all the people who have stood there before me. What were they like? What did they think about?
I remember being very disappointed in my history classes in middle and high school. Basically I was an overachiever and wanted to go deeper into the ideas behind the people but no, it was just memorize these dates and these people for a test on Friday. It was horrible.
Video games have been touted for quite a few years now as a way to kindle passion for learning and I believe it will have the biggest impact in the way we learn about history.
For example, during the American Revolution, one of the most memorable naval battles was between the Bonhomme Richard under the command of American John Paul Jones and the larger British flagged HMS Serapis. The way students learn about it (if they do at all anymore) is by reading it in a book. Therefore please read the following description of the battle from Wikipedia.
Shortly after 7 p.m. the Battle of Flamborough Head began. The Serapis engaged the Bonhomme Richard, and soon afterwards, the Alliance fired, from a considerable distance, at the Countess. Quickly recognizing that he could not win a battle of big guns, and with the wind dying, Jones made every effort to lock Richard and Serapis together (his famous quotation, “I have not yet begun to fight!” was uttered in reply to a cheerful British taunt during an odd stalemate in this phase of the battle), finally succeeding after about an hour, following which his deck guns and his Marine marksmen in the rigging began clearing the British decks. Alliance sailed past and fired a broadside, doing at least as much damage to the Richard as to the Serapis. Meanwhile, the Countess of Scarborough had enticed the Pallas downwind of the main battle, beginning a separate engagement. When Alliance approached this contest, about an hour after it had begun, the badly damaged Countess surrendered.
It goes on like this. Most students would not finish reading it, or if they did they would mainly be reading for dates and names. They learn to pass tests not to understand it. They certainly don’t try to integrate it into their own long term knowledge of things. Everything is short term and compartmentalized from things they think are important.
So, maybe there is a better way? This is a video of a new video game called Assassin’s Creed 3. Keep in mind what you are seeing is a video of the game being actually played, this is not just a movie you watch. (H/T Kotaku)
Pretty amazing eh? Now currently this is a game where it has limits but in the future we will have virtual worlds like a next generation Second Life that will allow realistic simulations of many historical events to be played out. Students won’t just read about things, they will experience them!
It will revolutionize how we learn history. Awesome!