Civworld: Designing Learning Systems for the Interactive Age

Kurt Squire, Ben DeVane, Shree Durga

Open-ended “sandbox” historical simulation games such as Civilization have been shown to be robust tools for engaging marginalized students in the study of history, but are a poor fit for the structure of schooling. Drawing on research identifying computer and videogames as third spaces (Steinkuehler, 2005), we argue that after-school programs provide a unique opportunity to engage students in deep, academically meaningful learning in contexts that bridge home and school. Students can develop identities as expert gamers, designers, or scenario builders, and these various forms of expertise interact to create knowledge-building communities. Our previous research has identified the processes by which these communities function and how novice players become expert designers.

How to move forward from boutique, local after-school centers to integrated programs that can engage a wider variety of participants remains a challenge. In this workshop, we introduce Civworld, an online community of Civilization players dedicated to using the game to further the study of history. Designed by middle school students and a team of designers, Civworld features game scenarios, authoring tools, community events, and tools for educators interested in using Civilization in formal and informal learning environments. Featured in this session will be several Civistorians (middle school Civilization players) who will discuss their interest in the game and their perceptions of its impact on them.

Click here to close the window.