Through Electronic Arts, I was recently given the opportunity to ask Institute of Play’s General Manager, Jessica Lindl some questions regarding a new online community called SimCityEDU.
Jim Hunter: Having school age children and a spouse who is a teacher, when I first read about SimCityEDU I was certainly intrigued. You’re planning on using SimCity as a learning tool through a collaborative portal where educators can create and share lesson plans. Can you please explain how SimCity transitions to the classroom?
Jessica Lindl: Throughout SimCity’s 20+ years, the franchise has engaged actively with teachers, students and education organizations to inspire new ways of learning and change the way students see the world around them.
SimCityEDU is a free online community where educators will be able to create and share learning tools based on SimCity for their classes. These learning tools will be aligned to Common Core standards, which describe what students are expected to learn so teachers know what they need to do to help them.
JH: Will SimCityEDU be integrated within SimCity in any way, or is this a completely separate community for sharing and downloading lessons?
JL: Initially, SimCityEDU will be a separate community for co-developing learning tools. Based on feedback from our community, we may consider integration with the new SimCity further down the road.
JH: Can you give a specific example of what a lesson may consist of?
JL: A lesson will consist of 45 minutes of a teaching plan focused on the new SimCity, assessment materials, support materials (surveys, homework activities, scheduling modifications to accommodate diverse class time, and English Language Learner strategies) and alignment to learning standards.
JH: Throughout lessons, what kind of activities students will be engaged in while utilizing SimCity?
JL: SimCity provides an engaging and rich context in which to lead students to construct understanding about a system’s needs, particularly related to energy sources. By spiraling through multiple simulated cities, students will practice graphing multiple datasets, interpreting and arguing for recommended scenarios, and developing numerous scientific, mathematical, and communication skills in a game context. This model provides significant support for numerous cognitive processes such as observing, inferring relationships, conceptualizing, analyzing, evaluating and eventually supporting an argument for a proposed application of their new understanding of energy systems in city.
JH: What school levels will be the target audience?
JL: Middle and High School
JH: Can you please explain a bit about who GlassLab is?
JL: GlassLab transforms learning and assessment through digital games. They bring together leaders in the commercial games industry and experts in learning and assessment to leverage engaging games as powerful, data-rich learning and assessment environments. By delivering students and teachers pioneering tools, they drive progress on the path to college and career success.
JH: What is GlassLab’s role in the project?
JL: EA has partnered with GlassLab to build this community. GlassLab will manage the community and provide additional updates to meet the needs of educators using SimCity as a learning tool.
JH: Does GlassLab plan to have SimCityEDU pre-populated with sample lessons and content for educators to utilize? If so, is GlassLab enlisting current educators to assist in content creation?
JL: Yes. They are currently partnering with national education leaders to develop learning tools to pre- populate SimCityEDU.
JH: Electronic Arts and Maxis were recently in Washington, DC to showcase SimCityEDU. What took place?
JL: EA and GlassLab representatives were in our nation’s capital raising awareness around STEM education initiatives, SimCityEDU and engaging our nation’s educators and community leaders on how games can be a powerful teaching tool. EA has committed that it will make SimCity widely available to teachers and school districts nationwide but we are not yet able to release details.
JH: Can you please explain what STEM is, and how SimCity will be a part of it?
JL: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a key component of the US public education agenda. The desire is to integrate and better educate US citizens in STEM so they are more prepared for jobs in the 21st century. SimCity in combination with SimCityEDU is a natural fit to STEM mandates as it seamlessly integrated these skills in a highly-engaging way.
JH: What was the response like from your time in DC?
JL: We had an overwhelming response to our announcement from US policy leaders. It is clear the country is excited for an innovative approach to STEM learning and assessment.
We certainly thank Electronic Arts and Institute of Play for taking the time to answer our questions.