For many people of a certain age, their first experiences with SimCity were in the classroom. The Maxis city-builder taught youngsters the importance of balance, explained what a "residential zone" was, and gave their imagination room to build and grow. Now, with the new SimCity due out in March, EA and GlassLab are formalising the game's educational relationship, announcing SimCityEDU, an online educational community formed around the game.
Educators and skeptics alike will tell you that SimCityEDU forms part of the inevitable gamification of learning. The program is being designed as a resource for classroom teachers, particularly those who are interested in using digital platforms - like video games - to raise interest in STEM subjects. That is, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Currently in the works for North American students only, SimCityEDU's curriculum and tools are being correlated to U.S. Common Core standards, so students will get the same quality and level of education from play as they would from books.
Lucy Bradshaw, Senior Vice President and General Manager of EA’s Maxis Label explains:
For decades, SimCity has been embraced by the educational community as an engaging videogame that also provides a powerful learning experience, teaching problem solving skills through imaginative civic gameplay. We want to up the ante of SimCity’s educational influence. Through our partnership with GlassLab, SimCity will become the foundation of a program to re-imagine learning in a way that will inspire today’s youth to get excited about STEM education and become the problem solvers of tomorrow.
While SimCity is enjoying a worldwide release, SimCityEDU is only targeting schools and educational establishments in the United States - who knows, if it takes off, similar programs might start popping up all over the place.
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Jimmy the Geek