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I’ve continually argued that games and simulations have an important part to play in the sociology classroom – I’ve found, created and posted a fair number partly because they can be counter-intuitive in a way that forces students to confront and reassess their taken-for-granted ideas about social behaviour – from education to inequality – and partly because they have the potential to involve students more-deeply in the actual process of learning through experience and discovery.

They have, in other words, the capacity to turn passive learning into active learning, something I consider A Good Thing.

Although the vast majority of the sims I’ve collated are designed for offline use I’ve recently stumbled upon some sims designed, in the brave-new-words of their Publisher, to:

Build the sociological imaginations of your students by showing them how social structures impact others’ realities”.

Despite – or maybe because of – this rather bold claim, the reality is sadly a little more prosaic: the reach of online learning frequently exceeds its grasp. This isn’t to say the sims aren’t worth playing, but you do need to keep in mind they’re not particularly immersive and their subject matter can be a little esoteric (and aimed squarely at an American market: most of the evidence and examples cited are US-based).

On the plus side, however, they combine useful sociological information with simple decision-making (there’s only ever two choices) that has both sociological consequences and provides interesting feedback and information that students might normally expect to learn through something like passive note-taking.

If this sounds like I’m damning them with faint praise it’s not meant to read that way: I personally enjoyed playing the 4 available sims and I think your students will too.

They should also learn something from them, which is probably the objective…

1. Sociologically Strong? Do you have a strong sociological imagination?

Sociologist C. Wright Mills defined the sociological imagination as the ability to understand the relationship between individual experience and the broader patterns of society. This means being able to examine people’s experiences within their social context.

2. Second-Shift Ready? Can you manage the second shift?”

Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild defined the second shift as the unpaid domestic labor, including housework and childcare, that people do after their “first shift” at a full-time job. Often, in heterosexual, two-parent families, women perform the vast majority of second-shift labor.

3. Your Career, or Your Child? How free are your choices?

Social structure is defined as the social institutions and social relationships that together constitute society. The social institutions that make up the social structure include the family, education, religion, the government, and the economy. These institutions and the patterns of inequality they contain shape individuals’ choices.

4. How Would You Fare? How would you fare as a refugee?

The Civil War in Syria, which began in 2011, is the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. It has forced millions of Syrians to become refugees, seeking asylum in foreign countries.

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