‘Redefining What’s Possible’ is a series of blogs that highlights
stand-out tech tools being used at KCS.
In Ontario, the grade 8 geography curriculum includes the study of human demographics in countries around the world. Students learn about the effect that such things as literacy, birth rate, maternal health and more have on mortality and quality of life. It’s one thing to ‘learn’ these things, but imagine the power of ‘living’ them. Otherwise impossible for these young Ontarians, that’s just what our students get to do using the program Real Lives.
Real Lives simulates a life for each player, based on authentic global statistics. If one-fifth of the world’s population is Chinese, then chances are that one-fifth of a class will be randomly assigned a simulated life that begins in China. They’ll be given a name, photo and detailed profile. The students’ simulated lives will start at birth and unfold naturally, as chance and statistics dictate. With each log-in, their person will age and face decision points. Gender, socio-demographics, health, disease, and natural disasters will also be assigned to these ‘real lives’ based on where they live and all other aspects of their profile. Some students will die young, others will live a long and healthy life. Malaria, famine, and drought will take many. Along the way, real life decisions need to be made by students, such as:
- Will you help a friend in need, even if it harms you?
- You’ve found a wallet on the ground. What will you do with it?
- You are of the age to marry. Will you?
- What job will you try to get?
- You’ve come across a mess left by another individual. Will you clean it up?
- Some friends have decided to take up smoking. Will you?
- You’ve been drafted into the military. What will you do?
It’s a virtual game of life, where important decisions need to be made, all of which have consequences.
What do the students think of using Real Lives in the classroom? The students were very keen to use this program and to share what was happening to their avatar in the game. It provoked lively discussions about the consequences of life decisions and the plight of people in their country. With Real Lives, our oldest students were immersed in a world vastly different from their own. They experienced first-hand the threats faced by many. By identifying with their ‘real life’, the simulated became real and global empathy started to take root. Made intensely personal, it’s a geography unit that these lucky young Ontarians will not soon forget.
That’s technology with a welcome human touch.
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.