Bill MacKenty

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Railroad Tycoon III in the classroom

Posted in Games in education Practical Advice on 19 - July 2008 at 06:59 AM (15 years ago). 219 views.

I got this great question and thought I’d answer it here:

Wow, great site. I teach 8th graders and avidly incorporate games into my
classroom and in an after school strategy gaming club. We play Civ II,
Stronghold, and Medieval Total War II.

This year I will be teaching a class of 10th grade American History and am
excited to use the demo of Railroad Tycoon III (official site) with the students. Do you
know of any lesson plans or links to sites that give suggestions on how best to incorporate Rail Tycoon 3 into the classroom. Thanks so much.

First of all, my congratulations to you! It sounds like you are pretty advanced.  I applaud your efforts to use games in your classroom. I’m running an after-school program next year for text-based games - maybe we can compare notes. I suspect your strategy gaming club is more fun, though. I once ran a micro-armour club after-school club and the kids loved it (despite the complexity of a paper-and-pen rule set). 

First of all, some lessons on railroads and the Transcontinental Railway (via this google search) :

1. General lesson plans for the industrial revolution (but not directly tied into Rail Road Tycoon III)
2. PBS Railroad lesson plans
3. Discovery Railroad lesson plans
4. Edsite Transcontinental railroad lessons
5. Another decent looking lesson for railroads - with an emphasis on reading

The second part of your question, “links to sites that give suggestions on how best to incorporate Rail Tycoon 3 into the classroom” can be answered here:

When I’m using games in the classroom, I don’t think ” I have a game, how can I use it to teach INSERT LESSON OBJECTIVE HERE ?”.  Instead, I think “I have to teach LESSON OBJECTIVE HERE, are games the best choice, and will they do the trick?”.  I’m sure you are using games wisely - but please read some basic criteria I’ve discussed before decided to use games in your classroom.  And please remember, the single most important part of using games in your teaching is instructional design. As I often say, if you stick a kid in front of a game for an hour, and expect something magical to happen, you are going to be disappointed.

You are teaching 10th grade American History, and I’m sure some part of that teaching will involve the transcontinental railroad. In New York State, there are plenty of standards you could use. The cool thing about Railroad Tycoon series is the simulation element - so you could ask your kids to set up some “what if” scenarios, and perhaps incorporate the game into a bigger role-play in your classroom.

You could also use Railroad Tycoon to talk about economic development during this period.  From wikipedia:

The objective of the game is to build and manage a railroad company by laying track, building stations, and buying and scheduling trains. The game models supply and demand of goods and passengers as well as a miniature stock market on which players can buy and sell stock of their own or competing companies.

I hope I’ve answered your question - again, I’d like to offer my congratulations to you, and I’m eager to hear how Railroad Tycoon works for you!