Getting Ready to Play the Game with Your Students

Step 1: Choosing an Implementation Strategy

Past/Present is a richly detailed virtual world with many hidden pleasures for both students and teachers. The game can be played effectively during a block of three to five forty minute class periods. There are several factors that affect how fast your students will get through the game. First, students play at varying speeds and will arrive at key moments in the game at different times. Second, the number and frequency of supplementary teacher-directed student activities (class discussion, completion of worksheets, and so forth) will affect the rate of progress.

Past/Present is designed so that you can stop game play at any time while still maintaining the integrity of the game as a curricular experience. While completing the game yields a fuller experience (achieving more content and skill goals), your students will meet many of the educational goals even if they don't complete the full storyline.

The proposed curricula for teaching Past/Present include a mix of in-class gameplay, in-class collaborative activities, and related homework assignments. A detailed Scope and Sequence outline is included in the Teaching Strategy materials below.

Five Day Curriculum:

Devoting five days of your class time to playing and discussing Past/Present will allow your students to fully immerse themselves in the narrative of the game as well as the supporting materials.

Three Day Curriculum:

You can choose to play Past/Present over three class days as well. In this scenario, your students may not complete all four Episodes but they will still be able to have a rich gameplaying experience. This shorter curriculum will bring students as least as far as the end of Episode Two (Tuesday), when they are on the verge of making important decisions within the game narrative. Suggestions for activities related to early termination can be found in the Scope and Sequence Grid.

You do not need to have your students complete all four episodes of Past/Present gameplay to achieve the desired educational goals of the game, and the Scope and Sequence document is designed for maximum flexibility. In addition, assuming their computers meet the minimum operational standards to run Past/Present, students would be able to continue playing the game on their own time using their existing login information.

Click here to see details of the three- and five-day Past/Present curricula.

Step 2: Choosing the Play Mode

Playing Collaboratively vs Singly

Depending on your classroom situation and your teaching goals, there are a number of ways to have your students play Past/Present. Our recommended method is to have pairs of students share a computer, as opposed to playing singly. Pairing allows students to collaborate with each other as they play, and to problem-solve as a team. For example, you may wish to pair a strong reader with a weak one, or a fluent video-gamer with a novice. (Remember to make them hand off control of the game to each other from scene to scene!) While this model is educationally very rewarding, it does tend to slow down game progress. Single players tend to move faster through the game narrative, but may require more intervention from you if they run into technical or comprehension difficulties.

Playing in Anna/Walter "50/50" Mode

Both Anna's and Walter's individual stories can function as a complete game, but the ideal way to play Past/Present is to have your class become familiar with both narratives. The best way to achieve this is to divide your class into teams of four: two students on each team collaboratively playing the Anna game on one computer, and two students collaboratively playing the Walter game on another computer. The screens should not be visible to each other if possible. This allows your students to focus on one character but also experience the other side of the labor/management divide. The conversation that ensues between the Annas and the Walters after playing in this "50/50" mode will be lively and enlightening for all. (NOTE: Testing has shown that boys are perfectly fine with playing Anna, so don't feel that you need to match the players to the characters by gender.)

Playing Walter or Anna as a solo game can also be a rewarding experience. Check the student activity materials to make sure they are relevant to your chosen character.

Technical Considerations

Consult the following checklist to make sure your classroom has the equipment needed to play Past/Present according to your wishes.

  • Computers with game pre-installed (this makes for a smoother classroom experience). This will involve working with your school's IT staff to prepare the machines ahead of time.
  • Headphones for each player, if desired. If students are playing in pairs, you'll need to provide an audio splitter jack for the two sets of headphones required. The alternative is to have the computer speakers up, which can make for a noisier but just as effective classroom.
  • Computer mice are desirable for easier in-game navigation, but not necessary.

Step 3: Review Student Activities and Resources

There are a variety of worksheets and readings to supplement actual gameplay and provide content that will support discussion, study, research inquiry and instruction before, during, and after gameplay. You can download these documents in the full Students' Materials Packet or see individual ones in the Students section of this website. Supporting documents include: