Category: Culture
Uncovering Ancient Rome: Did You Know?

Ancient Rome has fascinated and intrigued people for centuries. It’s easy to understand why: tyrannical leaders, wars, gladiators, and the rise of a vast empire. Hollywood has helped to fuel this fascination with interpretations of stories and people from this time period. However, many times movies and TV shows stretch the truth a bit to make things even more interesting. Here are a few great facts you can bet on to be true:

An artifact featured in Excavate! RomeGladiator Recovery Shake

Gladiators might have had a special “recovery” drink. According to this article from NPR, the bones of gladiators were found to have a higher level of calcium. While the cause isn’t totally known, Pliny the Elder was quoted as writing, “Your hearth should be your medicine chest. Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators after a combat are helped by drinking this.” Many believe that the ashes of charred plants were mixed into a drink that helped to boost their calcium to build stronger bones.

An artifact used in Ancient RomeBaths Are for More than Bathing

The baths were for more than just bathing. Public bath houses were a large part of ancient Roman daily life. Romans would progress through a ritual of dipping in pools of differing temperatures. In place of soap, they (or their slaves) would rub oil on their bodies and scrape the dirt away with a tool called a strigil. Other than a way to get clean, the baths offered an opportunity for people to network with each other and relax. This article from LiveScience discusses some of the items found in the drains of Roman Baths. Jewelry, plates and cups, animal bones, and even scalpels have been recovered showing evidence of more than just bathing.

An example of a jug used in Ancient RomeSecond Floor with a View

Who doesn’t love a penthouse view? In modern apartment buildings, the higher the floor you live, the more expensive it becomes. The top floor is supposed to have the best view and the largest space. Take this idea and flip it around when it comes to Roman apartments. These buildings, called Insulae, were built quickly and cheaply to house the ever-growing population of Rome. Though most contained only five levels, some reached up to nine. The fear of collapse and fire was real since it happened often. The top floors were usually the most cramped and did not have running water!

An example of a birdcage from RomeFor the Birds

Wealthy Romans lived in individual houses called Domus. One interesting aspect of daily life of wealthy Romans was that they had pets! Dogs were very popular with Romans. The Greyhound and Maltese were two very popular breeds. Birds were also prized – many Romans domesticated nightingales, magpies, and ravens because they could be taught to speak.  However, many exotic species were imported such as peacocks and parrots and kept is beautifully decorated cages.

 

These facts can all be discovered in Dig-iT! Games’ new Excavate! Rome game, along with many more that reveal the complexities of Roman society. Players take on the role of archaeologist and choose which location to dig in (the Colosseum, Baths, Domus, or Insula). At each site, they will uncover and analyze precious artifacts that tell the interesting and intriguing story of ancient Rome. In addition, we have our Excavate! Card Game for ancient Rome that allows students to put their knowledge of ancient Rome to the test. What facts do your students love to learn about the Romans?

A promotional image for Excavate! Rome

 

 

 


‘Tis the Season – For Movies!

Make use of your free time and watch movies!

A scene of the movies

from: hashi photo

The holidays are a great time to get cozy and watch some movies! This year it looks to be a good year for some exciting new films like:  Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jumanji, The Greatest Showman, and Ferdinand, just to name a few!  However, one of the most successful movies this holiday season has been Disney/Pixar’s Coco. The beautiful story of young Miguel who has dreams of being a musician despite his family’s mysterious ban on music! He finds himself able to cross into the “Land of the Dead” during Día de los Muertos to meet his musical idol.

Trademarking Culture

One of the reasons the movie is so successful and plays to both Hispanic and non-Hispanic audiences so well is because of a flub by Disney. The company tried to copyright the phrase “Día de los Muertos” in 2013 which resulted in such intense backlash they decided to rescind the permit a week later. One of the most outspoken critics of the copyright was Lalo Alcaraz, a Mexican-American political cartoonist, who Disney then hired (along with two others) to be a cultural consultant. This assured that the film was portrayed in the most appropriate and authentic manner.

As a former Spanish teacher, I am thrilled to see movies like this and Reel FX’s Book of Life Movies like Coco feature Dia de los Muerta altars like thisbring culturally sensitive and authentic portrayals to the mainstream. I have taught in predominantly suburban districts that did not have diverse populations. Every year I had to explain to teenagers that Día de los Muertos was not “Mexico’s Halloween” but a vibrant celebration of life and death. Sure, there are plenty of documentaries, crafts, and websites to research how Día de los Muertos is celebrated, but none of it got to the emotions and beliefs of the holiday like Coco. It’s a wonderful thing to know that children and adults can see this movie and experience the heritage, bright colors, music, language, and emotion of Día de los Muertos.

Preserving Culture

An artifact not from the movies- instead from Excavate! Mesoamerica

We obviously love any kind of entertainment that can combine learning and fun. Games and experiential learning have the power to make education effortless. We had this in mind when we designed our Excavate! Series. In Excavate! Mesoamerica you can have this experience. Players have the opportunity to travel to three different locations: Chichen Itza – the Mayan pyramid complex on the Yucatan Peninsula, Tenochtitlan – the Aztec capital in central Mexico, and Cusco – The capital of the Incan Empire. The game lets students analyze artifacts from these cultures to piece together an understanding of the people and how they lived. The beautiful illustrations in the journal will also provide many opportunities for discussion. We hope this game can also spark an interest into learning about these histories and people.

 

 


Were the Greeks the First Gamers?

Interactive Narrative as Game

The Iliad and the Odyssey are part of the Western Literature canon but primarily written down in book form. This belies their original format which was recited, edited, embellished and improvised epic poems performed in front of a rapt audience. They were a seamless combination of entertainment and education much like today’s educational video game! Add the fact that a driving narrative delivered the lessons and knowledge and now you can really see how ancient epics have similarities to learning games.

Exploding the Castle This comparison is brilliantly made by Roger Travis of University of Connecticut in his article (“What Homeric Epic Can Teach Us About Educational Affordances of Interactive Narrative” pgs. 19-37) published recently in Exploding the Castle: Rethinking How Video Games and Game Mechanics Can Shape the Future of Education. Travis’ article not only explores the interactive nature of sharing epic poems but also highlights how their use in Greek theater expands the nature of their interactive power. The messages, lessons and epic journeys get reframed and improvised to keep audiences engaged through surprising twists and turns and reframing of comfortable tropes much like how a video game progresses through various levels.

My favorite assertion is that Socrates was indeed a gamer!

Socrates was a gamer. My research suggests that he and his fellow Athenians played the stories of Achilles and Odysseus every time they heard them because we always play adventure stories, whether we hear them or read them or watch them and whether we have explicit, if fake, control over some portion of the story or not. Remember that every choice you can make in a digital game is programmed into that game’s software, and remember that every choice you can make even in a tabletop role-playing game must fall within the rules. If it works better for you, though simply imagine Socrates and is friends playing Achilles or playing Odysseys at the end of his life those games became even more interactive as Socrates chose to become a new Achilles. (Travis Page 22)

We read and perform these epic poems for their powerful stories of the human condition, insight into historical events and because they have powerful narrative structures. We are constrained in how far off piste we can go with content as we rework them but they are inherently engaging and we read them over and over again. Much like a good game compels the player to replay, rework and master a technique or level. When we play today’s video games, we may be taking part of a tradition that started a lot earlier than we had imagined!

Lasting Influence…Even in Game Play

The Greeks have had a significant influence in our culture and it is evident in our architecture, live theater, form of government and now even our video games. Why not learn more about these cultural influencers by playing a video game about them?

Socrates the Gamer

Dig-iT! Games has recently released our Ancient Greece title in the Excavate! video game series. Students excavate real artifacts that are primary sources that students analyze in order to draw conclusions about the daily life of ancient Greece. Excavate! Greece challenges students to compare and contrast the lifestyles of Athens and Sparta, dig deep into Greek religious practices while exploring Apollo’s Temple at Delphi and explore the life of world class athletes while excavating Olympus. It is an engaging and fun way to learn about and build on the ancient tradition that Socrates also enjoyed: the interactive narrative!

Try Excavate! Greece today and give it to your loved one who has to find an engaging way to get his or her students interested in ancient Greece after the holidays!


Summer Gaming List

Could you save the world this summer?  Discover a new civilization? Or even explore the universe first hand?

We know you can!

Summer is here and it is time to keep the learning going! Summer reading lists are being circulated now with carefully chosen books to support reading gains over the concluding school year and a stepping stone for opening discussions at the beginning of school in the fall.  There can be a significant amount of down time in the summer for children which is the main reason why summer reading lists have become a part of our summers today.  We encourage students to read all summer long but also, don’t neglect to curate your own summer gaming list too!

Picture this: A child seated by himself reading a book under a tree’s shade on a hot summer day.  A hundred feet away, under the shade of another tree, is another child seated by herself playing a video game on a tablet.  In Everything Bad is Good for You, Steven Johnson argues that there is an inherent bias in promoting the reader’s activity as enrichment while deriding the gamer’s activity as wasting time.

They are both seated by themselves engrossed in other worlds.  But one is more acceptable than the other.  Johnson argues that we need to be open to changing the bias against video games.

A good reader will be actively reading by predicting what comes next, recognizing foreshadowing, but they will always be responding to a fixed narrative.  Whereas the video game player is making decisions that impact the outcome of the game, accomplishing short term and long term goals, and depending on the game, may very well be interacting with other players in creating and reimagining the world in which they inhabit.  Johnson argues that this may potentially be more intellectually rigorous…but it all depends on the content and the structure of the game.

This summer, read through that reading list, enjoy those summer evenings of staying up late and reading by flashlight and exploring new worlds.  We also encourage you to grab a video game that is educational and enriching and one that will engage your mind on multiple levels.  Who knows you very well may discover a new home for humanity, discover a new civilization or explore planets you never knew existed!

We here at Dig-It Games are proud of our library of educational games that we encourage you to add some or our games to your summer gaming list! Looking for more games?  Check out the library of games hosted by Games for Change.

Finally, if you are looking for another book to add to your reading this summer, why not pick up Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us SmarterWe bet it will start some interesting conversations as well!


How Social Media Can Improve EdTech

Being nerdy with Google Glass in 2015

As a full time teacher, you have way too much to do at one time. Too often educational technology tools are either suggested to or pushed on teachers as one more thing to figure out. This is incredibly frustrating and it doesn’t have to be. My name is Elisa and I am an education specialist at DIG-IT! Games.  I was (and still am) a huge advocate for educational technology. My prior roles in my education were as a high school Spanish teacher and technology integrator who ran some professional development opportunities for my colleagues. I was always interested in tools to make my class and teaching not only more fun, but also more effective. One of the most frustrating parts of this, though, was signing up for a new tool and then spending hours to figure out how it works only to find out that it just won’t work for you. I always thought to myself, “Well if they just changed this it would be PERFECT or “It’s too bad it doesn’t do that” and then I would write the tool off and go about my business. From my Twitter feed, I can tell that this is the frustration of many teachers out there. Since leaving the classroom, here is what I’ve figured out:

Edtech companies only work FOR TEACHERS. Without teachers, they will cease to exist. If some teachers somewhere aren’t using their product, the company will fail. This puts teachers and administrators in an amazing position. They have the opportunity to give feedback and have a hand in making products that are perfect and that they want to use. I know I never really gave this much thought while I was teaching (possibly because we have so much else to do, that writing an email to a company wasn’t a priority) and now that I’m trying to elicit reaction from teachers, I realize how important this process is.

The age of social media has made it so easy to facilitate customer service between clients and companies. Twitter especially has become a way to get instant help, feedback, or advice between teachers and companies. Since I am one of the people monitoring our Twitter account here at Dig-It!, I can honestly say that I’m so excited when teachers engage, ask questions, or just give feedback.

So here’s my ask to current teachers. Stop being silent. If you like a product, tell them why. If you hate a product, tell them why. If you have an idea for an improvement or a feature, tell them. Follow companies on social media and interact with them. You’d be surprised at the reactions you might get like early access to features or some other incentives. This is the only way that you are going to get the product you want and need. If you are trying to use a product and need help, reach out on social media. I know I’d be so excited to answer those questions.

Today signals the beginning of a long-awaited break for many teachers. I am less than a year removed from the classroom and I can still feel the excitement of having a few days off and coming back for what will be the home-stretch of the school year. I know that some of you will not touch anything related to teaching during this break and I know that some of you will be doing lesson plans at some point.

I challenge you to follow at least 1 company whose product(s) you use and try to interact with them. I will be on our handle (@digitgames) if anyone wants to chat about using educational games in the classroom. Also, I am doing some feedback and research on our game, Excavate, so if you’d be interested in helping me out, I’d appreciate it! We are also presenting at the ISTE 2017 conference and would love hear from you there.  Reach out on twitter, comment below, or email me to set up a time to talk about games in the classroom with one of our speakers.

 

Have a happy and safe weekend and if you are on break, enjoy it!

 


Can Spring Break be *gasp* educational?

It’s the bright spot at the end of a long, gray winter for millions of Americans – Spring Break. If you are looking for sunshine and clear, blue water then look no further than the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Tulum all are very popular locations for an amazing getaway. What most people don’t know is that this area is also incredibly rich in history and culture and offers a chance to explore an ancient civilization. Get a head start on that exploration by playing our games featuring ancient Maya!

While the area around Cancun is spotted with ancient sites, the biggest and most well known is Chichen Itza. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the massive Maya pyramid known as El Castillo. You can wander the well-preserved massive complex of temples and ball courts and even catch a light and sound show every night. There are many tour companies and options to visit Chichen Itza and typically you can add in another site (Tulum, Coba, Ek Balam) . Be prepared as these tours are typically all-day affairs, but well worth it! Some of them will include tour guides, but some will not.

There is also a little-known site right in the Hotel Zone of Cancun called “El Rey”. The entry fee is a whopping 50 pesos (about $2.50 USD) and you can climb and explore all of the ruins. You can also pay about $5 for a guide to show you around and explain the details. This is a great option if you don’t have the time or money to go to a bigger site.

If you decide that this is a the right opportunity for you and your family, consider preparing your kids to see these sites and be even more engaged. Currently, Dig-It Games has 3 games about the ancient Maya: Mayan Mysteries, Excavate!, and Loot Pursuit: Maya. All of these games will let children explore the sites and artifacts. This way, they will have some knowledge of Maya traditions and the location even before setting foot at the site.

Allow your child to be the expert and guide you through the sites. The amazing part of game-based learning is they won’t even realize how much information they are acquiring. They’ll be so excited to show you what they learned! Check out our game store for more.


Snow Days, Game Days

Snow is in the forecast, and you don’t want your students to lose pace with the curriculum. What to do? Educational digital games are the solution. An easy way to make sure that your students review and practice material, so they do not become rusty with concepts covered in class. This can also be a great solution to help front load students for new concepts that will be taught once the abominable snow recedes.

By taking the time to set up a digital classroom, you can ensure that your students (and their parents) will be able to access any materials, resources or information you wish them to have available to them on their “snowcation.” Google Classroom has been a great tool to fulfill this need for teachers. Here a teacher can create assignments, announcements, insert links to games and monitor their student’s activity. If you don’t have access to Google Classroom, it could be a separate section on your school web page.

By creating the digital classroom, a teacher has taken steps to ensure that some form of learning is taking place at home by creating a digital platform for communication. Here as a teacher, I can give students dialog and directions to play certain educational games that will supplement our previous instruction, cover instruction missed, and utilize games as digital instruction to prepare students for material they are going to see in the near future. Teacher’s directions can be as simple as; play this game, play this game to a specified level, or play this game and achieve a certain score. Most educational games are also including a reporting system, so depending on the game assigned, it is up to the teacher how they will collect the student’s progress by either looking at the game’s report or having students record their progress in the Google Classroom assignment feature.

The old snow days of sitting around and just watching television are over. With the easy accessibility of the internet, teachers can now reach out to students to make sure students do not lose out on precious instructional time! It’s also not a bad deal for the students who get assigned to play games, and the byproduct just happens to be learning!


Cultural Awareness Stickers
We are pleased to announce our support of cultural heritage awareness with a new pack of iMessage stickers for iPhone and iPad users.  Have you ever needed to send a friend a bucket or a shovel? Ever wished you could send an Eye of Horus to someone you care about? Or maybe a Roman coin to that penny-pinching friend? With the Archaeology Emoji Sticker pack, now you can have more fun with history!

This package was published for Archaeology Day October 15, 2016 to help promote archaeology awareness worldwide. Protecting endangered archaeological sites has become a pressing issue for the community and it is our goal to use media like this to advocate greater preservation of cultural heritage. The more you use the stickers in your message, the greater the awareness. However, advocacy aside, it is just fun so share them, so get your friends to get them too and start sending archaeology messages today!

archaeology stickers

DIG-IT! Games is committed to producing educational games that introduce archaeology into classroom curriculum. You can explore our efforts in the app store.

Create Awareness

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