Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor
Mayor for a Day -with a Little Help from the World Wide Web
When YOU are an educator in an alternative school, you have to believe that there is more than one right answer, and that in some way you are going to make a difference in the lives of your students. Alternative schools give high school dropouts between the ages of 15 and 21 the chance to come back and complete their high school diplomas. Students must complete a full range of classes to graduate.
Technology is one way to make a difference in these students' lives. It is a great way to reach students who are tired of routine textbook and worksheet assignments. Technology allows students to put themselves in control of their learning and to be more responsible for it. At EXCEL Alternative High School in Marshalltown, Iowa, we are reaching students in exciting ways. In my classes, students mainly use technology. I have them become mayors of virtual cities in which they are responsible for the development and well-being of their citizens. In our Virtual City class, students use the program Sim City 2000 (a city simulator) to build a city from the ground up, create jobs, battle crime, balance a budget, educate citizens, and all the other things it takes for a successful city. Students work both online and off. One assignment calls for them to use the Internet to research the effects of gambling on communities. They then write a paper to explain to their "simcitizens" their rationale for legalizing gambling or keeping it illegal. Homelessness, crime, education, budgeting, and property taxes are just a few examples of subjects they study. Several methods of evaluation are used in Virtual City that are not your standard written test. One is a state of the city address. …