Robert A. Crawford

1997 Economics for Leaders Conference
Social Studies Methods in Middle and Secondary School
The Foundation for Teaching Economics

University of Washington
June 29-July 5, 1997



Software is a powerful teaching tool, however it cannot educate on its own; the teacher plays an integral role in providing students with the initial comprehension required to make sense of the software environment. While some teachers believe that students should be “thrown in at the deep end” with little preparation so that they can experience the full impact of learning by doing; others feel that students should be as fully briefed as possible prior to using software simulations. In either case, the most effective approach is to break the learning experience down into manageable steps, so that students have the opportunity to “learn by doing” in a structured and nonthreatening way. It is imperative that a set of clear and achievable objectives be specified for each computer session so that students do not dissipate their efforts by trying to tackle too many issues at one time.

Using the objectives outlined in the 1981 State Plan for Global Education in Florida and the Hanvey model for an Attainable Global Perspective in the Social Studies, Pine Crest school has devised a three-part elective course in Social Studies and Humanities for sophomores and juniors called “Global Geography, Economic Issues, and Comparative Government”. This course takes a multi-media approach to attaining the dimensional objectives set out by Hanvey: Perspective Consciousness, Cross-Cultural Awareness, State of the Planet Awareness, Knowledge of Global Dynamics, and the Awareness of Human Choices. Taking advantage of the vast amount of educational software currently available for molding a responsive and responsible twenty-first century global citizen, the class focuses on familiarizing students with the world’s diverse lands and cultures, giving students a basic understanding of both micro and macroeconomics, and introducing students to basic parliamentary procedure and the diverse methods societies have found to organize, govern and settle disputes. The students integrate what they learn by assuming roles in the three computer simulations which make up a substantial component of the course: WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMEN SANDIEGO?, GAZILLIONAIRE, and CIVNET.

Global Geography--the study of the Earth and all that lives on it--introduces students to not only to the world’s physical variety, but also to its many peoples and their myriad styles of living. It is essential for today’s “global citizens” to gain a better understanding of themselves and their civilization through knowledge of the physical and cultural environments that cover the earth’s surface. Students in this section of the course discover that Geography deals with the distribution of people, resources, plants, animals, and industry around the globe, as well as with the diverse methods by which people in different areas have made use of the conditions and resources of those areas in developing a way of life. All of this information will be necessary when the class searches the globe for master criminals in WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMEN SANDIEGO?

The objective of Broderbund’s highly acclaimed game is to travel around the globe collecting clues as to the location of Carmen Sandiego and her gang of criminal companions. It can be played as a fast-paced pursuit of thieves based on geographic and cultural clues left by the villains, or as a relaxed look about the lush 360 degree illustrated locations in the game’s “explorer” mode. Each one of the backgrounds in CARMEN SANDIEGO is based on actual photographic references, and the game is supported by a superb array of online reference material ( At the successful completion of each game, players receive a printed certificate of congratulations, and, although it takes anywhere from 9 to 26 hours of successful gameplay to catch Carmen herself, the rewards of simply searching for her are quite dazzling, entertaining, and educational. Adding to students’ growing perspective consciousness, state-of-the-planet, and cross-cultural awareness.

Economic Issues is the study of choices, and no understanding of global dynamics or human choices can be complete without an understanding of the basics of “the dismal science”. Microeconomics concentrates on the principles of economics that apply to the functions of individual decision-makers--both consumers and producers--within the larger economic system, and students explore the nature and functions of product markets, factor markets, and of the role of government in promoting greater efficiency and equity in the economy. Macroeconomics refers to the examination of the economic system as a whole, and includes the study of national income and price determination, as well as issues of national economic performance, economic growth and international trade. The economic knowledge and skills learned in this part of the course are put to work in Lavamind’s GAZILLIONAIRE, where students attempt to balance efficient production and resource use for the maximum satisfaction of their and their customers unlimited wants.

GAZILLIONAIRE is a computer exercise which allows up to eight student "companies" to compete against each other as they buy and trade goods in a simulated intergalactic business environment. Competition motivates students to think about the fundamentals such as overhead costs, profit margins, capitalization, compound interest, and a number of other advanced economic concepts by translating these abstract principles into concrete examples. However, because these concepts are presented in a simple, easy to understand structure with very little jargon or other unnecessary impediments, GAZILLIONAIRE also shows students that they can work through complicated scenarios and develop new problem solving skills without relying on textbook explanations and formulas. GAZILLIONAIRE is supported by an invaluable on-line teacher’s center ( where lesson plans, curriculum, and informal notes on integrating the game into the classroom are shared by educators from across the globe.

In Comparative Government, students study the political systems of nations which exemplify the politics, policies, and problems of Democratic, Authoritarian, Communist, and Free Market systems. Knowledge of foreign political systems allows students to compare the ways in which governments face similar problems, and the manner in which they respond to the needs and demands of their citizens. From the examination of these countries, students should be better able to understand their own systems, and become more aware of the interrelationship between considerations of domestic politics and global dynamics. Students will then aggregate their cumulative knowledge, and exercise their newfound global perspective by recreating a global community in the CIVNET simulation.

CIVNET is a Mount Everest-style challenge to any student with a knowledge of history, politics, economics, and the state of the modern world. It offers the promise of collapsing the broad horizon of human history into a focal point of experiential understanding where the students--as leaders of a new or past world civilization--have an opportunity to revisit and change the past. Up to 10 small groups of students are formed into bands of colonists and planted on earth in the year 4000BC, surrounded by the hazards and delights of unexplored territory. The success of each simulated community depends on the decisions of the students, and every decision they make can have important ramifications later. Build on the coast or settle inland? Concentrate on military production, agricultural improvement, or technological advancement? Cooperate or compete with neighbors? War or peace? As time passes, students are faced with increasingly difficult decisions, and each city that is founded has its own problems and opportunities. Students soon discover that there is no one driving force behind the urge toward civilization, no one goal toward which every culture strives, but instead there is a web of forces and objectives that impel and beckon, shaping cultures as they grow, and a “winning” strategy is one which combines all these aspects into a flexible whole. CIVNET has tremendous online support ( as well as numerous online chatting, news and competition sites.

Educational software is most effective in a group environment. There are several reasons for this. The first is the complexity of the simulation itself; there is so much information, and so many relationships to consider that the the individual working alone can easily be overwhelmed. The second reason involves the nature of the global perspective itself; since there is no absolute right or wrong in many circumstances, it is important that students should appreciate and be able to express different points of view about an issue. Peer group discussions are a powerful learning tool, and educational software such as GAZILLIONAIRE, CIVNET, and CARMEN SANDIEGO are ideally suited to stimulate interaction among students. The ideal size of a team is 3-4 students, which is a large enough number to generate discussion without being so large that individual students can opt out without being noticed. From a teacher’s viewpoint, one of the most rewarding outcomes of using educational software is the speed with which student discussions become sophisticated, informed, cooperative, and tolerant, and how much more attainable the global perspective becomes with each new simulation in the series.

Perhaps the single characteristic which makes modern global education difficult to teach using conventional methods is the concept of interdependence. Since everything depends on everything else, discussions of particular choices and their impact are often confusing and contradictory, and the logical connections which might seem so obvious to the teacher are only dimly perceived by the student. The major strength of educational software is that it has the potential to enable students to reach a level of comprehension which is impossible using traditional teaching approaches. Computer simulations combine hypotheses-testing and decison-making skills with perspective consciousness, state-of-the-planet awareness, cross-cultural awareness, knowledge of global dynamics, and an awareness of human choices and their consequences. In terms of the Bloomian taxonomy, educational software can enable students to move into the realms of synthesis and evaluation in a relatively short time span, thus making Hanvey’s Global Perspective truly an “attainable” one.



Broderbund Software, 1994


LavaMind Educational Games
Spectrum Holobyte, 1997


MicroProse Strategy Games
Spectrum Holobyte, 1995

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Robert A. Crawford.
Copyright 1998
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Revised: May 02, 2006