High school teacher uses U-M developed role playing simulation tool to keep students engaged

By | September 16, 2020
Sean Swider presenting his Oil Spill simulation to his class using the ViewPoint role-playing software tool. (Academic Innovation)

New York-based high school teacher Sean Swider knew he had to develop a creative project to keep his advanced history students engaged, especially after a transition to remote learning. Swider then discovered the U-M role-playing simulation tool ViewPoint and decided to simulate an oil spill disaster.

Modeled after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, Swider created the simulation so his students could practice leadership roles and understand the power of the U.S. democratic process. The tool allows users to build customized simulations with participants playing roles to learn problem-solving, collaboration, empathy, and communication skills.

“With this simulation, I was really trying to help the students become more comfortable in the democratic process and realizing that they might not be an elected official, but they’ve got a voice in what our laws become,” Swider said. “And that’s so much easier than trying to change the law after it already exists.”