Regional Conference at Indiana University South Bend

October 10-12, 2013
South Bend, IN

Click here to register!

College faculty and administrators are invited to register for a regional “Reacting to the Past” Conference at Indiana University South Bend (South Bend, IN), to be held October 10-12, 2013.  IU South Bend seeks to bring Midwestern University faculty together to start a dialogue about the use of game-based learning and immersive strategies in our classrooms using the “Reacting to the Past” model.  We believe that this pedagogy provides dynamic curriculum for our students by introducing complex ideas, fostering critical thinking, and encouraging public debate—skills central to the academic and professional success of our students.

Participants will have the opportunity to play one of two games over the course of the workshop. Below you will find descriptions of each as well as background information on the gamemasters. 

Featured Games

The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.

The Athens game recreates the intellectual dynamics of one of the most formative periods in the human experience. After nearly three decades of war, Sparta crushed democratic Athens, destroyed its great walls and warships, occupied the city, and installed a brutal regime, “the Thirty Tyrants.” The excesses of the tyrants resulted in civil war and, as the game begins, they have been expelled and the democracy restored. But doubts about democracy remain, expressed most ingeniously by Socrates and his young supporters. Will Athens retain a political system where all decisions are made by an Assembly of 6,000 or so citizens? Will leaders continue to be chosen by random lottery? Will citizenship be broadened to include slaves who fought for the democracy and foreign-born metics who paid taxes in its support?

The debates are informed by Plato’s Republic, as well as excerpts from Thucydides, Xenophon, and other contemporary sources. By examining democracy at its threshold, the game provides the perspective to consider its subsequent evolution.

Game Master:  Dr. Lyle Zynda, a professor of philosophy, has taught at IU South Bend since 1995.  One of his areas of specialization, the Philosophy of Science, drew him to the “Reacting to the Past” courses as a means to enliven his pedagogy and spur student interest in critical thinking and Philosophy.  He has taught the Athens Game for several semesters and looks forward to introducing it to colleagues and students.

Frederick Douglass, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Constitution: 1845

The Frederick Douglass game introduces students to a time and place almost unimaginable today, when advocating an end to slavery was far more controversial than supporting its perpetuation: the United States in 1845.   Class debates focus on the intellectual and cultural clashes between the “Defenders of the Constitution”—the entrenched, respectable defenders of American slavery—and the Abolitionists—a small but dedicated movement calling for slavery’s immediate and universal abolition. Many characters are independent of both factions.

The question facing the country in 1845 was not a civil war—which was then unimaginable—but whether abolitionist critics of slavery were legitimate. Can the abolitionists be suppressed outright? The many violent anti-abolitionist mobs in the North showed that this was hardly just a “southern” demand. Thus, in the first part of the game, all characters “review” the newly published “The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself” at a literary forum hosted by the illustrious English author Charles Dickens in New York.  Later, characters address the U.S. Constitution and its clear protection of slaveholders’ power, such as its assertion that fugitive slaves must be returned. Are Americans accountable to the Constitution or to a “higher law”?

Game Master:  Mark Higbee is a Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University where he teaches US and African-American History.  He and James Brewer Stuart are co-authors of the Frederick Douglass game.  Since 2005, he has used the innovative Reacting to the Past pedagogy in his classes to great success.  His RTTP class for first-year students was featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education ("In Improving Higher Education, Which Core Matters More: Skills or Curriculum?", September 30, 2011). He has also published a study on student engagement and RTTP ("How Reacting to the Past Games ‘Made Me Want to Come to Class and Learn’: An Assessment of the Reacting Pedagogy at EMU, 2007-2008").


This conference is partially supported by Indiana University’s Blueprint for Student Attainment. Registration will be subsidized for the first 25 faculty and administrators from the following regional campuses: IU East; IU Kokomo; IU Northwest; IU South Bend; and IU Southeast.   

The general registration rate is $250 for faculty, administrators, and graduate students from other institutions, including Indiana University Bloomington and Indiana University - Purdue University.   Reacting Consortium members will receive a 20% discount on the general registration rate.

Payment Methods: Credit card payments will be processed live during online registration. All payments made by check must be postmarked by September 1, 2013; an additional late fee of $25 will apply to all registrations/payments postmarked after this date. Conference materials will not be shipped until payment is received in full.

Refund/Cancellation Policy: Registrations are transferable within an institution up to ten business days before the event. Refunds will be provided for cancellations received in writing or via e-mail by September 1, 2013. A $25.00 processing fee will be deducted.

To register, please click here.

Tentative Schedule of Activities

Thursday, 10 October 2013

  • 1:00-2:00 p.m. - Registration and Light Snack
  • 2:00-2:30 p.m. - Welcome
  • 2:30-4:00 p.m. - Game Set-up and Faction Meetings (Douglass/Athens)
  • 4:00-4:30 p.m. - Coffee Break
  • 4:30-5:30 p.m. - Plenary Session
  • 5:30-6:30 p.m. - Reception
  • 6:30-8:30 p.m. - Dinner (Hosted by IUSB)

Friday, 11 October 2013

  • 8:15-9:00 a.m. - Continental Breakfast
  • 9:00-11:00 a.m. - Game Session I (Douglass/Athens)
  • 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. - Plenary: Student Panel, Q&A
  • 12:00-1:30 p.m. - Lunch
  • 1:30-3:30 p.m. - Session II (Douglass/Athens)
  • 3:30-4:00 p.m. - Coffee Break
  • 4:00-5:30 p.m. - Plenary: Faculty Panel, Q&A
  • 6:00 p.m. - Dinner on your own

Saturday, 12 October 2013

  • 8:15-9:00 a.m. - Continental Breakfast
  • 9:00-11:00 a.m. - Game Session III
  • 11:00-11:15 a.m. - Coffee Break
  • 11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m. - Post Mortem Discussion
  • 12:30-2:00 p.m. - Lunch
  • 2:00-3:00 p.m. - Event Wrap-up and Closing


A block of rooms has been reserved at the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Bend for $99.00 per night.  To reserve please click here.

Oct. 10, 2013 (All day)