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Using Microsoft FS2002 For School


Using Microsoft FS2002 For School

By Ulrich Klein


MSM Gymnasium, Krefeld



This is but one part of our large school building area in Germany where I spend most of my working hours (tough job with the gates closed on a sunny Sunday afternoon, eh?), and where I recently had the idea to take advantage of FS2002 in order to improve my pupils' knowledge of English, using this flightsim as a booster for higher motivation as well.


In recent years it has become a common and widespread teaching method to plan and carry out so-called projects, and while I was just working out a project on mass media, it suddenly occurred to me that FS2002 could also play some useful part in it. Ugh, it's not what you might guess right now. We are not the lucky 1.8 GHz'ers and we don't even have 1 Ghz high-end computers to really practice our pupils in flightsimming, thereby encompassing geographical, physical and language subjects alike. Perhaps we'll have that at the time when FS2004 comes out (always dreaming on huh?). Anyway, I hoped that the oncoming project might help me tap that natural curiosity about aviation to help students learn and apply important skills in several other disciplines except flying. And here is part of the sequence of screen shots which I used for my special project at school:




Unfortunately FS2002 is a little on the dark side, which means you will have to turn up the brightness of your monitor to see the finest details in this series of screen shots. Taking off from KNEW you can already spot the twin suspension bridges in the far distance. The rest of the captured flight moments speak for themselves.



However, a particular flightsim moment I had experienced only a few days before put me back on track. Rather by chance than on purpose I happened to crash against the Greater New Orleans Bridge, a twin suspension bridge in FS, after taking off from 18L at KNEW, New Orleans Lakefront airport. Heck! I really thought I could safely make it when I tried to fly under the bridge, but somehow it did not work. Maybe it was the cup of coffee I was just drinking (I shouldn't take a cockpit for a restaurant, right?). Anyway, the Cessna Skyhawk C172SP was torn to pieces, and producing a long and winding trail of dark and smeary smoke it smashed into the river between the city's two suspension bridges, rapidly doomed to founder.


Voooommmm...and almost by instinct I hammered the P-key, just in time before the plane had fully plunged and sunk into the water and FS2002 would be about to restart the situation. This way I could manage to start instant replay, which in this case turned out to be jaw-dropping. Here, for my purpose, the instant video playback feature proved to be a big improvement over FS2000, and thanks to this ace-piece of programming in FS2002 many more control settings of the plane are now recorded during the flight, and so it is also possible to freely toggle through all the stunning spot plane view perspectives that I wanted to achieve for my screen shots of the whole flight, and of the crucial moment of accident of course. Let's get cracking! Gosh, I almost heard myself shouting, and as I was bursting at the seams I began my job, reviewing every single phase of the catastrophic flight and always on the alert to suddenly pause playback to capture the very moment that, to my mind, looked best.




An eye-witness on the riverbank captured the moment when the aircraft splashed into the Mississippi Waterway, right between the two parts of the Greater New Orleans Bridge near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.



Wow! Looking at the sequence of pictures I had gathered so far, I suddenly felt an utmost regard for the programmers at Microsoft as they have provided thousands and thousands of avid flightsimmers a hobby matched by no other. Would be a good idea to go and also buy the English version of Flight Simulator for school at my local dealer. It's not that easy to fetch one here, but that's where I'm a headin' next week. My boss doesn't know yet! 🙂 ssssshhhh.


Back to the screen shots for a moment. The whole flightsim realism level has gone up a lot, and so the quality of the pictures made me shout with excitement! Make no mistake, the MS realism of flight is untouched so far in any other computer sim, and the external views of the C172SP are just fantastic, to some extent almost photographic in appearance. In some of the views this little bird looks just like the real thing! (Whether you object to this or not largely depends on your mind-set, but we won't enter into that here, so what?). To me, this overall realism is fine, considering what you are seeing outside the window, and you're getting a very high res image of the real world wherever you are in the New Orleans area (virtually speaking).


An hour or two later I had compiled more than 50 shots which were captured from various and sometimes even breath-taking perspectives, and as the quality of the 24 bit bitmap files seemed to be excellent, I thought it should not be a big deal for our students to use Windows Paintbrush, making extracts, maximizing details or fiddling with the screen shots in any way they might want to achieve the best possible effects. Needless to say that I could not take or use all these shots for the project, so it was absolutely necessary to select ten out of the best ones.


During the following week I lost many hours of sleep thinking of this flight and of how to put it into practice for language teaching. Eeek! I know myself; once I dive into such things I'm not going to be getting any sleep for days. Anyway, it doesn't need a superman to work out a job concept for the students to deal with the selected pictures, and so I finally made up my mind and had them create a newspaper article about a fictitious plane accident, including a carefully worked out cover page. So, for two weeks to come and to work on computers, I suggested that they should do the following task, which reads as follows:


Newspaper job description: The pictorial anatomy of a plane crash


Open the specified folder which contains screen shots displaying the collision of a Cessna Skyhawk 172SP with a suspension bridge in New Orleans. The pilot, 24, and his girlfriend, 18, had taken off from runway 18L at KNEW, New Orleans Lakefront Airport, only minutes before. Obviously the young pilot had risked too much when trying to fly under the bridge.


Your task: As a local newspaper reporter you have been given the job to cover a story about yesterday's plane crash incident at New Orleans' twin suspension bridges. Feel free to invent facts to build up a background story, to make interviews with eye-witnesses, to reproduce official statements by the police or security personnel.


The following items may help you to do your job more professionally:


1. Decide whether you write your report for a serious newspaper / magazine (quality dailies) or for a down-market tabloid (popular, yellow or gutter press). Much depends on your choice if you think of the different target groups. However, no matter which of the two you choose, keep in mind that with the keen competition in this press market reporters are constantly in search of scoops to raise their circulation figures.


2. Select 4-6 screen shots which you think cover the anatomy of the incident best and copy them into a separate folder where you can edit and change them as you like (size, form, etc.). Beware that the file "Bridge03.bmp" must be reworked as the artificial horizon indicator shows a wrong display. Take "Bridge11.bmp" and use MS Paint to do so.


3. Write the cover story for a newspaper agency in New Orleans including a headline that serves as an eye-catcher and other significant formal elements, background information, interviews etc.


4. Integrate the screen shots you have chosen into the body copy and add a caption to each of them to increase suspense or to include more detailed information for your readers.


5. Finally, save the whole article (a WORD document comprising two DIN-A4 pages) on the hard disk first, and then also on your diskette. Before you can get it on a diskette, however, you must compress the document by tools like WinZip or similar tools.



As you can gather from the job description above, the students should not only learn how to apply both the significant formal or visual elements and the special jargon of writing a cover story, they also had to do well with applications such as the Windows Explorer, Word 2000, MS Paint, and last not least the Microsoft Internet Explorer to find and download a screen shot from one of my former articles on FlightSim.Com. Phew! Everything went better than I had expected, though I must admit they did not learn much about the geography of the southern US states this time (I'd better see to it next time then. Let's hope my higher-ups don't listen now). Well, guess what, they didn't listen. Anyway, before completing their jobs the students were given a reminder to check certain items once again:



Let me remind you of the following items:


Does your report meet with the formal criteria of a newspaper or magazine report?
Did you create a main and sub-headline which attract the readers' attention?
Did you address your target group by using the appropriate jargon?
Did you thoroughly check if your English is correct?

You may begin your article / report like this: "Things couldn't have worked out better ..."
Now you go on. Good luck.



Anyway, it doesn't do justice to lump all the other pupils' jobs together (and boy did some of them do a great job), but in the interest of not turning this into a book I will only hit on one cover story that was made by a single group of two. And here's what they've created:



covsto1s.jpg   covsto2s.jpg pupils1s.jpg
The article that Christine B. and Lisa V. have just created in their English course. Nicely done, right?
The two 14 year old authors in front of their school computers.





The screen shot of KLAX in California which the pupils downloaded from one of my articles on FlightSim.Com; a scene that is truly a sight to behold, or, as Bill Smith recently put it when exploring FS2002 for the first time: "Am I dreaming?" (Thanks, Bill, for sharing your thoughts on FS2002 via this Op-Ed article).



Microsoft has blown the top off the civilian flight simulation genre with its latest version, and thanks to this I was given the chance to make use of Flight Simulator 2002 for language teaching purposes, at least for a while. I can't remember when I first heard of someone using FS at a high school in the US, but I would hazard a guess that it was around seven years ago, maybe back at the times of FS5. I still remember how impressed I was, to say the least.




A Microsoft banner I found in my archives shows that at least at the times of FSFW95 there must have been some activity on how to use flight simulator in the classroom. Will there be any similar guide for FS2002 too?



Furthermore, surmising I should want to put this project on a larger scale, the set of activities and lessons might explore several other topics, such as:


  • Math
  • Physics
  • History
  • Geography
  • Earth sciences (weather)
  • Biology (human factors)
  • Language art (English)
  • Aviation


Of course, it really goes without saying that such an enhanced project can only be managed by a massive effort in team-teaching, but such lessons and activities would enable teachers to give students at many grade levels hands-on experience as they learn.




The whole flightsim business offers a lot of other possibilities to enrich one's word power. Here is an extract from an Op-Ed article, a well-balanced mix of colloquial and elevated style, which I chose for the study of some typical elements of language art (highlighted in pink) and of formal aspects of how to present a story in an attractive way (e.g. headline as an eye-catcher). A brilliant article on a common subject indeed! What a pity we haven't got more of this. It gets a hearty 98, but it would easily score a 99 or more if it were easier for more modest pupils :-).


You want to try a similar thing too? Well, if you are really desperate to give it a go, be my guest, but you have been warned: it costs a tremendous amount of time to do so, and the ultimate success as to improving the language is not always guaranteed with all pupils (boo hoo). However, it gave a proportional boost of motivation to some of them, girls and boys alike (Grin!). And if anyone can give me more specific and up-to-date information on how to use flight simulation for school training, your advice will be highly appreciated. So if you found that a particular activity worked well, I would like to hear from you to share your experience using Flight Simulator in the classroom in any way.


This time my article is a hearty thank-you I would like to express to the whole FlightSim.Com staff for having done such a fine job in the past few years. Honestly, you can really pride yourselves on the service you provide. You tell it like it is, and you keep your Honest Abe reputation alive. That's what deserves our respect. Thanks a lot!


Enjoy your flights and teachings alike!


Ulrich Klein


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