How I Use It
I would use this product within a unit over ecology. Within the game you have the choice to follow one of three paths.
Harmony- Embrace Nature
Purity- Embrace Humanity
Supremacy- Embrace technology
The students will break off into 3 groups, one group for each path. The students would play the shortest, quickest game possible (still it would take a few hours) and document what path they chose, what the consequences were and then i would have the students discuss which path would be the most beneficial for humanity, the planet, and whether the indigenous life has a say in it or not?
This whole unit will have potential for students going off topic, this unit will take a lot of time and will cover a wide range of issues.
"Sid Meier's Civilization; Beyond Earth" is possible the best merge between video games and school. However it will not help your students pass their next ecology,political, or tech test. But it will help your students think, in a way that is much different than any other game out there. After all, this is a game that requires the player to make macroscopic societal decisions that affect the makeup of their nation in both the short term and long term. Players decide which economy best suits their landscape, how to balance industrial progress with environmental preservation, and the cost/benefit of engaging in wars with other nations.
Basically, this game requires the player to make complex decisions, creates complex outcomes, both positive and negative, then have the player deal with this at a macroscopic level. It doesn't cover just one subject, but many different subjects at once. To use this game as a teaching tool within school, in my opinion, does not provide enough educational return for the effort needed by the teacher to create specific scenarios to encourage learning. The games ability for free play is shot, because of the long play times, and the interest level depends on the students interests.