Many students today play video games more than they watch television or go online. While
many parents and teachers may consider these games to be simple diversions, more and more
educators are finding ways to use the games to illustrate concepts in the classroom and to
engage more students. With a little creativity and the right game, teachers can use video games
to strengthen their lesson and to encourage more active participation in the learning process.
Educators around the country have found success with a number of games to illustrate core
concepts in subjects such as history, science and mathematics. For example, one Ohio
teacher uses “Rome: Total War” to teach students about military strategy and to encourage
fact gathering and interpretation. The Federation of American Scientists created a game that
teaches students how the immune system works by asking them to save an ill patient by guiding
a “nanobot” through the bloodstream. Another classroom used a game similar to a popular
simulated pet game to teach concepts of evolution. The key is to find a game that requires
students to use their knowledge of core concepts to accomplish the goal.
Online multi-player games can be used in the classroom or for homework assignments to
teach group collaboration and team building. These games require students to work together
to achieve certain goals. Such games usually revolve around strategy, such as historical or
science-based games. There are many popular examples of multi-player games on the popular
market — such as World of Warcraft and Halo — but more companies are designing these types
of games specifically for educational purposes.
It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that video games can promote physical fitness, but
there are a new crop of games that do just that. “Dance, Dance Revolution” requires students
to dance on an electronic mat that records movements. The Nintendo Wii has a number of Wii
Fit games that promote individual exercises, such as yoga, toning and running in place. The
games guide students through the movements and tracks progress. Some schools have used
the games in physical education classes and have seen success with getting more students —
especially shy or withdrawn students — to participate and to improve their fitness levels.
Video games can be a great complement to traditional classroom learning, either by being
used in the classroom or as a supplemental assignment. Choosing the right game — preferably
designed by an educational company — is key to success, as is choosing the right kinds of
follow-up assignments. Have any of you used video games in the classroom? What was your
experience? What tips do you have for other educators for success?
Leah Landly is the community manager for BluWiki, an informational Wiki service and free web
publishing platform. She covers many topics and answers popular questions.