Games in School

Like many teenagers, a number of our students are avid video game players. Some of these students have challenges when it comes to learning traditional subjects, such as Math, Language Arts, and Social Studies. A gamer herself, our program guide Ashley Converse quickly discovered that all of these traditional elements can be addressed with the use of certain age-appropriate video games.

For example, the popular game Minecraft has proven itself to be effective for math. In one assignment, Ashley’s students had to recreate their classroom by translating its measurements to Minecraft. In another, she asked them to design a house using certain dimensions and requirements. A third assignment tapped into multiple subjects, calling for the students to be critical thinkers while building a village fit to sustain itself during a zombie apocalypse. For this assignment, students not only had to build the village within Minecraft, but they had to address a list of issues that Ashley created and write the backstory of their village’s origin.

Ashley has also found roleplaying games (RPGs) to be powerful and enjoyable tools for students. For reluctant readers, RPGs provide an interactive story with written dialogue, and during gameplay, Ashley discusses the storyline and character development with the students. The students also respond well to brainstorming ideas for original RPGs, to the extent that we are looking into purchasing software that would allow our students to create their own games.

Social Studies is a subject where many students struggle when it comes to interest and application. Ashley has found that the computer game Civilization V provides both. Her students select a major world power and literally build it from the ground up. The game begins in the ancient era, allowing the players to develop their land, culture, economy, military, technology, and religion over thousands of years. Famous quotes are integrated into the gameplay, as well as an encyclopedia that explains the history of each civilization and all of its elements. Students also improve their geography skills by learning how to read maps and deciding on settlement location based on defensibility and access to natural resources.

Despite their often negative reputations, video games can be powerful learning tools, often reaching students in ways that traditional instruction cannot. Whether they are tackling a specific academic subject or conducting a therapeutic class in Video Game Reviews, our program guides have discovered yet another vehicle to engage and connect with our kids.

Author: Kyle Callahan

Hi, I'm Kyle. I'm an advisor at LiHigh School. I've been involved in progressive education since I was in high school. I was an original member (and student representative) of the Progressive Program at Green Mountain College, and for my Master's degree, I attended Goddard College, which started the trend toward progressive education in the 1960s. Along with teaching at LiHigh School, I teach courses in creative writing and communications at Green Mountain College. I live with my wife and daughter in Poultney.

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