Games in the classroom is a controversial topic among educators. Some see the benefits, others are less open-minded. However, as a gamer and historian, I often think that if students could play a game for a day or two, it would help illustrate the concepts I am trying to bring to life.
I am not sure there is a school today that would allow video or computer games to be played during instructional hours but they can be an awesome supplement to classroom learning. Here are some ways to incorporate computer and video games without upsetting administration (hopefully):
1.Provide a physical copy to the library
Whether the copy is circulating (students can take it home) or non-circulating (students must play in the library), providing a copy is a way to give students access during their own time.
Present the idea to your administration or school board. Align some of the gameplay with learning standards and outline how it will increase student understanding of the subject. Don’t just ask for a game – be a professional and explain every benefit. You are an educator after all. Educate them about why it is a good idea.
1b. Let students team up on your computer or console
If the school grants you permission but you lack time during the school day, let students sign up for after-school time. Unfortunately, schools probably won’t pay you for this and I am usually not one to advocate putting more on your plate but working late could benefit your planning or grading time while students have an opportunity to play the chosen game.
2. Start a history club
Meeting after school for an hour or two a few times a semester is a great way to introduce the game to students. If your school will support several copies of the game you could shape several of your meetings around different concepts of gameplay.
3. Take a student survey
I was surprised by how well versed in war technology my students were. Most of the young men had played war games and were able to connect the advancement in technology and the advantages of advanced technology over an opponent to their learning of World War I.
You may have enough students in each class to dedicate a class period or two to discuss the game and the similarities and difference between the game and the history.
4. Hand out a recommendation list
Create a list of your recommended games and give it to students. Your students may own some of the games or are looking for something different. A few may be surprised a teacher is encouraging them to play a video game and will want to see what it is all about. Either way, students can use their own time and motivation to play the games.
Create a workbook or packet with the information students should be focusing on to help guide them towards the learning you want.
5. Get the board game or card game version
Not as much fun and needs a little tweaking because the directions are horribly written, Oregon Trail has been made into a card game. If you are old enough to remember the wonderfully simple, boxy graphics of this classic computer game, then get yourself to the store and pick up a few Oregon Trail card games.
Without utilizing classroom time I can’t advocate that you make this learning mandatory or worth a grade because not every student will have the opportunity to participate. Nevertheless, many would enjoy this addition to the curriculum and you having a passion for video games can now be justified.
“New game? Yes, please. It’s research.”
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