Learning to Game and Gaming to Learn: Video Games in Education

This page was created to support a three-hour hands-on workshop at the 2008 CUE conference.

PART 1 - Theoretical Overview

Download Slides: GamingToLearn.pdf [34.7 MB PDF]

What are kids learning from videogames?

What is Hard Fun?

“It’s hard. It’s fun. It’s LOGO.” (1st Grader)
“This kid called the work fun because it was hard rather than in spite of being hard.” (Seymour Papert)
“How do we make writing become hard fun?” (Seymour Papert)

Why Videogames?

Digital Natives & Digital Immigrants [PDF] (Prensky, 2001)
Incidental vs. Intentional Learning (Jonassen, 2002)
enGauge 21st Century Skills (NCREL, 2003)

Marc Prensky

Digital Game Based Learning (2001)
Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001)
Don’t Bother Me Mom - I’m Learning! (2006)

James Paul Gee

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (2003)
Situated Language and Learning (2004)
Why Video Games are Good For Your Soul (2005)

Clark Aldrich

Simulations and the Future of Learning (2004)
Learning by Doing (2005)
Style Guide For Serious Games (Blog)

Virtual Leader




David Williamson Shaffer

Epistemic Games
Simulation Prototypes
How Computer Games Help Children Learn (2006)

Kurt Squire

Civilization III at Indiana University
Conceptual Prototypes at MIT
Games, Learning, and Society at University of Wisconsin - Madison

Civilization III

Turn-Based Strategy
Systems Content
Social Studies Concepts
Complexity, flexibility, replayability
Failure and choice
Kurt Squire’s Dissertation (2004)

Civilization III

25% complained the game was too hard, complicated and uninteresting.
25% loved playing the game,thought it was a “perfect way to learn history”, and a highlight of their year.
Students played the game in different ways, leading to highly different understandings.
Playing games does not appeal to everyone, and no one game appeals to all gamers.

Constance Steinkuehler

Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs)
Games, Learning, and Society Conference

Constructivist Learning Environments


What can you use on Monday?

Web-Based Games

Play in your browser
Mostly FREE
Engaging and content related
Great for younger students

Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) Games

Teachers may not be able to develop a cutting edge game, but many games can be repurposed.
“Instead of embedding a game into learning, it is possible to embed learning into a game.” (Downes, 2005)
Civilization III & IV
The “Age Of...” Series
The Sim Games
The “Tycoon” Series
And More...

Games Are Changing

Dance Dance Revolution
Guitar Hero & Rock Band
The Wii


Aurora / World Editor
Unreal Engine
Dungeon Siege, Civ IV, The Sims 2, GTA, and More...

Neverwinter Nights

Role Playing Game (RPG)
Toolset for User-Made Content
Teachers as Gamemasters (GMs)
MIT’s Revolution Mod

Making History

Designed for education!
Assessment Features
Widely Implemented


Game world mapped onto cartesian plane
Algebra concepts must be mastered to progress in the game
Homework just got harder!
Learn Math or Die Trying.

Serious Games

More Than Entertainment
Games Educate, Train, or Inform
Education, Government, Health, First Response, Science...

Games for Change

Games meant to “effect positive social change”
The WFP’s Food Force - http://www.food-force.com
Peter Packet - http://www.peterpacket.org
Dean for Iowa - http://www.deanforamericagame.com
Global Kid’s playing for keeps - http://www.globalkids.org

A Force More Powerful




Games For Health

Games being built for health care applications
Researchers, medical professionals, and game developers
Using game technologies to create new ways of improving the management, quality, and provision of healthcare worldwide.

Creating Games

Global Kids’ playing for keeps. www.globalkids.org
Brea High School Global IT Academy (Visual Basic) - http://www.globalitacademy.org
Spreadsheet Simulations
Maps, Storyboards, and Screenshots...

Game Design & Theory

What Players Want
Elements of Gameplay
Non-Linear Storytelling

Creating Emotion

Interesting & Deepening
Character Diamonds
Role Induction

Gender Inclusive Design

Females and Machines
Female Characters
Conflict Resolution Styles
Reward and Gameplay

Organizational Change

Systems Thinking
Collaborative Learning
Resistance and Challenges
Professional Development
Family and the Community


How might you use videogames with your students?

PART 2 - Hands-On Gaming

Some Free Online Games

Peter Packet teaches about IT and global poverty: http://www.peterpacket.org/
Dean for Iowa teaches about political activism: http://www.deanforamericagame.com/
More Games For Kids:

Some Free Downloads

Food Force teaches about the UN's World Food Program: http://www.food-force.com
Anarchy Online: http://www.anarchyonline.com/ (Not Educational, but a way for teachers to experience an MMORPG for free)
Second Life: http://www.secondlife.com (Not a game, but often used for educational purposes.)

Some Commercial Games (for Education)

Muzzy Lane's Making History teaches about World War II: http://www.making-history.com/
Tabula Digita's Dimenxian teaches Algebra: http://www.dimenxian.com/
ImpactGames' PeaceMaker teaches about conflict in the Middle East: http://www.peacemakergame.com</span>
A Force More Powerful teaches about non-violent strategy: http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org/game/index.php

PART 3 - Reflection and Planning

Reflection on Food Force and Other Games

The Gaming Experience:
  1. How did the second hour of this workshop differ from the first hour? Or from a traditional class?
  2. What were you doing while playing?
  3. How did you feel while you were playing?
  4. Did the experience meet, exceed, or fall short of your expectations? Or was it very different from what you expected?
  5. How might your students react to this game?

The Educational Value:
  1. What did you learn from playing the game?
  2. Did the game meet it's goals?
  3. Did the game provide the following?
    • Motivation and engagement?
    • A context for learning?
    • Opportunities for inquiry?
    • Opportunities for collaboration?
    • Opportunities for reflection?
    • What about development of 21st century skills?
  4. What would you need to do to implement this game with students?
  5. How would you improve upon this game?

Final Reflection Activity

Consider the following questions - and use any remaining time to begin planning:
  1. How might you use video games and simulations in your class?
  2. What might your first step be?
  3. What do you want to learn more about?

Additional Games in Education Resources

Video Games in Education (Google Video) - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6117726917684965691
Bill MacKenty’s Blog (a great place to start!) - http://www.mackenty.org/learn/teachers
Education Arcade - http://www.educationarcade.org
Games, Learning and Society - http://www.glsconference.org
Serious Games Initiative - http://www.seriousgames.org/index2.html
Serious Games Summit - http://www.seriousgamessummit.com
Marc Prensky's Games2Train - http://www.games2train.com/
Marc Prensky's Games Parents Teachers - http://www.gamesparentsteachers.com/
Marc Prensky's Social Impact Games - http://www.socialimpactgames.com/

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