For many years, I was a video game producer and I always had this feeling that commercial video games, the ones kids played for hours on their Xboxes, PS3’s and Wii’s, could serve as powerful learning tools in the classroom. There were plenty of “educational” games out there and they were fine up to a point (either second grade or until a kid had a real game controller thrust into their hand), after which, most educational titles became about as exciting as watching animated bunnies hop around a magical forest discovering letters and numbers under every rock. Kids loved mainstream games because they were exciting, challenging, engaging, pushed them to the limit of their abilities and, most importantly, they were fun (all of the things educational games tended not to be with the possible exception of Oregon Trail which was some weird anomaly).
So I wrote a course as the thesis for my Masters in Education Technology called Using Video Games as Learning Tools and have had the pleasure of teaching it as part of National University’s excellent MS Educational and Instructional Technologies program for the last six years. The final project for the course is a teaching guide for a commercial entertainment video game (they play lots of games during the course – who said grad school was boring?). These guides are exceptional lesson plans and I wanted to make the best of the best available to other teachers to help them discover the incredible learning power of video games. Now, I know it’s not easy to convince most administrators and parents to let teachers use Madden, Age of Mythology or Spore in class, so these guides are designed to address specific state standards while providing a deep, experiential understanding of the topic at hand. Kinda hard to argue against something that addresses the standards and increases student excitement, engagement and motivation at the same time.
All of these guides were created by working teachers as part of their MS in Education and Instructional Technology at National University. The format is consistent for all, but the emphasis and detail varies from guide to guide. It is important to remember that while they were each created for a specific grade and subject, the guides are easily adapted for other grades, disciplines and gaming platforms.
Feel free to use the guides anyway you feel appropriate – tweak them, combine them, revise them or change them completely. Please just post your experiences and add any new material you create, so there is a constantly evolving and improving repository of lessons that teachers can use to help wake those damn kids up!!
Note: There are more where these came from, so check back often.
Title: Experience the Trials and Triumphs of Early American History with Empire: Total War
Author: Joshua Redin
Game: Empire: Total War
Subject: American History
Description: Prepare to see your 5th grade students excited about history in a way that you’ve never seen before. This teaching guide uses Empire: Total War to teach the exploration and colonization of the New World in the 17th century. Early American people, places, and things will come to life as students use Empire: Total War to step into history.
Title: Using Spore Hero to Demonstrate Evolutionary Structures and Function of Organisms for 7th Grade Biology
Author: Erik Frey
Game: Spore Hero
Description: In the past, teachers have used different methods for sparking creativity among students by having them design their own creatures. This is usually done with paper or clay, then they describe what abilities the creature would have. Spore Hero provides an engaging, creative method for students to experiment with their imagination and compare their creations to those that exist (or have existed) in the real world.
Title: Environmental Explorations in Simulations for 10th Grade Economics & Environmental Studies
Author: Stephani Johns-Hines
Game: SimCity Creator
Subject: Economics & Environmental Studies
Description: The virtual environment in SimCity Creator is a space where change and consequences are transparent and apparent. SimCity Creator is used in this guide as an educational eco-training ground and to foster the perspective that one person can solve big problems.
Title: Social Capitalism and Labor in Final Fantasy XI
Author: Jay Devin Smithen
Game: Final Fantasy XI
Platform: Xbox, PS3, PC
Description: The lessons in this guide lead students to participate in a virtual, social economy, which is based upon the collective efforts of student participants. Final Fantasy XI fosters a cooperative, safe environment, where learners are free to experiment without real-world consequences. The lessons engage students on multiple cognitive levels and extended domains, while meeting the appropriate CA State Teaching Standards.
Title: Using Call of Duty: Black Ops to Provide Experiential Understanding of US and World History for High School Seniors
Author: Sam Pabon
Game: Call of Duty: Black Ops
Platform: Xbox, PS3
Subject: American & World History
Author’s Blog: http://www.sampabon.com/
Description: How do we help students develop an active interest in modern, post World War II, United States History? How do we encourage students to develop a healthy curiosity for the complex political considerations that accompany decisions by elected officials to choose military action over diplomacy? How do we get students to stop playing video games, and start hitting the books? Educators need to use tools that students already are using on their own like the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Title: Understanding Civilization through Conquering One – Using Settlers 7 for 3rd Grade Social Studies
Author: Mark Wright
Game: Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom
Subject: Social Studies
Author’s Blog: http://marklwright.com/
Description: This Guide will help you engage your third grade students in a world outside their classroom in a way they never before. Trying to teach them about the interdependence of nations and communities can be a challenge if they have never left their own neighborhoods. Trying to explain the consequences of government investment in science, trade, and the military can be difficult if they don’t even have enough money to buy lunch.
Title: Assassin’s Creed II: A Virtual Tour to the Italian Renaissance for 7th Graders
Author: Pilar Khder
Game: Assassin’s Creed II
Platform: PC, Mac, Xbox, PS3, Wii
Subject: European History
Description: This teacher’s guide will provide exciting activities where your 7th graders will have opportunities to investigate the origins and accomplishments of the Renaissance. At the same time, through these materials, you will be able to integrate other important program skills such as analysis, chronological and spatial thinking, evidence, point of view and historical interpretations.
Title: American Conquest: A 5th Grade Social Studies Exploration
Game: American Conquest: Three Centuries of War
Subject: Social Studies
Description: This guide is designed to allow teachers to successfully incorporate American Conquest into their curriculum as both a motivational tool and a curricular support. Students will experience firsthand the struggles to build and supply a standing army, along with developing alliances and devising military strategy.
Title: Los Sims: Bringing Spanish to Life with Simulation
Author: Charla Wilson
Game: The Sims
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3/PC/Mac
Description: In order to create an interactive experience for language learners, using a simulation game will truly bring Spanish to life. Teachers are continually challenged by making content comprehensible to students and creating an authentic experience for language learning within the constraints of a classroom. The incorporation of video games will allow the teacher to use video games as realia (real things from the real world) for teaching and learning.
Title: Elements of New World History, Exploration, Discovery and Real-Time Strategy for 7th Grade History Students
Author: Kathy Tollman
Game: Age of Empires III
Subject: New World History and Expansion
Description: Using Age of Empires III in the classroom will provide your students an entertaining and educational supplement to the 7th Grade History lesson curriculum, while providing an opportunity for students to experience life as it may have been during the age of exploration and conquering of the Americas. The game encourages experiential learning through doing and provides lessons that are student driven and student-centered allowing strong connections to be made between game play and classroom learning.
Title: Using Sentinel: Descendants in Time to Enhance the 7th Grade Writing and Language Arts Curriculum
Author: Eric Allen
Game: Sentinel: Descendants in Time
Subject: Creative Writing/Language Arts
Description: This guide is an attempt to be a one-stop-shop for other teachers who are ready to experiment with video games as a way of enhancing their writing curriculums. It takes as its catalyst the game Sentinel: Descendents in Time and uses it to spark the imagination.
Title: Spore Hero for Life Science
Author: Godofredo Ginex-Orinion
Game: Spore Hero
Description: What if I told you there was a new and innovative way to teach evolution that gets your students to successfully understand adaptation due to environmental factors? Imagine teaching this unit by giving the students the opportunity to understand what it would be like to be able to create their own life form, then customize and modify its body parts to best suit its needs and survival.
Title: A Rollercoaster Adventure for 3rd Grade Math
Author: Alicia Young
Game: Roller Coaster Tycoon 2
Description: This guide incorporates the exciting area of video games with effective classroom experiences using the popular video game Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. Your third grade students will enjoy using the game to learn and reinforce third grade math standards, specifically solving multiplication word problems and working with area and perimeter. The guide includes two comprehensive lessons and multiple extension activities.
Title: Dance Dance Revolution Does a Body Good: Using DDR for Strength and Conditioning
Author: Cora Mann
Game: Dance Dance Revolution
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3
Grade: 9th – 12th
Description: Dance Dance Revolution™ has created a fun and healthy way for students to become more active and realize the benefits of physical activity. DDR delivers a healthy workout to students of all ability levels and is an excellent addition to any physical education class letting students exercise at their own pace while having fun playing a video game.
Title: Learning Investigation and Experimentation as applied to Mathematical Reasoning in the 5th Grade
Author: Joshua Striker
Game: Tropico – Mucho Macho Edition
Description: By merging the exciting and challenging game of Tropico with the concepts of 5th grade level Science and Mathematics, your students will find themselves immersed into a world of discovery and knowledge. This guide will endeavor to target the specific scientific concepts of Investigation and Experimentation as well as Mathematical Reasoning by placing your students into the role of an island dictator.