6 Video Games You Can Teach With Tomorrow

, , 10 Comments

Realistically, a “with it” teacher can teach almost anything using almost anything. I’ve been taught trigonometry using a paper clip, and expository structure using paint. Tech is great, but nowhere close to necessary. But if the underlying learning process is well-thought out, tech can provide powerful common ground for teachers and learners.

So then, video games.

Video games do not represent a “rising medium,” but rather one that’s established, potent, and ready for application in any content area at any grade level. While their application may not be as immediately apparent as the Declaration of Independence, an essay by Wendell Berry, or Google Earth, they truly are a goldmine of edu-content.

We’ve talked before about the concept of gamification, which refers to applying game mechanics to any non-gaming process. Below are six games that can be used not to “gamify” a classroom, but as primary learning resources.

These games can serve not only to introduce teachers to the concept of using video games as something beyond a gimmicky way to “engage learners,” but demonstrate that video games are a platform worthy of any classroom dedicated to any content area at any grade level. While it will take more than a single post to learn how to effectively use Fallout 3 to teach T.S. Eliot, the videos below are nonetheless good starting points to introduce teachers to the idea. As with any medium, to teach with them deeply, you’ll likely have to play them yourself. It’d be difficult to teach a poem without understanding it personally, and the same applies for video games. But what if you wanted to know where to get started?

Need a mini-lesson on narrative perspective, or a way to demonstrate the potential of collaboration? If you teach grades 4 through university, see below.

1. Skyrim

Appropriate Grade Level: 8-12+ (some mature content/themes)

Universal: Problem-solving, Resource Management, Various Thinking Strategies

ELA: Inferencing, Audience, Characterization, Purpose, Media Form, Tone, Mood, Theme, Perspective, Point of View, Style, Metaphor, Symbolism, Propaganda, Rhetoric, Various Thinking Strategies

2. Civilization V

Appropriate Grade Level: 6-12+ (complexity)

Universal: Problem-solving, Resource Management, Collaboration, Various Thinking Strategies

Government, History, Social Studies, Geography: Diplomacy, Impact of Geography on Policy, Hoarding and Trade, Political Tactics, Communication

3. Fallout 3

Appropriate Grade Level: 8-12+ (some mature content/themes)

Universal: Problem-solving, Resource Management

ELA: Inferencing, Characterization, Audience, Purpose, Media Form, Tone, Mood, Theme, Perspective, Point of View, Style, Metaphor, Symbolism, Propaganda, Rhetoric, Various Thinking Strategies

Government, History, Social Studies: Cold War, Scare Tactics, Propaganda

4. Portal 2

Appropriate Grade Level: 4-12+

Universal: Problem-solving, Collaboration, Visualization, Various Thinking Strategies

ELA: Irony, Tone, Collaboration

Science: Physics

5. Armadillo Run

Appropriate Grade Level: 4-12+

Universal: Problem-solving, Project Management, Collaboration

Science: Physics

6. Heavy Rain

Appropriate Grade Levels: 10-12+ (some mature content/themes)

Universal: Various Thinking Strategies

ELA: Narrative Style, Tone, Mood, Characterization, Point of View, Setting, Perspective, Style

    • Terry Heick

      Good thing about a few of these–Fallout, for example–is that you can even begin implementing them with only the videos, depending on the course and content area.

  • http://twitter.com/familysimpson Ian Simpson

    I tried using Heavy Rain with a Higher class (16-18 yo). I would play through it first before deciding if it is suitable for your students.

    • terryheick

      Ian–So glad to hear you gave one of the games a shot. A complete playthrough of Heavy Rain is probably not suitable for any non-adult audience, and we probably should’ve made that clear in the post. There are long gameplay periods that are fine even for elementary age students, but you’re correct–in spots it is probably adults-only due to language, violence, and themes. Guess with all of those prefaces, maybe not the best choice for a list like this, but it also has great interactivity, narrative elements, use of tone and mood, and should have strong credibility with students.

  • http://www.daisybrain.com ericindiana

    What about Minecraft? Science is using it at our local high school – the possibilities are endless & I’ve heard that there are educator versions available or under development.