6 Ways To Find Video Games You Can Teach With

6-ways-to-find-video-games-you-can-teach-with6 Ways To Find Video Games You Can Teach With

by Ryan Schaaf, Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at Notre Dame of Maryland University

Many people, whether young or old, male or female, introverted or extroverted, love playing video games. Why is this form of media so enticing for such a wide range of people?

The constant feedback and reward, the visual and audio stimulation, the player interaction, the variety of genres and game types, the rich storylines, and the opportunities for competition and collaboration are just a few of the enticing reasons players come back for more.

The Video Game Phenomenon

By 2016, global video game sales are expected to exceed 80 billion dollars a year. In Apple’s App Store and Google Play, the #1 app category downloaded to mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and media players is games. Whether using video games as a learning tool or a digital babysitter, more parents are exposing their children to digital games at an earlier age.

If you visit a restaurant, grocery store, or shopping mall, then chances are you see more and more children using their parent’s devices for hands-on, brains-on gaming experiences.

Digital Games: Teacher-Approved

More and more educators are turning to video games to engage their students in hands-on, brains-on learning. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center in collaboration with BrainPOP published Teacher Attitudes about Digital Games in the Classroom back in 2012. The report summarized the results of a national survey of 500 K-8 teachers using digital games in their classroom. Some highlights from the survey data include:

* 70% of the teachers agreed that using digital games increases motivation and engagement with content and curriculum.

* 62% of teachers indicated games make it easier to differentiate lessons for the wide range of learners in their classroom.

* 60% of teachers observed that games foster more collaboration amongst students.

* Negative classroom experiences using digital games were below 10%.

Further evidence of positive teacher attitudes towards digital games is also present in the 2009 PBS report Digitally Inclined Teachers Increasingly Value Media and Technology. The report, summarizing the results of a national survey of almost 1,500 teachers, indicated teachers are making significant progress in adopting digital media in schools.

Teachers value many different types of digital media, with games and activities for student use in school topping the list at 65%. Despite their popularity with students and teachers, it is a struggle to find digital games relevant for instruction.

These six strategies might prove useful when finding instructional digital games.

6 Strategies To Find Video Games You Can Teach With

1. Google It

This might seem too good to be true, but in most cases teachers will hit pay dirt. Using a search engine, enter content-specific search terms to find browser-based games. Search terms like “probability interactive digital games” or “food chain interactive games online” produce a robust list for previewers to choose from. In many cases, these digital games are free.

2. Skim App Stores

The App Store and Google Play now contain over 1 million apps each and the number is growing exponentially. More and more educational gaming apps are added each day. With BYOD initiatives and the popularity of tablets in schools, this strategy can provide an assortment of educational games for students to use in class.

Making it a habit to skim these sections, and even following a service like Humble Bundle, can be an easy way to find new games as well.

3. Use PC Platforms: Steam, Green Man Gaming, And More

The 1980s provided the first PC games. Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego, Number Munchers, and The Oregon Trail were just some of the digital games from the dawn of the personal computer. Nowadays, there are many popular titles specifically designed to be instructional; targeting specific learning objectives. Despite the decline in desktop computer sales over the years, personal computer games are still immensely popular and relatively easy to install and use with students in an individual, small-group, or whole-group manner.

4. Use Accessible, Popular Video Games

This might be a hard sell for some administrators, but it has been done before with success. In 2010, Learning and Teaching Scotland in partnership with Futurelab conducted surveys, interviews, and observations of console gaming in the classroom.

The study found students and teachers enjoyed the learning experiences present in game-based learning and offered opportunities to engage in activities that enhance learning. Although there are many obstacles to implementing console gaming in the classroom (namely content, violence in gaming, and money), students will be enthralled with the amazing graphics and immersive storylines present in professionally-produced commercial games.

5. Use An RSS Reader

This is a great way to discover new content, and can take just a few minutes a day. Set up your feedly (or other RSS reader) to grab articles from rockpapershotgun, ign, joystiq, and others to get a constant feed of info on video games that you can skim, save, and delete at your leisure.

6. Word Of Mouth

The power of sharing is alive and well in the field of education.

Teachers enjoy sharing new strategies, tools, and instructional approaches with others, because the pay-off of helping colleagues and/or students succeed is rewarding. Using new tools or instructional materials invigorates the classroom and the practice of teaching. Due to the abundance of digital games and the unlimited potential for teacher creativity in lesson planning, ideas will only spread and evolve.


The digital generations go home and tune in to a wide variety of media. Schools should not be a place they turn-off their digital lives. Educators will fail to reach them in the digital and media-rich reality they are growing up in. It is essential to use the tools of the digital generations to stay relevant in their ever-changing, never-static existences.

Digital games can be a tool with limitless potential for learning.

Ryan Schaaf is the Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at Notre Dame of Maryland University and a Faculty Associate for the Johns Hopkins University School of Education Graduate Program. His passion is helping educators develop children into global digital citizens who will excel in the new digital landscape; 6 Ways To Find Video Games You Can Teach With