skyrimby Dr. Nicholas White

Blending education with entertainment is an ancient practice.

Even in Athens 2,500 years ago, a lecturer, seeking to keep his students’ attention, may have made a witty comment about the summer heat. But in the 21st century, teachers have more tools than ever before to entertain their students and teach them valuable lessons in the classroom.

The term “edutainment” has been coined in recent years and is quite often used in conversations about digital game-based learning. Of course using mass market films like “Pearl Harbor” or “Romeo & Juliet” to educate students has been done for many years, but computer games are becoming increasingly powerful tools for teachers (Learn how it’s like to work in the computer animation industry). Educational video games like the Oregon Trail have held a place in the elementary classroom for decades and the list of resources for digital game-based learning continues to grow.

Games are being developed at an exponential rate for in-class application and have a scope that goes far beyond the Oregon Trail. Below are some resources that may help interested teachers, administrators and parents understand how digital game-based learning can enhance the educational experience for students.

10+ Game-Based Learning Resources: From Practical Applications To Academic Theory

  1. Educade is a massive site with endless resources focused on games and education. Lesson plans, games and a vast array of resources for bringing computer games into the classroom are available and more are being added each day. Lesson plans and available games run the gamut from botany and geography to mathematics and physics.

  2. The George Lucas Foundation hosts an educationally-themed site called Edutopia. A major focus of the site is game-based learning in the classroom. A recent post titled “Teach with your iPhone: Apps to use in the Classroom” offers practical advice and may trigger other ideas for integrating new media into the classroom. This is only one example of the hundreds of posts by educators, scholars and industry insiders about the integration of computer games into the formal curriculum.

  3. Another helpful site is the social media resource Listly. This social media site gives users the opportunity to post lists on just about anything and has the lists organized into categories and subcategories. One such category is education, and there are multiple lists that may prove useful for the topic of edutainment. Top 10 iPad Educational Apps is just one such example.

  4. For teachers who are interested in educational video games that confront real-world challenges such as hunger, child abuse and pollution, Serious Games Interactive is a Dutch company that specializes in developing games about these types of subjects in a mature and educational way. These games are developed to inspire solutions to real problems. They have a series of games called “Global Conflicts” which may be a perfect fit for a political science or sociology class. Another series is called “Playing History” and approaches edutainment with an emphasis on teaching in ways that historically set games like “Men of Valor” or “Call of Duty” may not.

  5. The Education Arcade is an organization that “explores games that promote learning through authentic and engaging play.” The organization’s research and development projects “focus both on the learning that naturally occurs in popular commercial games and on the design of games that more vigorously address the educational needs of players.” This may be a good starting place for an overview of the many academics currently focused on computer game-based learning and some of the discussions taking place in the field.

  6. For readers interested in a deeper understanding of the educational theory linking education and entertainment, there are many online sources as well as the innumerable books written in the past two decades on the subject. A pioneer on the subject is education scholar and Arizona State University Professor James Paul Gee. His “Situated Language and Learning: A Critique of Traditional Schooling” (2004) has provoked considerable debate in the academic community but his thoughts on the importance of motivation, amusement and “deep learning” are impossible not to consider given the breadth of his research and his standing in the profession. More recently a collection of his essays has been anthologized in “Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays” (2007).

  7. Another academic resource to learn about digital game based learning is Professor Edmond Y. Chang of the University of Washington’s site Gaming Writing: Teaching (with) Video Games. One of his presentations, included at the site, may be useful to writing teachers interested in using video games to improve composition skills.

The aforementioned represent only a small sample of the many tools available. As more educational video games are produced and the digital frontier continues to be settled, the frontier also expands exponentially. Separating the wheat from the chaff will continue to be an important responsibility for everyone concerned about educating future generations using technology suited for the task.

Nicholas White holds a PhD in rhetoric from the University of Arizona. He taught writing at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, Long Beach State University and other schools over seven years. Dr. White has an ongoing interest in rhetoric and popular culture and an abiding interest in literature and film; this was provided exclusively to TeachThought by