Commercial digital games move into the classroom

MARCH 12, 2013

Last Tuesday SimCity just got a little easier to implement into your classroom.

GlassLab - the Games, Learning and Assessment Lab - debuted the SimCityEDU platform, a website that offers lesson plans and an online community for teachers who want to use the newly rebooted SimCity game.

Here at iCivics we’ve noticed a rising trend in commercial digital games being brought into the classroom. Here are just a couple of recent examples:

The brainiac puzzle games Portal and Portal 2, and Puzzle Maker, which let’s you create your own Portal puzzles, were already being used by teachers to instruct their students in everything  from science and math to language arts skills. After receiving an enormous amount of positive feedback about their games, game producers Valve, decided to take it one step further. They developed Teach with Portals, which offers tools and a teachers-only community to support teachers in learning about creating content that supports the use of Portal 2 in the classroom. Teachers can access the game online for free through STEAM for SCHOOLS.

Educators and programmers are using the addictive quality of the world-building game Minecraft to engage and educate students around the world through their platform, MinecraftEdu. Tutorials, teachers guides, lesson plans, and activities are helping teachers tackle STEM subjects, communication skills, civic engagement and a host of other topics through Minecraft gameplay. In addition, teacher can use a custom mod in which students will be able to play in a teacher-created map space. Based on the popularity of Minecraft, we’re sure this game will be a big hit with students of all ages.

Hopefully by now the benefits of using digital games for learning are widely known. If you have used iCivics games, you know how well games can hold your students’ attention and engage them in a learning activity - so much so, they might not even know they’re learning! Games made precisely for instructional purposes have resulted in gains of knowledge acquisition and content understanding.  

The fact is, as soon as you hand a game over to a child they are beginning the learning process. They are learning complex skills such as problem-solving, systems thinking and how to communicate and collaborate with others. That is why these “entertainment” games have had such success in the classroom even without that intent. We believe in the vast potential of game-based learning, and we strive to help all teachers tap into that potential.

We would love to hear what you think! Have you found a way to teach civics through commercial digital games? Have you used an iCivics lesson with these platforms?