How video games can be useful teaching tools

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How video games can be useful teaching tools

Published on December 03 2013

Imagine a history teacher who isn’t thrilled about teaching the history of the Victorian era.

Imagine an English teacher tapping into the film noir genre to teach you how to write a headline.

Now, imagine a teacher who embeds historical facts into video games he’s created for his students.

If your imagination does indeed permit the previous visions, then you’ve successfully conjured up Jim Pedrech, an English and Social Science teacher from Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School in London, ON.

Pedrech, the guest speaker for Faculty of Education’s Centre for Multiliteracies lunch series on Nov. 28, presented “Video Games in the Classroom: Creating Worlds for and with your Students" to a group of roughly a dozen. 

With several members of the faculty as well as invited guests, Pedrech’s presentation of technical process was accompanied by a streaming narrative to that provided insight and background to how Pedrech’s video games have established themselves as key learning tools in the classroom.

As he went through his personal history as a teacher, Pedrech noted that there was an identifiabl trend in his history classes; as a handful of students were seemingly more knowledgeable about the details of the lesson he taught, whether it be certain battles or weaponry or strategy.

“These kids were the gamers,” he said. “I would argue that these kids have a better understanding of military strategy than any other generation at that age.”

Going through several of the games he has used in his class he articulated the techniques used to bring the notion of merging video games and teaching into a reality.

“There are real historical facts in these games,” he said as he showed a frame from his game the Paulsford Mysteries, a game, admittedly, created to help ease his own dismay of teaching the Victorian era.

The frame displayed a list of questions that were integral to the game’s completion, however they were not asking arbitrary answers; rather they were carefully selected so that the answers represented historical truths.

The video games presented to the participants were extremely educational, all the while veiled in the cloak of entertainment.

Deadline, a game about a young newspaper writer, takes the aforementioned film noir approach to its construction, but a far less layered approach to its instruction.

Pedrech noted that for Deadline, students not only had the opportunity for literacy learning, but also the opportunity to be educated on things such as copyright law.

As technology continues to evolve it is becoming a more commonly used vehicle to get students involved and immersed in learning, and with video games, it’s just one more avenue to tap into that allows students to learn in a world they might have otherwise never have known.

“We’re getting better and better at creating these games,” said Pedrech. “The nice thing about the game’s creation is that you get to create the world.”

To view some of Jim's work, you can visit his blog

jim pedrech at the screen
Video game teaching

Jim Pedrech went through the simplicities and the complexities of utilizing video games as a method of teaching during the Centre for Multiliteracies lunch series event on Nov. 28.