Over this past break, I overheard an inspiring story about a teacher, his classroom, and the educational power of videogames. It all began with a High School teacher named Patrick. A few years ago, Patrick found himself teaching a spirited bunch of freshmen in his first period class. Now, we all know that students are unique in their own way, but this group was absolutely brimming with character. One kid was training to be a professional ice skater. Another had a collection of colorful bowties, and a third had a passion for reggae music.
And then, there was the quiet one.
Try as he might, Patrick couldn’t get this student to connect with the material or her peers. Then one cold winter day, the student came in wearing a jacket with Kingdom Hearts characters emblazoned on the back. That gave Patrick an idea. At the time, the class was studying The Odyssey, and students were assigned to compare a modern character with Odysseus and the Hero’s Journey. As the class got to work, Patrick sat down with his shy student and asked if she had anyone in mind. Perhaps a character who was separated from his loved ones, who was forced to overcome a series of trials, and who maybe wielded a very special key-themed sword?
It was as though a light came on behind her eyes. From then on, she became one of the most active students in his class. Her grades improved, and she even became more comfortable around the other students. By connecting his lesson to student interests, Patrick was able to open new doors for his student and expand her ability to learn.
Geek is Chic
Every teacher has known a student like this. A kid who gets overwhelmed by the personalities of their peers. Who has trouble connecting with the material or struggles to find their voice in the classroom. By connecting your lesson to student interests like videogames, comics, or role-playing adventures, you essentially give students a Rosetta Stone for education. Suddenly, a subject that was bland or confusing takes on a whole new dimension for them.
Not sure where to begin? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Comics and Literacy: We’ve mentioned before how comics are an invaluable tool for student literacy. Not only do they help improve student vocabulary, but they can generate interest in reading, explore important themes, and even assist in social-emotional learning!
- Videogames and Music: As Patrick demonstrated, videogames can teach students about story structure and literary devices, but did you know they can also teach students about music? These days, many videogames feature some of the most beautiful and diverse soundtracks in the industry. Use these to explain elements like melody, harmony, and rhythm.
- Dungeons, Dragons, and Complex Equations: If you think tabletop games are all about swords and spells than you are grossly mistaken. Games like Dungeons & Dragons require players to calculate complex mathematical formulas and solve difficult equations. As a bonus, they also teach valuable lessons about teamwork and cooperation. So, give the 20-sided dice a whirl!
- Superheroes and History: Did you know Marvel’s X-Men were an allegory for the American Civil Rights movement? Have you heard the story of how Superman helped defeat the Ku Klux Klan? Superheroes have always reflected America’s unique history, so why not use them to teach social studies? Best of all, these caped crusaders can help you introduce students to real-life heroes who changed the world for the better!
Ready Player One
It’s amazing how something as simple as a videogame can unlock a student’s potential and ignite their passion for learning. So, go ahead and embrace your inner geek! Find a way to connect your lesson to the things your students love. Whether it’s Nintendo or Nausicaä, there’s no shortage of fun options for you to explore with your class. And who knows, you may even learn something new yourself!