New course brings video games to the classroom

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new course from the Penn State College of Education’s Learning Design and Technology (LDT) program is not only integrating technology in the classroom, it is encouraging the students’ use of commercial video games.

LDT 401: Gaming 2 Learn, an online course offered this summer through Penn State World Campus, trains current educators and teachers-in-training how to integrate commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) video games into their lessons.

“This course develops 21st century teaching skills beyond the basics of technology integration,” said Ali Carr-Chellman, department head and professor of learning and performance systems. “It teaches current and future educators how to keep students engaged in learning by utilizing the technology they use in their everyday lives.”

The course focuses on the use of COTS games such as "Minecraft," "World of Warcraft," "Call of Duty" and others as an educational part of the curriculum. Rather than looking at educational games, which kids really dislike, Carr-Chellman said, Gaming 2 Learn focuses on having kids experience learning through the games they already play.

“Our program stands out when compared to others because we go beyond that first step of just bringing technology into the classroom. We teach current and future educators how to successfully use the technologies that kids are already using to help them learn.”

— Ali Carr-Chellman,
department chair and professor of
learning and performance systems

During the course, students complete a project that requires them to select a COTS game and describe the integration that connects with their specific content area. Students also must observe children as they play their favorite games and participate in playing games with them, and then report on those observations and experiences.

“As teachers, many of us do not know what games kids are playing,” Carr-Chellman said. “So how can we say whether or not those games are teaching our children anything? By observing and participating in the game, our students can see firsthand what the educational values of these games are.”

Teachers who watch kids playing games can discover amazing things about what kids are learning while they play, she added. Having focused her academic research on integrative technology and the use of video games in the classroom, Carr-Chellman has found that children develop important skills from video games, including teamwork, communication, grit and perseverance.

“This course is not tied to one content area so it doesn’t matter what subject you teach or are planning to teach,” she said. “Using video games in classrooms can be applied to multiple content areas.”

Offering integrative technology courses such as Gaming 2 Learn is vital to the future of education, and it’s an area in which Penn State’s LDT program excels. The program exceeds traditional technology integration orientation for K-12 educators by offering courses on topics, including teaching and learning online, Web 2.0, mobile technologies, course management systems, maker spaces and computers as learning tools.

“Our program stands out when compared to others because we go beyond that first step of just bringing technology into the classroom,” Carr-Chellman said. “We teach current and future educators how to successfully use the technologies that kids are already using to help them learn.”

Most teachers are reluctant to use games and when they do, it is usually something that has been created for a specific educational purpose, according to Carr-Chellman. This leads to students becoming disengaged, which, in turn, creates frustrations for teachers who want their students to learn.

“Technology is only going to continue to grow and change,” she said. “Educators need to learn how to use all types of technology effectively. This course teaches them that even in commercial video games, students are learning a great deal.”

Registration for LDT 401: Gaming 2 Learn is now open through Penn State World Campus and is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduate students must have a minimum fifth-semester standing to enroll in the course. To learn more about summer courses available through the College of Education, visit ed.psu.edu/current-students/summer.

Last Updated March 22, 2016