Digital games used to teach English-language arts

While books, poems, art, and even films have all been used to teach English-language arts to students, some teachers have taken a new route by incorporating digital games into their classrooms. Fullbright Company’s game, “Gone Home,” tells the story of Katie Greenbriar, who comes home to an empty house and missing family members after spending a year abroad. Unlike traditional video games, “Gone Home” focuses on the story rather than leveling up; critics have praised the game as a new way of storytelling, and it has made its way into classrooms as a substitute for traditional text due to its non-linear story that forces players to explore the game’s surroundings and create their own narrative and conclusions.

Toronto-based teacher Paul Darvasi began using “Gone Home” in his all-boys English class in 2013. He created objected for students around various subtopics, such as “1995 Archeology” in which students found objects from the year the game was set. The findings of each subtopic was then presented through PowerPoint, where students were assessed on their presentations. In order to individually assess the students, Darvasi required students to write game reviews and track subtopics via screen shots and notes from the game – all of which correlated to the Common Core State Standards. “In a sense, it played out similar to a typical literature unit,” Darvasi said. “Except that you are substituting written text with a game’s text.”

“Gone Home” has not only affected classrooms in the North America, but international classrooms as well. Alexander Husoy, an English teacher in Norway, came across Darvasi’s blog posts about the game and teamed up with Darvasi to co-deliver the unit in fall 2014. Students from both schools collaborate through blog posts, private Facebook groups, and even Google Hangout in order to create their final project assessments.

Last fall, the 2014 Speak Up survey asked students questions about digital games in the classroom, such as “What would be the benefits of having video, online, or digital games as a part of your regular schoolwork or classroom activities?” Find out the results from this question and more when we release our Speak Up 2014 data in early February – in the meantime, you can view past data and reports here.

Interested in learning more about “Gone Home” and its use in the classroom? Read the original article, “‘Gone Home’: A Video Game as a Tool for Teaching Critical Thinking Skills” by Ki Sung (MindShift), or visit the official “Gone Home” website.

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