Learning from Video Games While Homeschooling During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Mission US Video Game-https://edsitement.neh.gov/student-activities/mission-us-crown-or-colony-game

By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

In many households young people all over the United States have suddenly been introduced to homeschooling due to self-quarantine and social distancing as result of the coronavirus. However, the idea of homeschooling can have some drawbacks if not planned properly. One possible drawback is that parents and guardians might struggle to keep their children on a productive routine. Another struggle with homeschooling is the many distractions that can present themselves while at home. Indeed it is often difficult to keep students motivated because there are competing interests going on as well and without strict enforcement of rules the work will not get done. Some of the major distractions are the Internet, social media, television and video games. I will admit, even in my own household my children have spent hours upon end playing video games. Furthermore, if I let them they would spend day after day alternating between navigating social media and playing video games or often doing both at the same time. In light of this, we thought it would be advantageous to republish an article on using video games as an educational resource.            

Originally published April 28, 2019
With the advancement of science in the twenty-first century there is an increasing push for the integration of technology in school curriculum and instruction. One area of technology that has seen much growth is the video game industry; it is a multi-billion dollar industry. Home gaming entertainment systems have evolved and changed since their debut in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Systems like the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision had graphics that were so primitive that they are considered laughable in comparison to modern systems such as PlayStation, X-Box and Nintendo Switch.

Video games have other uses besides mere entertainment. For example, the military has long used gaming for combat training and simulation and for flight simulation. Another growing use of video games is in the realm of education. Using video games for educational purposes is nothing new, many people of a certain generation remember Oregon Trail and early math video games of the late twentieth century. However, many teachers do not realize the incredible role video games can play in the classroom today, especially in the area of social studies. This article will offer resources, lesson ideas and how video games may be used effectively and creatively in the classroom. There are also a few links to social studies themed video games that can be played online. At the end of the article are questions for discussion and reflection surrounding effective uses of video games in the classroom.

Lesson Ideas and Resources- Using Video Games to Teach Social Studies
Exactly How To Teach With Video Games In The Classroom
Six Video Games You Can Teach With Tomorrow
Here’s How Gamer-Teachers Use Video Games In The Classroom
How to Incorporate Popular Video Games into a Lesson Plan
Video Games as Historical Content

Videos showing Sample Social Studies Themed Games and How Games can be used In the Classroom
Video Games in the Social Studies
Assassin’s Creed Origins Cinematic Trailer (Julius Caesar & Cleopatra)
Total War: Three Kingdoms Announcement Cinematic Trailer
Assassin’s Creed III: E3 Cinematic Trailer
Assassin’s Creed 3 Gameplay Walkthrough Part 3 – Welcome to Boston
Valiant Hearts E3 Trailer [US]
Valiant Hearts: The Great War Walkthrough PART 1
King’s Quest

Social Studies Themed Video Games to Play
Airman’s Challenge- US Air force Game
Mission US
Arcane The Stone Circle – Episode 7
On the Trail of Captain John Smith
The Following Games Are Published By the History Channel
Meet the President
Social Studies Video Games
Oregon Trail

What are the world’s Top 5 video game markets? A Foolish Take
Global Games Market Value Rising to $134.9bn in 2018 
History of Video Games- National Geographic
History of Video Games
Video Game: The Ralph Baer Prototypes and Electronic Games
How Video Game Systems Work
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
Uncle Sam Wants You — To Play Video Games for the US Army
Exceptional Military Video Games Worth Binging This Holiday Season Gaming: The Air Force’s Newest Recruitment Tool 
Let the Games Begin: Entertainment Meets Education Video games, once confiscated in class, are now a key teaching tool — if they’re done right.
Teaching History With Digital Historical Games: An Introduction to the Field and Best Practice

Discussion Questions:
1. What are creative ways you can use video games as an educational tool while under self-quarantine?
2. What are your immediate reactions to the resources and articles?
3. What resources above stand out to you the most? What surprises you? What do you find interesting?
4. What resources or lessons might you like to see in a classroom? What would you implement/try out in your teaching?
5. What technology, gaming tools or media have you used in your classroom?
6. What kinds of technological resources do you find most helpful in your classroom?
7. What are some factors that make a video game an effective tool in teaching social studies?


  1. This is a difficult experience and definitely something I never saw coming. I assumed I would finish the semester with 3rd-grade students and my classmates. I never expected my sister to finish her junior year away from her closest friend, or miss her first prom. Elearning was not even a thing when I went to school and now students’ sole education is strictly based on Elearning. Parents are trying to find an education avenue to keep their young students occupied. After reading this article, this website allows children to experience education through a video game. Students are learning about history through the lens of a video game. I appreciate this recourse and I know that the parents that I will share this website with will also be excited to try it out!

  2. It’s crazy how an article from last year around this time can be so relevant to what is happening in our world today. There’s a great deal of additional stress on parents and guardians during this time to make sure that their children are still receiving quality education. It’s easy to fall out of a routine and not be productive during this time, and also to feel discouraged. However, it’s important to implement a simple routine and get rid of distractions to make sure students are getting the most out of their education. A couple of huge distractions for students at home right now are social media and video games. Luckily there are educational video games out there to keep students entertained while they’re learning. This article offers some great resources.

  3. Without my knee jerk response as a parent, now that I’m putting an educator’s pants’ on- none of this good. None of this good for educators’- unless we are all onboard. This situation is unprecedented, and requires new paradigms we haven’t conceived. But we will. Patience. We are adaptable, and we will make it.

  4. Wow. As a parent, I’m navigating unknown territories. I’m also belligerently against schooling my own child, she and i have borderline-issues anyways. However, I am willing and in TO DO MY BEST and I will. I am trying so hard. That all sounded mean, but really I’m bad at math and i don’t want to pass it on. I’m worried that I will.

  5. I absolutely love the idea of children playing video games that have an educational aspect. As we have seen in our education classes, technology in the classroom can improve learning when used appropriately. Technology is only going to get more and more popular in every aspect of our lives. It only makes sense to include technology in the education system. Not only can students learn from technology, the simple act of using technology will help them to be more technology literate.
    Having a child during this time and switching from being a parent to also being a teacher can be difficult, even for those of us who are educators or future educators. Introducing educational video games to our children who are learning at home right now is a great tool to not only entertain them, but to keep them on track with learning goals. It is important that we keep things light and fun during this time because there are so many other things that are able to worry and stress our children out. I think educational video games are a great way to do this.

  6. I think that it is a great idea to incorporate home gaming systems in schools today. I believe that for certain students it may help them grasp a certain subject a little bit easier. I also think that at this point in time, gaming systems will help more of the hands-on classes that are unable to meet at the University or grade school level. For example, I know that classes are on hold due to the current pandemic, and I think that for classes such as welding, this would be a great tool to use so that the students aren’t just reading and memorizing the textbook. I also think that it is a good idea to give this technology to future doctors. Because even though we currently have simulations for the medical field, I believe they could be better. The medical simulations are used for medical students to practice procedures but not do them on living humans. So if they do the procedure wrong, it affects the elect Tronic patient and not the living breathing one. The example of the Oregon Trail game, is a great resource that a social studies educator could use in their classroom to give the students an experience that they would not of had otherwise. It will also help them understand that Social Studies isn’t just memorizing dates, it’s about learning our culture and how it came to be.

  7. This article is very interesting! I really like the idea of using video games as a Social Studies Unit! This gives students an educational “break” which is incredibly important! This is an amazing way to help keep the student’s attention during their Quarantine. I really love the website Mission US! I remember using it in class as a college student and getting excited to explore it! It is a great way to have fun while learning Social Studies!

  8. I found this article to be interesting, especially in light of our current situation. It has always been a concern of mine, as well as other teachers and parents, that kids may spend too much time online or playing video games. I believe that kids should spend time outside being active, or socializing with family members. However, with lessons being taught online, now is a great time to take advantage of children’s’ interests in technology. Without a doubt, video game companies are making big money from this pandemic, as families are told to stay out of public environments. From my own personal experience of social distancing, I can confirm that staying in the house all day can get boring. But, I wonder how we as teachers can use this as our advantage and incorporate video games into our online lessons. This would be a great way to not only promote learning, but to also keep the interests of our students in mind. There are so many educational games that students can play with the push of a button that can be entertaining as well as informational. This also makes me think about how if this becomes a positive way to learn, if whether or not this type of learning will occur in the future even after this pandemic is over. I wonder if more people will have access to technology and video games, and that more lessons will be taught at home because it can be so convenient.

  9. It is ironic how timely this article has come to be in just under a year! While video games and online teaching resources have been necessary and helpful to learning for years now, this pandemic requires it like never before. Having close family and friends with children in elementary school, it is clear to see how overwhelming this transition to homeschooling has felt for some. I enjoyed looking through some of the resources provided on this page as well as the possible lessons to go along with them. I particularly liked the Meet the President link to PBS. It was very kid-friendly and allowed students to look at all of the different presidents as well as watch a show about petitions and other political matters. Before school closures I was in a first grade classroom and I was able to observe the class log into multiple websites and games. I can say with confidence that they would be able to access the PBS resource and be able to learn. Thanks for providing so many options!

  10. Much of my early exposure to history and social studies was through gaming, so this is a topic close to my heart. I’ve not played Total War: Three Kingdoms yet, but the Total War series is a fantastic resource for engaging with history thanks to its relative complexity and robust in-game encyclopedia that goes into further detail about the technologies, buildings, and soldiers you can develop.

    I think the first aspect of teaching using video games successfully is that it needs to be a fun game students actually want to experience. There are a couple History Channel games available on Playstation that have some interesting information and concepts, but they have messy controls and I doubt most students would want to actively engage with them for long. In the same way that a dryly produced documentary may have good information but puts the entire class to sleep, it’s critical that the games you pick be something that your students will enjoy in some capacity.

    The second key thing is that we need to be explicit in the purpose and objective of having students play games. We need to explicitly state a purpose (and have students do something related to that purpose after their experience with the game, such as writing a reflection paper or picking out things they saw that they would like to learn more about) in order for it to be more than just a play session. Open world games like Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed do indeed have things to teach students, but unless we are being purposeful and selective in how we present those learning targets, students will be unlikely to consciously absorb the educational aspect and will instead spend the entire class period casting spells or terrorizing the digital townsfolk.

    • I do think since the pandemic, amongst all the craziness, parents have found it hard to keep their children focused on school still. Video games can be negative if collaborated with violence, war or guns. Video games can also keep a child focused and mind stimulated if it involves education while still being “fun.” I know my daughter has video games/education programs incorporated in her learning assignments during this pandemic, and she loved it.

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