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. I think this is a great time to republish this article about educational games and resources for students during this time. Some students don’t fully understand the pandemic, they just know that their daily routine just got turned upside-down in a matter of weeks. I 100% agree with the distractions at home, I am a college student who struggles sometimes at home to stay focused so I can’t imagine being a young student and having to do school work at home with distractions. On top of that some students don’t have that routine that they are used to anymore so these educational games can help students learn in a way that they parents can help them with. I know that is a down fall to some parents, they don’t remember the material or aren’t sure how to teach their student the material. These educational games will be really helpful for those parents.

  2. A big concern of mine during this whole pandemic is absolutely the children. From the beginning of all this, I have worried about if the kids are actually getting what they are supposed to be getting. Although sad, it is not hard to believe that some parents are not being strict enough about them getting the school work finished whether its online or pages at home. It is also not hard to believe, but also sad that it could also be that teachers have not created a support system enough for some children to be able to understand or get the help they really need to get the assignments or even videos finished. There is little motivation to do this right now and many distractions in the world, when routine is not implemented. I am very interested to see how the students and schools handle the change back to normal schooling one day. If it ever goes back to “Normal”

  3. I would never have thought that schooling would come to how it is now. It is amazing how this pandemic has impacted the school system as much as it has. It’s crazy to see how something that people used to see as bad, video games, has now turned into one of the best ways for students to get a better education now that students have classes online. I was trying to think of ways to teach an online lesson and was asking my little sisters what they thought that I could use and they suggested a video game that they used in school. I think it’s important for students to have access to fun ways of learning whether they are in the classroom or out.

  4. This article was an interesting read and very relevant to what is going on in the world right now. I work at a daycare in Indiana, and we have school age students right now. We also have a new policy due to COVID-19 that children are not allowed to bring anything in that they want to take home at the end of the day (other than materials for their new instruction for school). It has been very interesting to see how the behavior of the kids has changed since they are not longer allowed to bring in their personal technology to play video games on. Thankfully, the students are staying on a routine and this has helped with the behavior a lot, but I never realized how much some kids rely on video games. Some of them moan and cry at the words “We are going outside”, while others get excited. This article does a great job at showing how parents have to entertain their students also while helping them with their online schooling.

  5. This article is very relevant to what is happening in time right now. Kids are having to do school online and parents are having to learn new ways to keep their children entertained ALL DAY long. I have two younger siblings, a sister in 5th and a brother in 3rd, in elementary school who are now doing online school. One of my close friends is also my brother’s teacher. With that being said, I have heard both sides of what it’s like to be a teacher right now trying to plan online lessons and how students are handling school work online. My sister has been required to watch educational activities and do online history activities like mission us on her computer. In these crazy times of things changing around us so quickly, children need to be kept on a schedule, especially a routine with school.

  6. With everything that has been going on the past few weeks or so, there has been a lot of change & areas of my life that I’ve had to think about when I never did before. Of those many thing, one really connected to this articles overall topic which was how so many people (of all ages) are being forced to learn & communicate almost solely through online resources. For me personally, I had NEVER even heard of “Zoom” until almost 3 or 4 weeks ago. Now I am using it almost every week day. While it has worked out pretty well so far, it is still so new to me as I am still trying to get used to it. And thinking about my experiences using online resources for school & work really got me thinking about how elementary students, and high school students are going about learning & finishing out their respective school years. I can’t even begin to imagine how students (grades K-8th), and honestly high school as well, are going about doing this. While it may be very chaotic & difficult right now, I truly believe that everyone that is going through this process of having to do school from home will benefit from this in one way or another. One way I think is learning to become a little self-dependent & having to take responsibility at such a young age, because while their can be parents & older siblings helping out, it is on each individual to learn & do their work themselves through whatever online resource is being used. One point made in the article that I really related to was when it mentioned how so many across this country, and really the world, are having to stay inside their home……..A LOT. And how video games & tv & using various devices (cell phones, iPads, ect) are being used probably more than they should be. I know my siblings & I have been playing games WAY to much as we have almost completed TWO video games that we had just received through the mail less than a week ago! But while there are so many distractions involved with working / doing school from home, there are positives that can come from online resoruces, and video games as well (as it’s stated in the article). I liked a lot of the resources / links that were provided at the end of the article. One online game that I had played a lot when I was a kid was Reader Rabbit, and while thinking back to it, it always seemed a little silly with some of the songs & how it was actually played out, but when I really thought about it, there really was a lot that I actually was able to learn from it, & honestly still do remember today. Overall, I think this article focuses on an area of our life that, while we have advanced INCREDIBLY within, as it states some of the first formats of video games to the kinds of games that exist today. But while we have advanced in some areas of it, I really do not think we have fully tapped into how EFFECTIVE online teaching / video games can be at teaching young children & students of all ages various school topics. And I feel like in maybe 10 years or so, we will look back to this time (2020) & remember that this was the time that we really figured out something that was so beneficial to developing & helping kids grow & learn. Helping more & more students succeed at all ages. Really good article & topic in my opinion. Something that I really do not think is talked about enough, even though we (as a society) use social media & devices A LOT as it is!

  7. It surprises me how much children would rather spend their time playing video games than being outside with their friends. When students think of video games more than likely they are not thinking about how it can connect to a subject in school. With everything that is going on in the world today and students having to be taught at home, I think to find a game that relates what you are teaching can get the student interest in the lesson. Letting the student know that they can expand their knowledge in the subject but can also play an interactive way might be a better way for the student to learn and grasp the lesson more. Mission US would be a great game for students to play for Social Studies instead of playing on their Xbox, Playstation, etc. I find this website to be very educational and fun at the same time. I did enjoy this article.

  8. As our world becomes increasingly virtual, within a decade things that were only possible without technology, has now became exclusively only with technology. Shopping, communication, learning, entertainment and now work is done behind the screen of a device. I was drawn to this article because I remember playing Oregon Trail as a child on PC, and how you had to travel from place to place and talk to the townsperson about items you needed for your journey. Our whole country is consumed with technology and it is going to continue this way.
    As educators, it’s important that we are up to date on the latest educational tools and to help students increase their 21st Century skills which are crucial to survival in this modern world. I loved these resources and will be using them in the classroom to better engage and connect with students.

  9. This article was originally written last year and has now been reposted. The article is now extremely relevant with NTI schooling that is occurring all around the world. Keeping students motivated and engaged as the article stated is a big issue for parents. Especially when parents are trying to work from home themselves. Games such as the one mentioned in this article can be beneficial as they are engaging and can be done without the assistance of parents. In this article the Oregon Trail video game is mentioned. This is one of the games I remembered playing in school. The topic of expanding west in my memory is always coupled with this game. These games can be exciting and also extremely educational for students. This article gave a lot of good examples of such games.

  10. I found this article to be very interesting because as a child, playing video games seemed to be a luxury for me. If I did not feeling like going outside or if the weather was bad, I would stay and and play my Play Station. It was known as something that kept me busy and entertained me. I find it amazing that they now use video games for educational purposes! This also makes it beneficial for students who are home schooled because as the article states, students are really trying hard to balance what they activities they enjoy and their school work. There are many distractions at home that can aid in the child being off task with their work. By using video games as a teaching resource, students are able to complete their work, but also enjoy their work at the same time. I really enjoyed looking at the resources included this article, and found out that the game Fallout 4 (one of my favorite games to play) can be used in social studies by recognizing problem solving and resource management skills.

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