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. As a parent with two children in grade school, I know how hard it is to keep them focused on school work while at home. I never considered using video games as an educational tool until this article. I too remember the Oregon trail being the highlight of my school day, and as a child I was not aware that I was actually learning too. If I could get my kids to enjoy learning like they enjoy video games, they could really excel when school does restart. I believe making education fun is the best way to have the child retain the information being taught.

  2. I do think since the pandemic, amongst all the craziness, parents have found it hard to keep their children focused on school still. Most parents try their best to keep children focused on their school work during the day so at the end of the day they can have a little free time to play games.  Video games can be negative if collaborated with violence, war or guns. I got to see at first hand how my siblings got distracted during school and would go off for a couple of hours and play around rather that focusing on the work they need to complete.

  3. I think this is a great idea. Especially now, when parents are struggling with finding new ways to home school and keep their children interested in learning. So many kids play video games and already know how to use them, why not use it to educate our kids. I liked the point Dr. Childs mentions about using them for simulations. I work in the medical field so kids being able to use it to practice surgeries, or procedures would be really awesome. It would help them see if they have a real aptitude for something before picking a career or college.

  4. I had never thought video games would be considered positive for young children until this pandemic. I always thought they were distracting, a bad influence, and took away from children learning lessons outside of their computer screen. I was a child who always played outside rather than stayed inside and looked at a screen. However, with recent times, I agree that some video games could be important in contributing to a child’s education. Back in elementary school, we used to play the Mission US game (shown above) and I still remember it to this day because it had a big impact on me and made me learn the topic much better. I like how Dr. Childs talks about using them for simulations, like combat training or even learning how to be a doctor through simulating surgeries. Technology is a huge part of our world now and can be used in a variety of ways.

  5. This article definitely peaked my interest as a parent to a 14 year old and also as a future teacher. As we have been in quarantine and have had to navigate home schooling there are times that having a video game to teach lessons would have come in very handy! But honestly I don’t think this would be applicable to every subject and from our experience the teachers did an amazing job teaching remotely.
    There really could be a place for video games for history classes though. Growing up I played Oregon Trail in school and learned a lot from it at the time. History is extremely important for our students to learn about and get engage in. As they say, If we do not learn about the past we are destined to repeat it. Maybe someone could design a video game to teach about what we have/are experiencing with COVID 19 and in the game you have the ability to try out different scenarios to get multiple outcomes.

  6. This is definitely relevant to the situation we are facing today. With everyone having to stay at home, kids more than ever are playing video games. Why not use them to teach them concepts especially in social studies and math? The web and even consoles now feature a plethora of titles that not only hold the kids interest but help them grow their critical thinking skills, knowledge of historical events, and more. From personal experience, as a child, I remember spending time learning about the American movement west and using critical thinking and decision making in playing the Oregon Trail.

  7. As a parent with a 14-year old, we struggle with the video game topic. How much time playing on a game is too much? The one he plays most right now is the basketball game, 2K20. On the plus side, it gets him outside playing basketball in our driveway. He plays online with kids from his school, and then they arrange times to get together to play. Only one at a time, during this pandemic. If there is a negative, it would be that he talks incessantly about every single player. How tall they are. Their stats. Etc., etc., etc. I know more about these basketball players then I ever wanted to know 
    One occasion that was amazing to me, is that a few months ago, his Social Studies teacher called him aside and talked to him about how well he did on his latest test. Nathan explained to his teacher, it was a video game, Assassin’s Creed Origins. It taught him everything that was on the test! The teacher did some investigating of his own, and Nathan was proud to tell me that the next day he had the famous pyramid background of the videogame on his computer as a background!

  8. This topic is such a relevant topic because of the rapid growing popularity in technology in this generation.  I am strong believer that you can’t keep kids away from technology because of how dependent the world has become on it to thrive.   I began learning through online platforms as early as elementary school and progressed my skills at an early age, such as learning how to properly type through a program in 3rd grade to memorizing multiplication facts in 4th grade.  Learning through video games not only keeps your attention on the topic itself, but also aids in retaining the information.  You’re going to learn more by doing something you want to do and is fun vs something you feel like you’re being forced to do.

  9. It is crazy to think how far video games have come from. During the start video games were just 2 dimensional without much texture or anything at all. When I was first going through my schooling for the military we used some simulated driving game. We sat in a replica of a military truck with the same control panel and used what we have learned to practice some driving scenarios. These scenarios had malfunctions and everything that we had problem solve on the fly. Another simulation we used was rifle training at various ranges and wind speeds. I do remember playing The Oregon Trail a few times while I was in middle school and maybe even in some elementary classes. We have this game on our home computer and it is fun to play with the family. One of the major things we use video games in our house are to read. We read books, but when we start playing a game it seems like it gets more interest in my two younger children. One of our gaming rules is that we have to read the text out loud and if we skip the text we are finished playing.

  10. This article is very relevant to the generation of kids that are currently in the classroom. Technology has made such large strides in, not just the world, but in the classroom. By using video games as a tool and resource to keep the students engaged and interested in the content. I personally have used mission-us.org to teach about the dust bowl and the students were very engaged and had fun putting themselves into the shoes of someone who experiences it. It gave them a new perspective about what went on during that time. Most kids are learning more and more by visual aids and kinesthetic qualities, and video games provide just that. At this current time where many people are under quarantine for COVID-19, this is a great way to get students back in to the groove of learning, but done at home in a fun process. The links and examples provided are great resources to use in my classroom and will definitely be looking more into them and others.

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