Teaching With Video Games

Hey Listen Games was born out of my passion for gaming and my desire to find ways to best teach my students. I teach at Ellis Preparatory Academy, a public high school in New York City dedicated to a one hundred percent immigrant and ENL (English as a New Language) population. Through my experiences teaching here, I have founded Hey Listen Games; an online resource for free curriculum and lesson plans for educators who are interested in teaching with video games.

Teachers currently have more opportunities than ever before to introduce diverse texts and media into their classrooms. Books, movies, tv shows, video essays, comics, manga, graphic novels, music, poetry and so much more are all resources that have steadily become more commonplace in many schools. Go back fifteen years and it would be very unlikely to find a teacher assigning a comic book as a text or allowing video essays
on YouTube to be utilized as a legitimate resource. Walk into any school library today and there is a decent chance you might find an entire section dedicated to comics and manga. Schools are starting to catch on that it is in all of our best interests to begin tapping into the prior knowledge and experience of our students. It makes sense to bring their own passions into the classroom in order to make school a more enriching experience. Video games today are where comics were a decade ago. You are still
unlikely to find a teacher playing a video game with their students in class. It might be difficult to find teachers willing to even consider using a video game as a text in a unit. Video games however contain some of the best examples of storytelling out there. They are a massively untapped resource. When I originally started teaching seven years ago, I knew that I wanted to make gaming a part of my classroom’s culture. Originally, that started off as a video game club that met during lunch every day. Eventually however, I recognized that the passion my students have for games demanded a space in my curriculum and teaching practice. I’ve always played games myself and I knew that my own educational experience would have been enriched by the presence of video games in class. So I started scouring the Internet looking for lesson plans from other teachers who might have taught with video games before. Specifically, I wanted to find lessons focused on the use of entertainment games instead of educational games. I found nothing.

This began the journey that eventually led to the creation of Hey Listen Games. When I went to my principal with the idea of bringing games into my classroom, the first thing they said was show me the lesson plan. So I started making detailed lessons for each and every game that I wanted to bring into my class. And the lessons went just as well as I had anticipated. They were and remain some of my most fun and engaging lessons each year. When I shared what I was doing with other teachers, they expressed interest in the lessons’ executions and results, as well as whether I’d be willing to share my resources with others. Hey Listen Games was born out of these conversations. I put together a website where I can freely share all of my curriculum. I want to make game based learning as accessible as possible for those interested in trying.

Hey Listen Games has also evolved into a personal blog of sorts where I can provide full rationales for each of the games added to the site. It is also a space where I share my own experiences teaching with video games. I write up a post whenever I teach with a game in one of my classes. I detail the effectiveness of the lesson based on my experience and provide student samples so that other educators can get a sense of student learning. Hey Listen Games was immediately successful. Teachers are constantly reaching out to let me know that they’ve tried some of the lessons on the site. Conversations about teaching with video games have noticeably increased online since Hey Listen Games’ inception. Because of this work, I was even chosen as an inaugural member of The Game Awards Future Class.

Bringing games into my history class has vastly increased engagement, but most importantly it has helped build incredibly strong relationships with my students- gamers and non gamers alike. Passion is contagious and students perform better when a teacher is truly passionate about the content they are teaching. The success of these lessons has led me to pioneer a new class at my school where we exclusively play and analyze video games as literature. It is currently the most asked for class by students at my school. There are gamers in every classroom and teaching with video games has the potential to engage students in unique ways not often found in traditional education.


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