Giving Compass' Take:

• John Miller, a seventh-grade history teacher, created the educational video game Minecraft with help from his students. He shares his thoughts on how video games help engage students, but that teacher facilitation is required to have the best results.

• Will video games in classrooms be an educational trend? How can they work in collaboration with other edtech tools?

• Read other success stories when teachers turn to video games to increase student engagement. 

For years, John Miller, a 7th-grade history teacher in King City, struggled to engage his students in world history lessons. Most of his students were English learners, had very low literacy rates and had rarely left the Salinas Valley. The Roman Empire and feudal Japan seemed about as distant and abstract as Mars.

But then he tried a new approach: video games.

With help from his students, Miller created a Minecraft adventure game featuring a medieval Viking invasion of an English seaside town.

Miller is among thousands of teachers around the world using video games to teach not just computer science or coding, but academic subjects like history and social studies. As more schools have brought computers into the classroom, educational video games have become an easy way to engage students — especially those who might be bored by class lectures, educators said.

A 2016 study by Project Tomorrow, an education nonprofit, found that 68 percent of K-12 teachers used video games in the classroom in 2015, up from 47 percent in 2012.

Minecraft’s education version comes with more than 250 free lessons in all subjects and grade levels, and free training for teachers is available online. Schools, museums and libraries can purchase one-year licenses for $5 per user per year.

But while the games are fun to play and can capture students’ imagination about a particular subject, they can’t actually teach a subject, John said. Games should be used as a complement to classroom curriculum, not as a replacement, he said.

Read the full article about video games in classrooms by Carolyn Jones at EdSource