Matt Niemitz
Head of the Adobe Education Exchange

Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom

Web Link Published 10/7/10 Last updated on 5/16/18

From the New York Times Sunday Magazine (9/19/2010) "One middle school is teaching its students by having them design and play video games. Is keeping kids plugged in the best way to keep them learning?" - by Sara Corbett

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Shafiq Rehman

Posted on 9/20/19 2:43:36 PM Permalink

Matt ​That is great it will be helpful as a project for my students


Posted on 10/9/10 9:24:50 PM Permalink

Thank you Mike.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 10/9/10 8:06:02 PM Permalink

Have only been through a few of those papers, Kent Trent, but what I've read provides solid food for thought. This type of unique approach to reinventing education reminded me of Sir Ken Robinson's thoughts on the matter. After a quick search, I was surprised to find that no one on the Exchange had referred to him as yet. So...

Sir Ken Robinson


Posted on 10/8/10 10:20:56 PM Permalink

Here is a link to Dr. James Paul Gee's publications. He was the gentleman they interviewed in the aforementioned two-part Q&A.

Fascinating stuff. Great weekend reading!

ellen flaherty

Posted on 10/8/10 6:26:36 AM Permalink

I read this article as well and found it fascinating. I posted something earlier about places I go to keep up on learning games: One resource I forgot to also mention is the Institute of Play- check out their blog and website ( This is the organiztion where the school featured in this article came out of (school - quest to learn:

Through one of the resources I shared I came across this really interesting post on Global Kids about gaming and young children ( It's a similar premise of observing a young child make mental maps of gaming systems and how to look at what and how he is learning through his play and how to recognize the learning that is occuring. Similarly, years ago at an internship I had my mentor told me her son learned how to read playing a game (I forget which one but i may have been civilization) and that he so wanted to keep playing he taught himself how to read all the messages. Video games as motivators. And the fact that kids are becoming the designers and system makers is just awesome. As they begin to create and design I would love to see it a step further and have the those kids teach other kids how also be creators and designers of games - can we talk about insane learning? Taking what they've learned and applying it to teach another student how to create....I digress.

Back to a point you made Matt - I agree it takes time to each kids the software. However one thing I've experienced and have discussed with others is that for the most part the students just dive into the software and figure a lot of stuff out on their own by, wait for it, playing with it ;) One of my concerns is that teachers who don't noirmally teach with tech or who are new to it can feel like they are losing control a bit because the students can do more with the software than they can. How do we support mainstream teachers, who aren't used to using this kind of thing in their teaching, to a) see the value, b) recognize the learning, c) figure out how to assess it so it works for them, and d) not be afraid to let the kids go and explore?

Mike Skocko

Posted on 10/7/10 10:28:09 PM Permalink

What is Machinima?

Warning: A bit of game violence during this explanation.

I became aware of Machinima when reading the ultra-riviting best seller entitled: Avant-garde Pedagogical Practise Utilizing Virtual Environments and Machinima in Systems Development. Click.

Matt, the "Video games are more important to them than film, than broadcast television, than journalism. This is their medium. Games are this generation’s rock and roll” quote is a bit of a sweeping generalization but I do believe gaming can and will play a powerful role in education one day. Here's hoping that day comes sooner rather than later.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 10/7/10 6:56:55 PM Permalink

Yes. I'm getting my Masters and was excited to discover at least one college experimenting with Machinima in place of written documentation. (I tried it for one of my own assignments.) We need to modify our strategies to keep kids engaged and excited about learning.

Great find, Matt!

Besides the paradigm shift in the way kids are learning, how about the comments on how they're assessed?

>>> Students don’t receive grades but rather achieve levels of expertise, denoted on their report cards as “pre-novice,” “novice,” “apprentice,” “senior” and “master.”

>>> ...the games themselves could feasibly replace tests altogether. Students, by virtue of making it through the escalating levels of a game that teaches, say, the principles of quantum physics, will demonstrate their mastery simply by finishing the game. Or, as Gee says: “Think about it: if I make it through every level of Halo, do you really need to give me a test to see if I know everything it takes to get through every level of Halo?”


As one who does NOT use tests for assessment, I found those ideas breathtaking.

So much to ponder... Thanks!

Matt Niemitz

Posted on 10/7/10 4:54:58 PM Permalink

Has anyone else read this article? I found it very interesting and I am wondering if anyone here has experience with this kind of a learning environment. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what worked and what didn't.

The most interesting part of the article to me was the discussion on a possible paradigm shift in the way kids are learning. The teacher in the article made the statement that "his role was moving from teaching toward facilitating, building upon learning being done outside school." If part of that learning outside of school included learning how to use technology, then teachers can do things like podcasting without having to spend so much time teaching how to use the technology. As I develop Adobe's curriculum for our software products, I also assume that teachers have to spend time teaching the software and that causes us to be cautious about how advanced we can really get with the kinds of software features students can realistically learn in a given period of time. Perhaps that is changing?

It was also encouraging to see that the teacher profiled in the article made some great statements about the need to prepare students to be "producers of media". That is something that we are passionate about at Adobe - helping students gain the 21st century skills they need to be successful in the 21st century workplace.

“The goal is that they’re comfortable expressing themselves in any media, whether it’s video, audio, podcast, the written word, the spoken word or the animated feature.” He added: “Game design is the platform that we can hook them into because this is where they live. Video games are more important to them than film, than broadcast television, than journalism. This is their medium. Games are this generation’s rock and roll.”

Has anyone here on the Exchange found that statement to be true?