Video games in Wisconsin classrooms

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DANE COUNTY (WKOW) — A new video game created at UW-Madison is helping teachers in Wisconsin generate excitement in the classroom.

When it comes to playing video games over pretty much anything else, students know what they want, and video game developers are capitalizing on that.

“We think of this as very active learning,” said David Gagnon, Director of Field Day Lab at UW-Madison.

Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case” is a creation of UW-Madison’s Field Day Lab and Wisconsin Public Television.

The main character, Jo, goes on an adventure to uncover the history of Wisconsin and along the way runs into some problems. So who’s there to help? Third through fifth-grade students across the state.

“We want them to be making decisions, finding out the outcomes of those decisions, failing and succeeding and generally experimenting,” said Gagnon.

The game was released just a few months ago and already more than 600 students in Wisconsin have played. They learn about important themes and people in state history books like women’s suffrage, Aldo Leopold, and even some facts about UW-Madison.

But there could be a downside to using video games in the classroom.

A study done by PEW Research Center found that 65 percent of parents are concerned about their child spending too much time in front of screens.

Creators and educators think this game isn’t a problem.

“We try to find a balance in our day,” said Heidi Konop, a teacher at New Century Charter School in Verona. “I don’t want them to be looking at a screen all day long either.”

And students were quick to point out, educational video games aren’t like Fortnite or Angry Birds.

“You’re learning about history and in other games, you don’t,” said fourth-grader Rene Repka.

Educators in Wisconsin are excited to have a free resource like “Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case” at their fingertips.

“This is a springboard,” said Konop. ” They’re all going to be picking a person from our history and creating their biography. Figuring out what they did and how they changed history.”

Konop doesn’t, however, see this as a replacement for other need-to-learn lessons.

“I think it has its component in the classroom. I think it’s a piece. We still want kids reading and writing,” she said.

A piece of the puzzle that students look forward to using.

“It’s really cool,” agreed the group of kids.

If you want to play the game, click HERE. The link will take you to the free website.

Rebecca Ribley

Rebecca Ribley

Wake Up Wisconsin Anchor

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