Teaching With Digital Games: a Video Case Study and Teacher Q&A with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Lisa Parisi

January 22, 2014
Jessica Millstone
Bank Street College Of Education
New York, NY
CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Technology Integration

This guest post is written by Jessica Millstone, Education Fellow at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (part of Sesame Workshop) where she works on the Games & Learning initiative.

In 2012, as part of the first year of an initiative called the Games & Learning Publishing Council, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center visited 5 schools in the New York City area to document how early-adopter teachers are using digital games in the classroom.  

One of our favorite visits was to Lisa Parisi’s 4th grade classroom at Denton Elementary in New Hyde Park, NY.  Lisa has been using games with her “Denton Dynamos” throughout her career as an elementary school teacher, but, in her opinion, switching over to digital games has accelerated her student’s STEM-related learning and helped her run a classroom based on self-directed learning and project-based work.

In the video, Lisa references using BrainPop in her classroom, as well as MangaHigh. Click through to read the reviews of these titles.

We checked back in with Lisa Parisi to see how her use of digital games has evolved over last two years, so that we could share the ways in which her experience can help other teachers begin to integrate games into their own classrooms. Here are some insights we gained from our recent conversation:

  • Using games requires a teacher to constantly be looking for new games to add to the curriculum.  For example, Lisa used the Winter Holiday break to research and practice using game called Quandary, which teaches students about moral and ethical decision making.   A tablet version of this game was just released, so it’s a perfect way for Lisa to make use of the 5 iPads she has regular access to in her classroom, as well as the personal devices her students might bring in as part of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program at her school.  
  • Math is often the go-to subject area for teachers who are new to using games, but experienced teachers like Lisa are also integrating games into the science and social studies curriculum.
  • Games-based learning is not just for the classroom!  Lisa’s students play games together in class at least once a week, but games are often assigned as homework or as a self-directled learning activity during choice time.
  • It’s not all about digital games.  When the necessary technology is not available, Lisa blends together board games, word games, and puzzles into her daily classroom life, finding that “games teach cooperation, collaboration, and self-control” to her students.   It’s a holistic approach to games-based learning that promotes playful learning throughout the day.  

You can find Lisa on Twitter at @LParisi, where she connected with her Professional Learning Network, and frequently participates in the #edchat and #edtechchat communities.  She also writes a blog called The Lisa Parisi. Thank you for participating our first #GBL blog post, Lisa!  

About the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Games & Learning Video Case Study Project
Five visits to schools using digital games in the classroom were turned into short video case studies for teachers, parents, school administrators and game developers to watch and gather ideas and inspiration for bringing games-based learning programs into their own school communities. Our Games & Learning video case study project is ongoing, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center will be releasing videos from the next series, which focus on how digital games are being used in teacher education and professional development, in early 2014.  Find out about the games our network of teachers recommend on our curated Collections!