It’s 1 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon in Wallingford, Connecticut, and about 20 children are watching a screen at the front of the room as they take turns navigating challenges and collecting virtual currency to unlock powers, outfits and pets for their characters.
The game they’re playing has some similarities to the online battle game “Fortnite.” But the kids aren’t fighting one another — they’re racking up points for participation and good behavior in their classroom at Dag Hammarskjold Middle School, where their teacher is presenting a home economics lesson with help from Classcraft, a fantasy-themed educational program.
“It’s actually a lot of fun,” said 13-year-old Caiden McManus. “The pets — that’s my favorite thing to do. To train the pets, you gain as many gold pieces as possible so you can get the new outfits and stuff.”
Peek inside your average classroom these days, and you’re likely to see teachers using apps, websites and software that borrow elements from video games to connect with students living technology-infused lives. By all accounts, they’re fun to use, and studies have found that some can be effective. But there is also skepticism about how often students who use them are better educated, or just better entertained.