Beginning to Use Digital Games in the Classroom: A Video Case Study

St Philip's Academy - case study videoEarlier in 2012, I had the great pleasure of meeting and interviewing several teachers in the New York City area who are pioneering the use of digital games and video game design in their individual classrooms. These interviews were turned into four short video case studies and informed the creation of a first-ever national survey (PDF) of K-12 educators to gauge the impact of digital game use on teaching and student learning.

After conducting and releasing this research, I had the opportunity to travel outside New York City and present the results of our national survey and show the videos to audiences filled with teachers, school leaders, video game developers, educational policy makers, and investors. At one such event, hosted by The Atlantic magazine in May 2012, I shared a stage with one of our video case study subjects, Joel Levin, a.k.a. “The Minecraft Teacher“, as well as two professors of education who are working directly with teachers to use video games in the classroom.  After the panel discussion, I was approached by Jerri Drakes, the Director of Technology at St. Philip’s Academy, a K-8 school located in heart of Newark, NJ.  She told me about her school’s growing use of digital games in an attempt to better engage her school’s student body, many of whom come from lower-income families and are not accustomed to the school’s demanding curriculum, but who shine in this friendly, well-resourced educational environment. 

Ms. Drakes invited me to the school for a visit, where I learned that a large percentage of St. Philip’s students receive free tuition and obtain scholarships to elite private and boarding schools upon graduation. Over a lunch made with vegetables grown on the school’s student-run roof garden, I spoke with teachers and the head master about the various ways St. Philip’s is seeking to innovate their school and curriculum to reach this new generation of digital learners.  I quickly made plans to come back over the summer and film some of this in action.

For this video case study, our fifth in the series, we interviewed three educators at St. Philip’s about their goals for using games: third grade classroom teacher Regina Lauricella, Director of 21st Century Learning Katrina Allen, and Director of Technology Jerri Drakes. All three speak eloquently about the process of introducing digital games into the curriculum and how using games has affected the way they think about teaching and learning at St. Philip’s Academy. It’s an evolving effort, but one that has a team of dedicated educators and enthusiastic students behind it. We hope to check in with St. Philip’s again and see their progress!


These video case studies are part of a national survey of teachers who work with video games in the classroom.  The Teacher Attitudes About Digital Games in the Classroom survey is part of research being conducted by the Games and Learning Publishing Council with the aim of identifying areas of innovation in the games and learning space. The Games and Learning Publishing Council, convened by the Cooney Center and E-Line Media, is generously funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  This survey was conducted in collaboration with and support from BrainPOP.


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