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The Best Online Learning Games Of 2014

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Time for another annual ”The Best…” list (you can see all of this year’s lists at All My 2014 “Best” Lists — So Far — In One Place).

As usual, In order to make it on this list, games had to:

* be accessible to English Language Learners.

* provide exceptionally engaging content.

* not provide access to other non-educational games on their site, though there is one on this list that doesn’t quite meet this particular criteria.

* be seen by me during 2013. So they might have been around prior to this time, but I’m still counting them in this year’s list.

You might also be interested in:

The “All-Time” Best Online Learning Games

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2013 – Part Two

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2013 — So Far

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2012 — So Far

The Best Online Learning Games — 2011

The Best Online Learning Games — 2010

The Best Online Learning Games — 2009

The Best Online Learning Games — 2008

The Best Online Learning Games — 2007

Here are my choices for The Best Online Learning Games Of 2014:

Destination Unknown is a very slick online geography game using Instagram photos. It’s particularly good because it offers hints. Unfortunately, since it utilizes Instagram, there’s probably no guarantee that all the photos will be classroom appropriate, though I didn’t see anything bad when I played the game. Because of that potential issue, and because it may not be around for the long-term (since it’s sponsored as a promotion by a company), I’m not going to add it to The Best Online Geography Games. But it still might be worth a visit.

Show.me, the popular site that collects interactives from museums throughout the United Kingdom, has unveiled a brand-new (and sorely needed) redesign. You can find many great games there.

The BBC has produced a very impressive online “interactive episode” — really, a “choose your own adventure” story — about World War One. Here’s how The Telegraph describes it:

The interactive episode…. tells the story of the 1st South Staffordshire Battalion in one of the most deadly conflicts during the Battle of the Somme – the fight for control of High Wood on 14th July 1916.

Rather than passively watching the action unfold, the viewer is put in control of the choices that Corporal Arthur Foulkes must make to complete his mission. Like in a video game, on-screen buttons will appear when the viewer needs to make a decision to carry the story on.

Some of the situations will pose moral dilemmas and tricky tactical choices. For example, if the Corporal comes across a wounded enemy soldier on the battlefield, the viewer must decide whether to leave him, take him prisoner or shoot him.

Because of violent imagery, it requests that you verify that you’re over sixteen years old before you begin playing it.

Man vs. Wild: The Game is a choose-your-own-adventure story from The Discovery Network.

You can find many games at The Best Online Learning Simulation Games & Interactives.

Smarty Pins is a new online geography game from Google. It’s similar to some of the better ones on The Best Online Geography Games — you’re asked a question, provided a hint, and then have to put a “pin” on your guess for the answer. One of the nice things I found — at least, in the questions that I answered — is that you’re only shown the region of the world where the answer can be found.

Spacehopper is a new online geography game that isn’t easy but, after showing you a Google Street View image of a location, provides clues that make it less difficult. You’re shown a map with various dots on it, as well as the map outline of the country. After three guesses, you’re given the answer along with information on the location.

I’m a big fan of “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories, and have a very lengthy collection of them at The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories.

I recently learned about two new well-done online games in that genre that were nominated for awards at the Games For Change Festival:

The first one is Start the Talk: A Parent Learning Tool. It’s designed as a role-playing exercise for parents so they can practice speaking with their children about under-age drinking. Surprisingly — at least to me — it seems to offer some very good advice, and I can see it being useful to both parents and children. I’ll be sharing it at my Engaging Parents in School blog.

The other game that caught my eye is called Migrant Trail.

It’s from PBS. Here’s how they describe it:

The Migrant Trail is a video game that introduces players to the hardships and perils of crossing the Sonora Desert. Players have the chance to play as both migrants crossing the desert from Mexico to the United States and as U.S. Border Patrol agents patrolling the desert. As migrants, players are introduced to the stories of the people willing to risk their lives crossing the unforgiving Sonoran desert to reach America. By playing as Border Patrol agents, players see that the job goes beyond simply capturing migrants to helping save lives and providing closure for families who lost loved ones in the desert.

Through the use of real-time resource management and by integrating characters, stories, and visuals from the film, The Undocumented, with intense gameplay choices, The Migrant Trail gives players another way to experience and understand the human toll of our border policies.
Citizen Sort creates free online video games where players sort and identify items as part of a serious science investigation. One of their series of games is called “Happy Match” where you have to describe various images. You can see the screenshot above. It appears to me that it could be useful for English Language Learners to learn some vocabulary, plus learn a little science, too. They have some other games on the site, and say they’re coming out with another one that looks particularly interesting called “Mark With Friends” that might also have ELL potential.

Each year for the past two years I’ve posted about a new online “choose your own adventure” U.S. History game created by Mission US, which is funded by the Corporation For Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment For The Humanities. First, there was one on the American Revolution, then on slavery. They unveiled a third one in the series, this one focusing on Native Americans, and it looks great. You can play A Cheyenne Odyssey here, and all the games here. You can read more about the new game here.

ADDED: Please note: Thoughtful & Important Critique Of Slave Simulation Game

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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