Articles Tagged with: review

Stop Summer Learning Loss…While Having Fun!

As the school year rolls into the summer, we are all looking forward to warm weather and vacations. However, just because school is out doesn’t mean learning should come to a stop. Without any sort of academic practice, kids can experience summer learning loss which puts them at a disadvantage when the school year starts again. To combat this summer learning loss, fun activities, games, and events centered around learning are hugely necessary. On this post, we feature several ways to keep kids thinking hard during the long summer months.

Summer Learning Activities

summertime learning to stop summer learning loss

Summer learning doesn’t necessarily need to be traditional classroom learning. Activities that kids might not have had time for during the year can keep their minds active while providing something fun and different. Teach kids how to cook or set them to learning new arts and crafts that keep them creative.

Bringing them outside for science experiments or adventures can keep them active and soaking up the good weather while learning. After a good day outside, make your own ice cream to cool down or chill out in the AC for some reading time.

Essentially, it’s not neccesary to concoct whole lesson plans to stop summer learning loss. Simply make sure that activities get planned and resources are available to keep kids’ minds working and thinking creatively. For a full list of suggestions, We Are Teachers and Education World have specific resources for families in the summer. All of these are easy plans for a weekend excursion depending on parents’ work schedules.

Educational Shows & Videos

educational shows and programs can help stop summer learning loss

One of the benefits of modern technology is the sheer amount of educational programming you can find out there. However, not every source teaches effectively or impartially. Finding the right sources can be hard, especially if you rely on streaming services. We recommend a few unconventional services for various ages below. 

CrashCourse offers a literal “crash course” on almost every topic you could imagine. It began with a focus on history but expanded into science, literature, and more. The lessons are presented in comic form with cute figures and animations providing context for the actual facts being presented.

Khan Academy is a pretty well-known resource now, but it is still worth mentioning. The free service has everything you could possibly need, taught by experts in the field. It even includes test prep for students who want to start getting ready for SAT and other big tests over the summer.

As we’re a game company, we have a fondness for Extra Credits, a channel that not only covers topics in game design but also in history and science fiction. Like CrashCourse, they offer their lessons in animated form, but their videos focus on more specific topics rather than providing wider overviews. For kids who are fond of games, their main Extra Credits series offers a great way to learn about the industry and the inner workings of their favorite games. Speaking of which, games themselves offer ways to learn during the summer!

Game-Based Learning

Our educational games work well in classrooms, but they also can be used to keep learning going outside of it. Not only are educational games fun, they sneak learning in almost before you can realize it. Excavate! offers a fun way to delve into ancient cultures while ExoTrex literally rockets you into the future of space. 

Our games aren’t the only educational games out there and a quick web search will open up a whole host of games for kids of different ages to play. From TeacherGaming (whose Odyssey game we reviewed) to iCivics, our fellow game-based learning companies offer great products for combating summer learning loss.

Learn More About Summer Learning Loss

combat summer learning loss

The organization Summer Learning dedicates itself to combating summer learning loss in communities across America. Their website includes information on why summer learning matters and how summer learning loss can be harmful. For a summary of what exactly summer learning loss can entail, check out the statistics from Oxford Learning.

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Game Review: Odyssey, Available on TeacherGaming Desk

Odyssey- A Science Puzzle Game

Recently, our fellow educational gaming company TeacherGaming provided us access to one of the many games they support through their Desk (more on that later). Odyssey, a science puzzle adventure game from the Young Socratics, teaches scientific reasoning in astronomy, physics, and more. However, lessons take the shape of puzzles as players embark on a journey through the “Wretched Islands” to rescue a girl and her family. By reading engaging journal entries and solving challenging puzzles, the player reconstructs, proves, and disproves the ideas and arguments of history’s most famous scientists and philosophers.

The game leads players across the several islands through a series of puzzles. As more advanced concepts are introduced, puzzles escalate in difficulty. Hints appear in journal entries left behind by the family in need of rescue. Puzzles range from demonstrating that the Earth is a sphere to proving a heliocentric model of the universe. However, the game balances demanding puzzles with the immediate satisfaction of being able to smash boxes, ride on ziplines, and knock down walls.

Fun, Motivational, and Educational

The game remains enjoyable throughout the 2-4 hour experience, despite a large amount of reading and high demand for careful thinking. Even though I played most of it in one long stretch, I never felt burnt out. For students who would likely play the game over a series of classes, it shouldn’t be a concern.

Reading the journals in Odyssey never got tedious simply because it felt like someone had actually written them. Thirteen-year-old Kai, a clumsy but precocious girl, with a deep interest in her father’s work and a desire to understand the world around her, held the game together. Even the most technical parts of the journal are imbued with a clear, charming voice. The player gets a purpose through these journals. They aren’t learning just because- they must learn all this in order to help Kai escape. That motivation provides a drive to get through the more difficult puzzles. I can imagine that Kai could provide a point of inspiration for young students, as well. Her enthusiasm for learning can be contagious.

Students want educational games because they’re fun and motivational, not just because they’re games. At the same time, teachers want educational games because they serve as good reinforcement. Odyssey sits among that good group of learning games that delivers an experience that teaches while it entertains.

The game is available with our without the TeacherGaming desk option.  Educators looking to include this in their lesson planning will want to consider using lesson options from eight lesson plans available from the TeacherGaming Desk (more information below) 

TeacherGaming

In 2011, two university students from Finland founded TeacherGaming. Initially, the project focused on working Minecraft into an educational game with clear direction for classroom use. Their MinecraftEdu project formed the basis for Microsoft’s Minecraft: Education Edition. Since then, they grew and expanded their range but, as they say on their website, their focus remains on enabling educators to use games for learning with their students, “no matter the skill level.”

TeacherGaming Desk for teachers and students in game based learning

This drive manifested the TeacherGaming Desk. The Desk can be accessed through subscription to a catalog of 30+ games or through the purchase of just one of these wide array of learning games. Also, it offers a way to keep track of student progress for teachers. With a team of educators at the helm, TeacherGaming helps easily connect its catalog to curriculum, with the help of lesson plans and analytics.

Teacher Scaffolding through the Desk

TeacherGaming learning games help students practice critical thinking and teachers bring new ideas into the classroom

To really bring an educational game into the classroom, however, the teacher needs to know how to use it effectively. There needs to be some measure of scaffolding. TeacherGaming provides this with an interface that makes it easy to see how far students have progressed in the game. Additionally, each game comes with lesson plans written by their team of teachers. Lesson plans split the games up based on their content, and the teacher is provided with ways to integrate the game into their curriculum.

The lessons walk students through the required theory as well as actual gameplay. Additionally, they suggest topics to guide discussion at the end of each session. By providing this reinforcement, students gain more from their time playing the game. Additionally, teachers see just how much their students were able to gain from playing the game.

We look forward to seeing what TeacherGaming works on next (hint: it’s Cities: Skylines). Find out more about their games and mission on their website. If you’re all caught up on this blog, make sure to check out theirs! Plenty of awesome content is up there.

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Personalizing Learning with the Excavate! Series of Games

We are back this week with another blog post from a great educator, Samantha McClusky. She is a Special Education teacher in Searcy, Arkansas. Below, she describes how she uses video games to promote personalized learning in her classroom.


The Magic of Interactive Lesson Plans

Teacher uses Excavate! social studies games with special education students

I teach in a self contained special education classroom, for students with behavior and social issues. Students are grades 7-12, with varying levels of academic achievement. I always look for new ways to teach my students, that meet their diverse needs. I love finding interactive materials to use through the use of my Smart projector and computer.

Dig-It! Games has had many interactive learning games that we have used with great success. Just a couple of years ago I utilized the Mayan Mysteries game in my classroom. I use the game from one computer and project it using the Smart Projector. Students gather around the board and get up and take turns during the game, answering questions, discussing scenarios, and reading instructions. They take turns to complete sections of the game and work together as a group to solve puzzles and answer questions.

As I teach students with varying levels of academic achievement, participating in these interactive learning experiences really helps them achieve with a whole group effort and the individual input helps them have pride in the groups successes!

Using Video Games in Special Education

Teacher uses Excavate! social studies games in special education classroom

The Excavate! games are just great! My students take it in turns to excavate with the tools, read the instructions and questions aloud, answer questions, discuss ideas, and complete the journaling. They are learning so much, and ASK for me to teach them MORE! We continue the learning by connecting the Excavate! game to unit lessons based on the same country, time period, and culture. As a class we have explored Ancient Rome for example, continuing our discovery through reading of texts, watching documentary based film, looking at math and science connections, and discovering the world through geography and history.

The Dig-It! games are like a springboard that students stand on and then leap from to WANTING to discover MORE. Learning through the game based format really connects learners of the 21st century to education, and helps them discover things that they may not have been interested in by just reading a text, or writing a research paper! It brings the learning to their level and excites them to take the learning even further.


Want to Learn More About Our Educational Video Games?

If you want to find out how to use our educational video games in your classroom, feel free to reach out! We believe that the engagement and excitement that video games bring to education can open the eyes of even the most reluctant learner. Find our library of games here. Our Excavate! series consists of Rome, Egypt, MesoAmerica, Greece, Mesopotamia, and Byzantine (coming soon). Also check out our other blogs about interactive lesson plans for ancient civilizations.  Email our Education Team if you have any questions!

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Additional Resources for Ancient Civilizations:

Personalize learning using digital learning in 2017

2017 | A Year of Digital Learning                      


Teacher’s Game Review of the Excavate! History Series

As word about our Excavate! Series spreads, we have been honored to be in contact with amazing teachers who put it to the test. Below is the story of how we met our friend, Susan Honsinger, a gifted, computer, and math teacher at Saint Mary, a K-8 Catholic school in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. She also talks about how she uses the series with her students. Here’s her review of the social studies series.

Using Games in the Classroom

I first discovered Dig-It! Games in a workshop about game-based learning at FETC in 2015.  I was impressed at the demonstration of the Mayan game activities and thought, “This would rock in a social studies classroom setting!”  However, I was teaching other subjects at the time and didn’t get a chance to try it out.

Last spring, when brainstorming our 3rd – 5th grade gifted course outline for this year, I remembered Dig-It! Our gifted class this year meets once a week for 90 minutes, and the students have been exploring various ancient civilizations.  They’ve done research online and in books, and created posters about the elements that make up every civilization, and how those elements are found in their chosen civilization.

Social Studies teacher review for Excavate!

Social studies teacher review of Excavate!

Dig-It! Games’ Excavate! series – Mesopotamia, Rome, Egypt, Greece, and Maya (at that time, now MesoAmerica) – were a perfect way to get a little deeper into the cultures through exploring the artifacts that are dug up in the course of the game and they actually meshed with the chosen civilizations for our crew.  We spent some time near the beginning of our project playing through the games – with a little guidance, even the 3rd graders were able to easily navigate through the game.  They loved collecting artifacts and finding out more using the journal feature.

Teacher review of Excavate!

Teacher review Excavate

After we played the games, I left them available as a free time choice, and students tried out other civilizations!  I really saw the connections happening when our class started creating displays and “artifacts” from their culture to present later this year.  They were working with much more detailed, authentic visions of the items from their culture and making their own reproductions more detailed.


I really saw the connections happening…

Susan Honsinger, Teacher

I’ve heard students talking about artifacts they found and how those are used as they’re working on their projects.  One interesting note – we had a new student join the group, and the co-teacher suggested she play one of the Dig-It! Games to explore one of the cultures she was observing in the classroom.  She loved it, and a passing student said, “That looks even cooler than the Maya game!” (He had played an older version.) So the new games are noticeably visually richer just to someone walking past!!

Teacher review game Excavate

Teacher game review Excavate

I’m a fan of using games to reinforce learning, even if it’s bingo with order of operations on paper (which I did today with my 6th grade).  However, when something is really rich in information and visually engaging as well, that’s a double-win.  I see that the Excavate! games are embedded in student memory, and the facts and images they found there are being referred to in subsequent classes.  Playing these games solidified their learning in a major way, and I’m so pleased!!  I’d recommend any of them for a social studies unit, particularly from 4th through 8th grades.

Read More Excavate! Game Reviews

If this account hasn’t convinced you to try out our games, maybe last week’s blog post which highlights students’ feedback and reviews will. Please don’t hesitate to reach out (elisab@dig-itgames.com) for more information!

Learn more about our Excavate! series
Check it out

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More on Dig-iT! Games: We continue delivering game based learning products to social studies educators and students that make world cultures come to life in a fun and educational way.  Expand your world history lesson plans with games from the leader in ancient civilization education products.  Your students will thank you for it.


Game Reviews are Pouring In For Excavate

Students deliver their game reviews on Excavate! Greece and confirm that game based learning belongs in the classroom.

One of the great things about working at Dig-iT! Games is that we hear from some of the toughest customers: students! As teachers incorporate our Excavate! games into their classes, we have been hearing some insightful and encouraging feedback from their charges. Recently, we received some game reviews from a group of energetic sixth graders in Maryland, after they played Excavate! Greece. When their teachers asked if they should incorporate the game into their classes in the future, the students were highly enthusiastic.

Games in the Classroom are Fun!

“I think you should use it in the future because it was fun for me, so I think that it would be fun for other students too. Also you get to learn a lot, and you are having fun while you’re learning so overall it makes the class really fun.”

 “Fun” is definitely a core component of the game and also very important to this student!

In addition, many other students echoed that Excavate! Greece was not only fun but also somehow different from other learning games…

…You can interact, it’s not boring as other learning games, and it teaches you by doing something fun.

…it is fun learning and not boring. It is not just one part, so you’re not bored. You can learn a lot in a short period.

…I think students would be more eager to learn if they think that they get to do something fun.

Based on these game reviews, it looks like there may have been an underlying expectation that educational video games were boring to play.  We are glad to see that Excavate! Greece breaks that mold, but let’s dig a little deeper to find out what is making this game so fun for students…

“...it is a fun game, you learn about Greece, and you get to participate in the digging of the artifacts.”
“…it was very entertaining. It didn't bore me, in fact I played it multiple times, it was exciting digging up old artifacts and finally, I wasn't just using one tool you had to use multiple tools.”
“...the activities were fun to play and pretend like we were there...the digging activity was fun and interesting to pretend like we actually were digging up the artifacts...they have you act like your digging up artifacts and writing down facts like some people have as a real job.”

It looks like the digging mechanic in Excavate! is a hit!

Learning through Games

Some learning video games are really fun, but educators must evaluate if they meet standards and facilitate valuable learning experiences.  Our Excavate! games are packed with rich curriculum-aligned content. Student performance outcomes are aligned to the C3 Framework of Social Studies State Standards.  However, the real question to ask is whether students recognize they are learning while playing…

…it teaches us about ancient artifacts, it teaches us about how the cultures lived, and it teaches us what they had in their time.

…you learn about ancient artifacts and how [people] used to live.

…it is a really fun way of learning about ancient objects.

But take heed, students will have to do some work in the game to get the biggest benefit.  Take advice from this experienced player.

“You should continue to use this game in the future because it is educational, but you need to make sure that the kids read everything in the analysis questions and the journal. Another reason you should continue is because it teaches kids how to examine artifacts, and lastly what things went on in Greece.

Teachers are always reminding students to read directions and informational text, but it is heartening to see that this student recognized that it was crucial for success in playing Excavate! Greece.

We hope you will take a moment to play Excavate! Greece now and in the future after reading these Excavate! reviews.  But don’t take our word! We think the following student summed it up succinctly when asked whether the game should be incorporated into the class again:

“Yes because the future classes will love it. It’s fun to play. It’s cool!

Try Excavate! Greece for Yourself!

Get the Game