29 January 2021

4 Min Read

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Keys to Learn 2021 – Video Games and the Virtual Classroom

Ubisoft kicked off the first-ever online version of its Keys to Learn event this year, which was streamed live for invitees and gathered an expert panel to discuss the power of videogames as a means of education. Featuring educators and experts from within and outside of Ubisoft, Keys to Learn (which began in 2019 with in-person events in London and New York) is a chance for the press to take a closer look at Ubisoft’s educational projects, such as Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed and Rabbids Coding, and to hear about the role videogames can play in learning.

Hosted by Alysia Judge, a gaming presenter and writer from the UK, this year’s event began with a discussion about the benefits and challenges of videogames as a tool for learning – especially in the context of distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Featured in the panel were:

  • Maxime Durand, world design director at Ubisoft Montreal
  • Andrea Jordan, vice president of programs at Girls Who Code
  • Deirdre Quarnstrom, general manager for Microsoft’s Minecraft Atlas
  • Shahneila Saeed, head of education at Ukie and director of their Digital Schoolhouse.

Education in the new era of home learning is a challenge for both teachers and students, but videogames can help to bridge some of the gaps that were created when classrooms were largely forced online. Interaction and engagement can be difficult in a virtual classroom, but games can help to provide an immersive, engaging space that many young students already find familiar. The panelists noted that in their discussions with educators, students can be more invested in the lessons, and even feel more motivated to show up on time, when they hear their next class will take place in a game world.

The experts also talked about some of the misconceptions schools or parents have had about games in the past – the idea that games are purely for entertainment, just for kids, or just for boys – and how they are working to change these perceptions. Games can also help teachers with a wide range of topics, from physics and chemistry to history and social responsibility, and even soft skills, like collaboration with other students or critical thinking.

[UN] [News] Keys to Learn 2021 – Video Games and the Virtual Classroom - Discovery-Tour-lesson-1

After the panel, attendees were treated to a mock lesson from Judith Brisson, a Quebec-based high school history teacher who regularly uses Ubisoft’s Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece to bring history alive for her students. Brisson explained how she creates “missions” to be completed for each lesson, such as speaking with a certain historical figure, or interacting with a specific object to learn more about how it was used in Ancient Greek culture. Students are encouraged to explore and discuss the topics being taught in their own way, guided by a mission booklet and user guide which is provided for them. When missions are successfully completed and the students have filled out their notebooks, they are rewarded with privileges such as extra time to play and explore the world freely in their next lesson.

Brisson has also been able to adapt her methods for a socially distant classroom, having students play the game one at a time at the front of class while others cheer them on or direct them towards their goal. For distance learning, she sends the students recordings of herself playing the game, so that even those without hardware or a strong internet connection can still enjoy the experience of learning with video games.

With the latest edition of Keys to Learn in the books, Ubisoft is continuing to promote educational initiatives, both within the company and in the communities where Ubisoft does business. To that end, the event also marked the launch of Ubisoft’s new partnership with Girls Who Code, an international nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology by educating girls and young women in STEM.

To see more from Keys to Learn, check out the full video, or head over to the Discovery Tour by Ubisoft website and get in touch with the team to find out more about its educational uses. For more on Ubisoft’s partnership with Girls Who Code and other Ubisoft events and initiatives, stay tuned to the Ubisoft News hub.

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