It goes back to the most important learning strategy: making connections. Children must be able to link new knowledge to prior knowledge. Without a frame of reference—the hook on which to hang new information—children find historical information to be foreign and difficult to understand.
Computer games and video games have given boys an advantage in history class. When I teach history, particularly when the topic includes a war, the boys make many connections to video and computer games. Boys have experience with ancient history from games like Age of Empires. When we discuss World War II, the boys cite the Call of Duty games as sources. Although Call of Duty: World at War is the hands-down favorite, I also hear boys talk about learning history from the Medal of Honor games.
The Age of Empires games have battles, but the emphasis is on strategy and understanding how empires are built. I think children can learn from playing the games—I know my younger brother did. In my years of teaching, I have met many boys who developed an interest in history because of the Age of Empires games. Learn more at the Age of Empires website.
The Call of Duty games are shooter games. While I certainly can’t recommend Call of Duty games to parents, I will say that the boys often refer to them during history lessons. Note for Parents: children are not permitted to view the Call of Duty website—you have to certify that you are a grown-up or the website locks you out.
These war video games are targeted at boys. While girls certainly have access to video games, I have never heard a girl refer to them in any way. In my classroom, girls build a frame of reference for history class by reading the American Girls books.
Comment: These games introduce boys to history, but they are by no means a complete account of history. The games cannot give boys an understanding of the horrors of war.