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Tennessee Professor Plans to Use Video Game to Teach US History


University of Tennessee (UT) Professor Tore Olsson surprised Twitter when he announced that the popular video game series Red Dead Redemption will be the main material for a new course he has developed.

Olsson shared that the course, aptly called Red Dead America, will look into the history and the real-life events that are featured in the game and use that to jumpstart a discussion about American history.

The history lecturer remarked that while the Red Dead Redemption series cannot be recognized as historically accurate material, the games still “skillfully broach a number of crucial historical issues in the 1899-1911 period.”

Some of the issues touched on are the expansion of monopoly capitalism, wealth inequalities in the Gilded Age, dispossession of Native people, women’s suffrage, privatization of law enforcement, and more.

The response on Twitter has been mostly positive with some asking Olsson if the course could be open to the public via recording but he said that the university will first look into what can be done to accommodate that request.

Additionally, owning the game or a console will not be required to take the class, but the UT professor expects everyone who registers to have played Red Dead Redemption at some point.

Something New

Similar to Olsson’s course, students at Cornell University developed the rapStudy app, which integrates educational lyrics with popular music, creating mnemonic devices for students to more easily commit learning material to memory.

“If a kid hears a song about fractions based on a Taylor Swift song they already know, the barrier for them to start understanding and engaging with that content is lower because they are already familiar with the underlying song,” said rapStudy President Cosimo Fabrizio to the Ithaca Journal.

The Mynerva app also uses video games to serve as “an interactive computational textbook platform” to generate a deeper, more stimulating learning experience for people who are studying computational sciences, according to the developers from the University of Michigan.

Through the use of this interactive textbook, professors can turn their materials into video game journeys that are “punctuated with assessments that the learner must complete.”

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