School of Education News

New online and free video game encourages students to discover, experience history

October 22, 2018
by Wisconsin Public Television Education communications

After collaborating with educators and students from across the state, Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) Education has released a new online video game, “Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case,” that encourages students to experience history as they discover it for themselves.

“Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case,” set in and around the Wisconsin State Capitol, assists educators in teaching history while engaging students as “history detectives” to immerse them in the action. It is a tool for students to engage in critical thinking and historical inquiry. The game, which is free, was produced by WPT Education and Field Day Lab, an educational game developer within UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), along with a cohort of teachers and students from around the state. WCER is housed within the School of Education.

Jo Wilder video gameDesigned to address Wisconsin Academic Standards for grades three through five in social studies, English language arts and information and technology literacy, players use detective skills to solve mysteries about real artifacts from Wisconsin’s history and use evidence to prove their discoveries. As the plot unfolds, players discover primary source materials. Then, like real historians, players engage in investigation, identification, corroboration and contextualization of evidence with their primary sources. To win each challenge, players must summarize the evidence and argue their case.

“The collaborative design process that brought teachers, historians, game developers and public media together has led to a playful entry point for students into the process historians follow,” says Alyssa Tsagong, WPT’s director of education. “We know that ‘Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case’ will be used alongside other WPT Education local history classroom resources, drawing on the rich stories of our state to spark the kind of curiosity and engagement that will lead to authentic learning experiences.”

Teachers involved in the game’s creation have praised the ways that both the design process and the finished product have inspired their students.

“The experience of having a window into the game production process has been incredible for my students,” says Mike Scoville, a K-12 library media specialist in the Gibraltar Area School District. “As we play-tested each version, we saw how WPT and Field Day incorporated students’ suggestions into the game.”

The project was made possible by generous funding from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, Ron and Colleen Weyers, Francis A. and Georgia F. Ariens Fund within the Brillion Area Family of Funds, the Ruth St. John and John Dunham West Foundation, Inc., the Conney Family in loving memory of Mildred Conney, Edvest College Savings Plan, Technology Education Foundation, Roger and Lynn Van Vreede, Eleanor and Thomas Wildrick Family, American Transmission Company, National Guardian Life Insurance Company, BMO Harris Bank, the Timothy William Trout Education Fund  and Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.

WPT is a service of the Educational Communications Board and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

To play learn more or to play the game, visit this Field Day Lab web page.


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