Move Over Mario: UNCW Helps Teachers Call the Shots with Unique Educational Games

Jeffery Ertzberger, Watson School of Education Director of Technology

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Geometry can seem boring when zombies and dragons are waiting for you at home. This is the challenge that technologies like video games are posing for teachers across the world who are trying to keep students engaged in school. After years of fighting to stay relevant in his own classroom, University of North Carolina Wilmington Watson School of Education Director of Technology Jeff Ertzberger decided to invent his own unique educational video game templates - and to share them for free online.

Only 27 percent of teachers play video games once a month, while more than 70 percent of students play video games once a week or more. Ertzberger saw that students responded well to educational video games, but he and his colleagues lacked the time and know-how needed to integrate the prepackaged games into the classroom.

Ertzberger said, "I was shocked to learn that more than two-thirds of the teachers do not use video games in the classroom. Most said they wanted to use them, but they found that it took too much time to learn the games and make them fit their mandated curriculum standards. They needed a way to turn their personal teaching materials into games without the learning curve and high cost."

After learning that 94 percent of teachers said that they would choose to use video games in the classroom if they could customize them to fit their curriculum, Ertzberger began designing his own games in 2006 using templates similar to Microsoft Word. He soon teamed up with UNC Wilmington to launch the EdGames website,, which now experiences more than 10,000 game downloads each month.

Ertzberger's games enlist the concepts of traditional classroom activities like Bingo and Jeopardy! with one added improvement - the freedom of full-customization. In five to ten minutes, teachers can upload their vocabulary, math problems, terms, etc. into one of Ertzberger's pre-existing games and play it with students. Much like a PowerPoint presentation, instructors can easily control everything from subject matter to game characters, images and colors, or they can quickly edit templates.

In partnership with UNC Wilmington, Ertzberger had expanded the EdGames suite to include hundreds of game offerings and game play options that can be easily adjusted for whole classroom, group or single-student play. Hundreds of teachers have cited EdGames as the tool that helped them close the technology gap in their classrooms.

"It is so exciting to hear about these tools making a difference in students' lives. It has been inspiring to learn that teachers have expanded the use of these games beyond what I ever imagined. ESL teachers in Korea have emailed me. There are churches and prisons using them. It really is up to the teachers' imagination," said Ertzberger.

EdGames continue to be offered online at no cost. An instructional guide and game expansion package are now available for purchase at Site-wide licenses are also available for entire schools or networks, a great option for purchase by parent-teacher organizations.

Ertzberger and numerous teachers with EdGame success stories are available for media interviews by request.

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