Make the Future
Summit 2022
Creative Constructor
Lab Virtual
Leadership Exchange
at ISTELive 21
Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

Revolutionary Learning: Using Mission US in the Classroom

Explore and create
Pre-registration required

Explore and create : BYOD

Monday, June 24, 1:00–2:00 pm
Location: 118B

Scott Jackson   Leah Potter  
Looking for innovative ways to immerse students in the drama and decisions that shaped U.S. history? Explore ways for students to “live” key moments in America’s past. Come play Mission US and learn how to integrate “serious games” into the study of U.S. history.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Library media specialists
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Mission US: Mission 1: "For Crown or Colony" (

Please also bring headphones!

Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Game-based learning and gamification
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Language arts, Social studies
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
For Educators:
  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
Disclosure: The submitter of this session has been supported by a company whose product is being included in the session

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Looking for innovative ways to immerse students in the drama and decisions that shaped U.S. history? This session will explore ways for middle and high school students to “live” transformational moments in America’s past. Presenters will use the Mission US game, “For Crown or Colony?”, available free to schools from WNET, to introduce effective ways to integrate “serious games” into the study of U.S. history by providing participants the opportunity to play the game and use supporting resources in the same manner as their students will use them in the classroom.

Mission US combines popular gaming conventions with rigorous social history and instructional design to immerse players in the drama of our nation’s past. In this session, participants will learn how role-playing increases learner engagement and knowledge retention by stepping into the shoes of Nat Wheeler, an apprentice in 1770 in Boston in the months leading up to the Boston Massacre. Participants will experience how document-based activities, writing prompts, and other resources can be used in a range of learning environments, including independent, small group, whole class and flipped learning approaches, while meeting rigorous content and instructional standards and providing support for English Language Learners and struggling readers. We will also explore how technology-infused gaming can help students experience a more personal, memorable, and meaningful connection with complex historical content, as they learn to think like historians, develop historical empathy, and discover the role of ordinary men, women, and young people in American history. We’ll end with a preview of TimeSnap, a new VR “spin-off” designed to reach an older audience with a more sophisticated take on similar content.

First launched in 2010, Mission US has more than 2 million registered users, including 80,000 teachers. In the Mission US games, players assume the roles of young people in different eras of U.S. history to explore crucial events, meet diverse historic figures, grapple with multiple perspectives, and ultimately determine their character’s fate. Research has shown that, by assuming the roles of peers from the past, students are able to better connect with history content. A major summative study by Education Development Center (EDC) found that students who studied the Great Depression and Dust Bowl using Mission US significantly outperformed those who studied the topics using typical materials on standardized measures of U.S. history knowledge and skill. The Mission US group showed a 14.9% knowledge gain from pre-test to post-test; the other group’s gain was less than 1%. Previously in 2011, EDC completed a major research study examining the use of Mission US by 1,118 seventh and eighth grade students in 50 schools across the country. The study found measurable gains in students’ historical knowledge and skills, and yielded positive feedback from teachers.

While there is a growing movement to develop “serious games” that immerse users in critical issues and complex humanities content, Mission US is still just one of a handful of games that has successfully done so for history content, and we are eager to share our experiences with practitioners looking to expand their use of new technologies in the social studies classroom. Participants will come away with new ideas and rich resources to ignite historic excitement in the classroom.


Presenters lead an introductory activity to get participants on their feet, exploring the value and challenges of role-playing and gaming in the classroom. Approximately 5 minutes.

Presenters provide a brief overview of how Mission US website and games help students to develop a more meaningful connection with complex historical content. Approximately 10 minutes of lecture/multimedia presentation.

Presenters guide participants in playing the game “For Crown or Colony” in pairs. Approximately 30 minutes of a modeled classroom lesson and independent or paired device-based gameplay.

Presenters debrief the lesson and gameplay experience, allowing time for participant questions and an overview of available classroom resources. Presenters will also preview Timesnap, a new Mission US VR spinoff for high school students. Approximately 15 minutes of question-and-answer and lecture/multimedia presentation.

Supporting research

Mission US website:

Farber, M. (2017). Gamify your classroom: A field guide to game-based learning. New York:
Peter Lang.

Schrier, K., & Gibson, D. (2011). Designing games for ethics: Models, techniques and
frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Education Development Center (EDC)

Common Sense Media

Games for Change

Parents’ Choice

USA Today
4 out of 4 stars – Kids relive history with free role-playing game
“realistic” “brilliant” “ingenious” “fascinating” “a powerful game that all kids should experience”
The branching storylines, each tied to your possible decisions, are brilliant in their diversity and ingenious in how they weave together to create the fascinating story path of this game. The story line is careful to reflect the history of the time and show it from multiple perspectives. From hearing spirituals being sung in the beginning of the game to Lucy's haunting voice at the end recalling her journey, this is a powerful game that all kids should experience.

2012 International Serious Play Awards: Gold Medal – Education Category (for “For Crown or Colony?”)
2013 Japan Prize, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prize for Best Work in the Youth Category (for “Flight to Freedom”)
2014 Parents Choice Award: Gold – Website
2014 Games for Change Award for “Most Significant Impact” (for “A Cheyenne Odyssey”)
2015 International Serious Play Awards: Gold Medal – Education Category (for “City of Immigrants”)
2016 Parents’ Choice Award: Gold – Website
2016 Games for Change Awards: Finalist – Best Learning Game (for “City of Immigrants”)
2017 International Serious Play Awards: Silver Medal – Education Category (for “Up from the Dust”)
2018 Parents’ Choice Award: Gold – Mobile App (for “Up from the Dust”)
2018 Webby Awards: Official Honoree, Games – Social Impact (for “Up from the Dust”)

More [+]


Leah Potter, Electric Funstuff

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