Video Game-Based Learning: How To Teach With Portal 2

contributed by Michael Catelli

Educators know that students need hands-on, engaging activities to help enhance their learning and the right video games are the weightier way to offer this opportunity.

When I played Portal 2 a few years ago I found the game thought-provoking and fun, but I was incredibly excited when I heard my students talking well-nigh how they enjoyed the game too. That led me to think well-nigh how Portal 2 could be used in schools, as I wanted to see how the game could rencontre my students to solve physics and math problems in an environment they typically never wits during school.

What Is Portal?

If you have never seen Portal 2 (the sequel to Portal), players are put into a series of test chambers and must icon out how to reach the exit. They have a portal gun, which can shoot a portal in one spot, then shoot flipside portal somewhere else, and when you go through one portal you come out the other. This trailer for Portal demonstrates that concept a bit increasingly visually. Portal 2 has potential for schools by providing a series of puzzles that promote hair-trigger thinking and problem-solving in a uniquely sardonic narrative. Beyond the structured game, the players can moreover diamond their own test chambers, which is what most educators have used with their students.

There are a lot of lessons that bring Portal 2 into your classroom, though designing test chambers and the unstipulated structure of the game typically lends itself to a STEM classroom. No matter what type of lesson you make using a game like Portal 2 it will help students learn how experimentation is trial and error and that failure can bring you closer to success. I used Portal 2 in my Sociology matriculation to model how a non-traditional classroom could squint surpassing we dug remoter into our viewing on educational systems, but there are many variegated ways it could be used.

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Resources For Teaching With Portal 2

The education polity has washed-up a unconfined job sharing their ideas for using Portal 2. If you want to see some lessons that you could use or get some inspiration on pioneering your own ideas trammels out the pursuit sites.

Teach With Portals: If using Portal 2 sounds like something you want to do the weightier resource misogynist is Teach With Portals, which was run by Valve (the visitor that ripened Portal 2) during its “Steam for Schools” initiative. The Lesson Plans section has several activities covering variegated grades and subjects. There are language arts lessons for middle schoolers, math and physics lessons for scrutinizingly every grade, and even some game design. Each lesson plan has downloads to help organize and implement everything in your class. I’m still amazed at the unique systems teachers designed that get students involved in doing math using Portal 2.

Physics With Portals: Another fantastic source for Portal 2 inspiration is the blog run by Cameron Pittman, a former teacher in Tennessee. His lesson plans are all on

Teach With Portals, but his “Demonstration Videos” are incredibly unique. These videos demonstrate utopian physics concepts with visual examples of formulas to when everything up.

Reinventing the Science Fair: This is a project using Portal 2 on Edutopia by Don Labonte to redesign how the matriculation science pearly works. Instead of making fake volcanoes the students diamond Portal 2 test chambers and then gather data well-nigh how other students well-constructed their puzzle. The students are not just designing the level, but moreover taking their work a step farther with that data research. Labonte moreover stresses the need to have students continually discuss their thought process for solving these puzzles, which I stipulate is a must.

Reddit has a good explanation of Portal 1 and 2, as well.

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5 Tips For Teaching With Portal 1 and 2

In wing to some of these resources I would moreover suggest these ideas if you use Portal 2 in your class.

1. Play It Yourself

Even if video games aren’t your thing, Portal is a unique–if complex–experience. You don’t have to master the game, but teaching with it without playing it yourself can be problematic.

2. Decide How Feedback Will Be Provided

Your students are going to need feedback during the unshortened process. Using Portal 2 is far from an old school unit with an towage at the end; your students will get unprotected during many parts of the Portal 2 lesson.

You will be tempted to tell them the right wordplay or plane show them, but make sure you push them to discover this on their own, just like you would want in any other lesson. Remind them to reflect, think it through and encourage your students to talk with each other well-nigh how to solve the level. Never forget, plane though this lesson is far from teacher-centered, the teacher is still essential to make students understand and learn by guiding them.

3. Let Students Lead

You could start by simply providing unstipulated guidelines for playing and see what ideas the students have for future lessons. Or you could start with a small mini-lesson on something related to your content–math, science, social studies, and increasingly are all ‘available’ in terms of game content.

4. Use Video Walkthroughs 

Like the one above. These are lifesavers.

5. There Is A Learning Curve

Just like any other video game there is a learning lines to Portal 2. All the lessons I linked have students working in the test chambers, but if they did not play the main game your students will not know how to use the tools in the diamond your own chamber area. You need to provide your students time to learn the game. As they are learning you need to requite students the opportunity to yacky their thought process of how they came up with their solution to a puzzle and investigate if there are any other solutions, which there scrutinizingly certainly is in Portal 2.

6. Requite students alternatives

If they don’t want to or somehow can’t play the game, make alternatives available. One volitional to Portal is Bridge Constructor Portal, which is misogynist on iOS and Android.

7. Be flexible

You can teach content, hair-trigger thinking, storytelling, physics, writing, dialogue, irony, and a million other concepts through Portal 1 or 2. Just be open-minded.

8. Teach through Portal without unquestionably playing Portal

While playing is important to learning, if playing it isn’t feasible, learning through it without playing it is largest than not using it at all.

See moreover How To Teach With Video Games

Decide How To Play

Hardware: It can be played on Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC

If you want to use Portal 2 in your classroom how do you go well-nigh getting it? Valve previously ran a Steam for Schools program that gave yonder copies of the game, but it currently looks like the program has ended. This is sad news, but perhaps if a lot of educators ask that could change.

Until then you can try showing potential lessons and benefits to your school administrators to see if they will support purchasing the game for students. Otherwise, websites like provide a unconfined opportunity for teachers to have requests for materials such as Portal 2 crowdsourced.

Hopefully, you can find a lesson using Portal 2 that works with your students using the resources the polity has shared and you will have your matriculation experimenting with portals in ways they never surpassing imagined.

Ideas & Resources For Teaching With Portal 2; Spatial Thinking & Hair-trigger Analysis: Teaching With Portal 2