How The Oregon Trail shaped education and game-based learning

Back in the seventies, a little computer game called The Oregon Trail changed schools forever.

Don Rawitsch, the co-creator of the original The Oregon Trail, spoke at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2017 about how the classic game spread to K-12 schools everywhere and influenced future educational software.

The Oregon Trail is a simulation of the famous westward migration in the 1800s of U.S. history, when families traveled in a covered wagon for 2,000 miles, an arduous six-month trip. The computer game launched in 1971 and maintained high popularity from 1979 until 1995. It was one of the best-known school software of that era.

Interestingly, the way students learned in the game—by replaying and adjusting their strategy with each new experience—was also the way explorers benefitted historically, with survivors passing on valuable knowledge and insights to family members who had yet to make the trek.

Watch the whole talk with Rawitsch below.

Stephanie Carmichael Stephanie is the editor-in-chief of the Classcraft Blog and the Head of Content for Classcraft ( She's a proud advocate of games for social good and loves talking with teachers about their amazing experiences in the classroom. Email her at [email protected]
+ Leave a comment + 0 Reply

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.
Education, game-based learning, history, The Oregon Trail
Make Learning an Adventure, Gamify your classroom today! Start Now, It's Free!
Features 0
Features 0

How school leaders and teachers can prevent bullying using PBIS

By on
In a paper titled “Bullying in secondary schools: Action planning using a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support framework,” Tory De Shannon Lawrence suggests ways to incorporate proactive initiatives into a PBIS framework to prevent bullying behavior. Lawrence, a PhD student at Liberty University in Virginia, has worked with several schools to create action plans that address problematic student behaviors. In her paper,
Features 0
Features 0

How to crowdfund Classcraft with PledgeCents

By on
Thanks to our partnership with crowdfunding platform PledgeCents, it’s super easy for teachers to fundraise a year of Classcraft Premium with the support of their local community. With PledgeCents, you can get your fundraising page set up in minutes and receive $1 per Facebook share of your page (up to $16). Also, all November long, Classcraft is backing each campaign with an initial $16 donation. That’s up to $32
Features 0
Features 0

G Suite for Education or Google Classroom?

By on
G Suite, Google Apps, Google Classroom … Google has made a big push into the education world, and keeping all the terms straight can be a little overwhelming. But it’s important to understand what they mean, especially if your school is making the switch to Google’s platform. G Suite for Education and Google Classroom might sound like two separate programs, but they’re actually not as different as you think. Already using Googl
Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter
An error as occured, please try again later
Latest game review, teaching tips and more!