Online games help keep students social

Dec 22, 2020

A screenshot from Among Us.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

Since schools went remote last spring, then again this fall, parents and teachers have been searching for ways to keep their students social.

One Kenai Peninsula school has found a partial answer in multiplayer online games.

Middle and high schoolers at River City Academy in Soldotna are hopping on Zoom calls together to play Minecraft and Among Us, two popular games that can be played between phones and computers.

“Working at home has really spurred the social connections through these different little online platforms," said Tim Wight, a special education teacher at River City Academy.

He said some of his students came to him with the idea to play Among Us over the school’s Zoom platform.

“And so I thought ‘Why not?’ Let’s encourage them to keep connecting," he said.

River City Academy has what it calls “elective time” set aside for students to learn outside of their core classes. Principal Dawn Edwards-Smith says they’ll sometimes go ice skating or skiing. Since March, they’ve pivoted to virtual cooking classes and socially distanced floor hockey.

Among Us, which became very popular during the pandemic, has been another great way for kids to spend time together, apart. Wight and other teachers will hop on Zoom to supervise but the calls aren’t recorded and are unstructured, which he thinks helps kids feel more comfortable.

Even though Kenai Peninsula Borough School Districts broke for the holidays Friday, students are still playing over the break. At 10 a.m. Tuesday, Wight and two students logged on to play. Wight’s own kids joined, too.

Wight says he’s heard positive feedback from students.

“I really don’t think it’s a replacement for real social interaction," he said. "But it definitely has its place."

It's at least one way to keep spirits high.