Inside the Chaotic World of Kids Trying to Play Video Games on School Laptops

Geometry Spot is a simple-looking website that, on the surface, is exactly what it advertises: a place to learn more about a form of mathematics that haunts many high school students. “Why are compasses needed in geometry?” reads one article. “What is plane geometry?” reads another. But on the fringes of the website, tucked away in the upper right corner, is a link marked “activities.” Clicking on activities reveals Geometry Spot’s secret underbelly: it’s a website where kids can play a mixture of legal and legally dubious video games at school.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

It would be cool if they smuggled in some educational games. Although I find it hard to believe 3/4 of every American who ever lived died of dysentery.

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i was in middle and high school right before flash died. coolmathgames and other sites were super common, especially when chromebooks started showing up in any class. my school had a terrible blocking system that only really cared about mainstream social media. i remember spending most of my senior year playing a javascript version of tetris to pass the time in journalism class. i do remember agario being the first one of these online browser games multiple people would be playing in the same class.

i don’t think banning these sites would work. older students have cellphones. if they want to play a game and goof off, they will. my main worry is over the elementary aged students using it, especially if the sites are profiting so heavily. a lot of these games are online too and that has its own suite of concerns.

As a high school art teacher, I taught game design in my digital arts courses. I actually set up my own webspace with exemplar games for the students to play as research on our lessons, which wasn’t blocked.

Our district’s blanket ban on pretty much any URL with the word ‘game’ in it was frustrating, as it kept kids from being able to look up guides and forum threads to independently solve issues with the Game Maker software we used. Though, luckily, the admins were pretty good about whitelisting stuff for me when I made a case for it.

I loved learning about the ingenious ways students used the tech in our school - from VPNs to using shared Google docs as an ersatz texting/chat tool

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I’m only 31 and, when I was in high school, I worked up a mean talent for Line Rider during my C++ class, but I still feel a little ‘old man yells at clouds’ for saying this: I must admit I don’t quite understand why kids need to have laptops for classes that don’t require a computer (programming, video editing, etc.). I feel the best way to keep kids from playing Fortnite in Geometry class is by not giving every child a Chromebook for Geometry class.

(My stronger thoughts are that our entire education system is and always has been quite broken, expecting most teens to actually dedicate their attention for a full-time work week to a random mix of subjects they mostly find boring is absurd and hurts their education overall. But that’s not specific to in-class gaming.)



start the old timey piano music

Back in the day, we had like…notebooks. Pencil and paper. Like, the one place I think an upgrade is warranted is in textbooks. That way you aren’t giving students back problems by hauling 30 lbs worth of textbooks home to do homework. Beyond that, give those little ankle-biters a binder full of paper and some pencils and let 'em do it the old-fashioned way.

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When I was 13 our school introduced basic Toshiba laptop/tablet hybrids on which we struggled in vain to play cracked versions of Halo CE and CS Source at single-digit framerates. I went to the only private school in an otherwise poor area, so the teachers were drill-sergeants and detentions were handed out like candy.

Before that, it was dumpster-diving through flash game aggregator sites like Miniclip and ‘’. Newgrounds for whatever reason never penetrated the membrane. Lots of good memories there, even if it’s probably the reason why I work in Tech Support and not nanotechnology, which 13 year old me was convinced was on the horizon.

I do genuinely think it’s absurd that school giving pre-teens laptops, chiefly because you’re teaching them via the same mediums being used to distract them. Bad screen and good screen are the same screen. The internet is a repository of knowledge but not a source of learning. Don’t know how I’d fix it, it’s not as though these distractions weren’t a thing in my day, I just think parents and teachers let the cat out of the bag here.

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I swear that somebody is going to do a riveting docuseries about how Texas Instruments conned every school board to mandate their overspecced calculators for high school math. I have a masters in engineering, and I still don’t really need the full capabilities of a TI-83 to do my work.

It’s funny you mention that! Texas Instruments is indeed one of the biggest donors to (New York, anyway) the state legislature because they have lobbied extensively to make their graphing calculators a requirement for state exams.

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