Learn Using Technology

Today is National Digital Learning Day and PBS LearningMedia’s new survey of teachers shows high interest: “As more educators are adopting technology for a 21st century curriculum, the accessibility of educational content on a variety of platforms is key to bringing lessons to life in classrooms.”

Portal 2 brought some lessons to life last weekend at ScienceOnline2013 with a 704-336-0167 on games for science engagement and education presented by a teacher and student.  Check out selected tweets!

(Thanks Maki Naro for the doodle of Atlas made at the presentation.)


Webinar on Portal 2 in Classroom

Three of our Portal 2 Puzzle Maker teachers will be interviewed Thursday, January 17 at 9 PM ET for an installment of the Gamers Advancing Meaningful Education (G.A.M.E.) webinar series. Laurence Cocco, Director of Educational Technology for the New Jersey Department of Education, will conduct the interview with Steve Isaacs (middle school game design), Lisa Castaneda (middle school math), and 3304079490 (high school science).  Check it out!

Future Rube Goldbergs

(822) 284-3813The (787) 745-5384 for the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue, Washington aims to teach kids technical skills while providing an outlet for creative expression. Chris Monier, their Tech Director, uses the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker to help achieve these goals, with a game design lesson plan he calls The Portal Rube Goldberg.

These teens are up to the task! After refurbishing computers with a few modest upgrades, designing complex contraptions to perform simple tasks will be a snap. 






Never before has Astronomy been so interactive or so much fun!

We’ve heard from some teachers that Universe Sandbox, which has real physics, real data, real units and real science would be great in the classroom.

STEAM for SCHOOLS now includes free access to this Astronomy software from software developer Giant Army. Using this powerful gravity simulator, teachers and students can explore and manipulate the galaxy through built-in tutorials and step-by-step activities to truly understand the universe in which we live.


Puzzle Makers are Playmakers

We’re proud to share that the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker is featured in the first episode of the Institute of Play’s PLAYMAKERS series. The series explores the experiences and innovations that are leading the way for learning design in the twenty-first century. It aims to feature a range of organizations and their stories at the intersection of games and learning. We can’t wait to see what PLAYMAKERS will teach us about the power of play in education.

You can follow the series and related articles and resources at 618-596-5703 and FastCompany.com.



Several teams from Sammamish High School as part of the Starting Strong summer program took on the challenge of creating lesson plans for 8th and 9th graders that used the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker. Projects ranged from teaching velocity and geometry to atomic models.

Over a six day period, the students designed a plan for teaching their concept, used the Puzzle Maker to produce a lesson or series of lessons, tested and collected data from their lesson, and created a presentation of their findings and what they learned. Students reported that their work was significantly improved by the opportunity to gather peer feedback as they designed their lesson plans. Farah, a junior, was able to experience the reward of teaching, too: “Those who had no idea what Newton’s Laws were had a deep grasp of them at the end of the lesson AND they could better understand their applications in the real world.”

Now that’s teaching with portals.


We’ve released an update to the Education Version of Portal 2 based on educator feedback. It includes several new features:

Play with a new cube! The Contraption Cube has adjustable mass, friction and elasticity – perfect for experimenting with physics concepts.

The aerial faith plate can now generate an impulse with a specific amount of force and in a precise direction.

Considering time in your lessons? There’s now an in-game timer at the top of the screen along with new simulation rate adjustment controls. This allows students to see reactions more clearly and to accurately measure the position and speed of moving objects.

Here’s a fun one: speech bubbles! Teachers and students can add written notes and instructions that appear in the level as it is played.

All of these new features provide for a wider variety of experiments and more opportunities to integrate math. Try these yourself by enabling them via the Options->Education menu.

Check out the blog 954-739-4882 for a demonstration.

Broken Levels Fix Geometric Reasoning

Lisa Castaneda, a teacher from Washington State who has written several of the (559) 660-5730 available on our site, met Geoff Moore at the 562-697-7082 this summer. Geoff is a 24 year-old web and game developer. As a former gifted student who struggled through school, Geoff attended the conference to find ways of using new technology to help bridge the gap between student and teacher and make education more interesting and engaging.

Lisa and Geoff got to talking and brainstormed a lesson plan where students use geometric reasoning skills to “fix” Portal 2 Puzzle Maker levels that aren’t quite playable as-is. Students must work within various constraints to recreate, then modify the design of these levels so a player can successfully reach the exit. There are multiple paths to success, allowing for creativity and discovery. Here’s their take on engaging Eighth Graders in mathematical practices and geometric principles with The Broken Rooms.

Summer Enrichment

505-975-8119The Aperture Science Enrichment Center is just one of many labs where enrichment has been taking place this August. Welcome to Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, where the Elizabeth Forward School District recently held a Portal 2 Challenge as part of their summer enrichment program for students in grades 4 through 8.

As part of the program, students learned about game design, created levels with the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker, and then tested their creations for one another. Check out this handy level evaluation worksheet for Portal 2 puzzle testers, created and used as part of the schools’ Portal 2 Challenge program.

According to Dr. Todd E. Keruskin, Assistant Superintendent, this popular summer Entertainment Technology Academy is part of the district’s transformation into an exciting and creative learning environment, where STEM plus the Arts (STEAM!) give students not only the skills, but also the creativity they’ll need to thrive in the global digital workplace.

Dr. Keruskin mentions collaboration in particular, as an important element that’s flourishing through the program. “Game-based learning has helped students collaborate with each other,” according to Todd. “Student programmers, student artists, and creative writers are creating apps and games together in teams. Students are starting to see the relevance of learning and are excited again!”

(Photos L to R: Beginning the day by crawling through Portals; level designers at work; Heather Hibner, Entertainment Technology Academy Teacher & Michael Routh, Middle School Principal)


Scott Hawley, PhD, is a professor of physics at Belmont University, where he leads their Society of Physics Students (that’s him to the far right in group photo).  The group recently outlined the Physics of Portal 2, using the game to demonstrate a variety of physics principles. Oscillatory motion is covered at the 12:22 mark, where a student named Austin walks us through simple harmonic motion and Hooke’s Law of elasticity.

As Austin explains, in Portal 2, oscillating objects adhere to a slightly different set of laws, where force is constantly being reoriented, and where the amplitude and frequency of an oscillation are dependent upon one another. The result? Perpetual oscillation! High falls are converted to high jumps when objects are propelled upward from a portal, making things more… interesting.

Scott’s written up two great lesson plans for high school students about (336) 404-3378 and (860) 464-8398. Scott’s lessons show students how to compare and contrast oscillation behavior as it adheres to the game world’s laws of physics versus those of our own. So grab your stopwatch and some graph paper, and bounce on in.

Stats and Scavenger Hunts

7199170518Lisa Castaneda is a math teacher of grades 5-8 in Washington State, and our primary math lesson plan contributor. (We’re a big fan.) Lisa is at it again with two new lesson plans focused on geometry and statistics.

(954) 225-5338 has 4th and 5th graders finding, placing and describing objects to demonstrate their understanding of geometry.

Forget Aperture, this is MY test chamber shows 6th grade students how statistics can be used to answer questions about gameplay and game design. We love this lesson plan because it leverages the process we use when designing our own games at Valve, collecting real data about gameplay to inform game design decisions. Students will posit a question, collect and analyze data, and present their findings. Data FTW!

(765) 262-7105

(918) 910-2262Portal 2 won several “Best Narrative” awards, but like any game design element, its story always has room for improvement.  What will your students think of the Portal 2 story line?  David Hunter, a middle school English teacher in Bellevue, WA, inspires his students to perform literary analysis using video games. Check out his 7th grade Literary Analysis lesson plan.

Physics with Portals

3303792751Remember that dynamic physics teacher The New York Times shared musings of in its (703) 215-0351 of Portal 2?  Meet Cameron Pittman. Cameron is already at work, becoming that important science teacher in Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches High School Physics and authors many Teach with Portals physics lesson plans.

For a look at what he’s created, visit Cameron’s blog, Physics with Portals, where he shares the demonstrations he’s made by capturing video within the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker.

Inspired? We are! Sign up for the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker Education Beta, and start making educational demonstrations of your very own.


Valve recently began collaborating with educators to develop game-related teaching tools that revolve around STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. We’ve created Teach With Portals as a destination for this partnership, providing free content and game design tools, as well as an interactive community for exchanging lessons and experiences.

Welcome to the new, free educational collection of puzzles and teacher-created content from Valve’s best-selling game, Portal 2, an engaging 3D puzzle-solving game.  Based on Valve’s technology, the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker takes place in an environment with realistic physics – a playground rich with opportunities for educational fun.

We understand that learning is not fulfilled by a one-size-fits-all approach, so we’re engaging with a community of educators, parents and students to create infinite possibilities for learning.  The educational version of our Puzzle Maker empowers students and educators to craft unique puzzles, explore worlds, and share custom lesson plans.  Teachers can also simply leverage other contributor’s shared lessons, selecting among the best of them to suit their learners’ needs.

“Somewhere out there an innovative, dynamic high school physics teacher will use Portal 2 as the linchpin of an entire series of lessons and will immediately become the most important science teacher those lucky students have ever had. For those of us who have left school behind, Portal 2 is one of the finest brain games around.” The New York Times, May 10, 2011.

Get started with Portal 2 and the Puzzle Maker and download a copy to try out this summer.  By signing up, educators also gain access to the Valve Education forum, where teachers from around the world share insights and advice on effective uses of video game technology in the classroom.