Federal

Video Games Can Improve Learning, Scientists’ Report Says

By Rhea R. Borja — October 24, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Educational video games have great potential to hone critical-thinking skills, help teach academic curricula, and evaluate what students learn, concludes a report released last week by a prominent group of U.S. scientists.

“Harnessing the Power of Video Games for Learning” is posted by the Federation of American Scientists.

To take advantage of those potential benefits, the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists recommends in its report that the U.S. departments of Education and Labor, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, work with the video game industry to research and develop games that enhance learning.

As it is, barriers such as school districts’ limited budgets, their reluctance to buy products that are not research-based, and the somewhat negative reputation of video games among educators inhibit interactive-game companies from researching and developing educational video games, said Henry Kelly, the president of the Washington-based FAS, at a news conference held here to release the report. That’s why research and development for such games should be part of a comprehensive science and technology research program, financed in part by the federal government, the report says.

“The education market is absolutely unique,” Mr. Kelly said. “The school industry does not behave like other industries.”

The FAS compiled advice from almost 100 experts in science, education, and the video game industry to prepare the report, “Harnessing the Power of Video Games for Learning.” The report also draws on information from a national conference on video games, held in October 2005, in which experts brainstormed ideas for developing and selling video games that teach analytical, problem-solving, and other higher-order thinking skills. (“Despite Allure, Using Digital Games for Learning Seen as No Easy Task,” Nov. 2, 2005.)

The report comes as businesses, the medical profession, and the U.S. military, among other fields, are investing millions of dollars to build interactive games, also called “simulation software,” to teach and train their employees. For instance, the second annual Serious Games Summit, which will be held Oct. 30-31 in Washington, will explore how cognitive science, instructional design, and game development can work to build better learning environments.

“Many recent reports warning about declining U.S. competitiveness point to an urgent need to improve workforce skills and our system of education,” Mr. Kelly said in a statement. “Video games are engaging and can teach higher-order skills, and they are especially attractive to today’s young digital natives.”

‘Concrete Actions’

The business community also should play a more active role in making educational video games more available, the report suggests. Educational software publishers, for instance, should help develop such games for home-schooled students and the growing after-school learning market. They should also produce short video games that can be downloaded from the Internet, the report says. Those games take less time and capital to develop and pose less financial risk for the companies creating them.

One example of a fairly low-cost game is one newly developed for elementary and middle school students called Discover Babylon. The interactive game teaches the history of ancient Mesopotamia—modern-day Iraq—and the origins of writing, said Michelle Lucey-Roper, the federation’s learning-technologies manager, who has visited nearby school districts to introduce the game.

Students can either use a video game console or a keyboard to control the game’s main character as he walks through Mesopotamia and learns about writing from ancient cuneiform tablets. The FAS, along with Austin, Tex.-based Escape Entertainment Inc., and the University of California, Los Angeles’ Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, developed the game over two years with a $500,000 grant from the federal Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Schools in Fairfax County, Va., and Baltimore use the game, Ms. Lucey-Roper said, and the game can also be downloaded for free at www.discoverbabylon.org.

But all the research done and millions spent on building educational video games will be pointless if educators aren’t convinced of the effectiveness of video games in improving learning, said Don Blake, a senior technologist with the National Education Association. Schools of education should help in that regard, he said, and teacher professional development on using video games to enhance instruction should be provided.

A version of this article appeared in the October 25, 2006 edition of Education Week as Video Games Can Improve Learning, Scientists’ Report Says

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Drive Instruction With Mastery-Based Assessment
Deliver the right data at the right time—in the right format—and empower better decisions.
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Profession Webinar
How Does Educator Well-Being Impact Social-Emotional Awareness in Schools?
Explore how adult well-being is key to promoting healthy social-emotional behaviors for students. Get strategies to reduce teacher stress.
Content provided by International Baccalaureate
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Lawmakers, Education Secretary Clash Over Charter School Rules
Miguel Cardona says the administration wants to ensure charters show wide community interest before securing federal funding.
5 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, is seen during a White House event on April 27. The following day, he defended the Biden administration's budget proposal on Capitol Hill.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal Opinion What If We Treated Public Education Like the Crisis It Is?
A former governor warns that without an overhaul, education's failures will cost the nation dearly.
Bev Perdue
5 min read
Conceptual Illustration of the sun rising behind a broken down school building
iStock/Getty
Federal What the Research Says Education Research Has Changed Under COVID. Here's How the Feds Can Catch Up
Adam Gamoran, chairman of a National Academies panel on the future of education research, talks about the shift that's needed.
5 min read
Graphic shows iconic data images all connected.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal 7 Takeaways for Educators From Biden's State of the Union
What did President Joe Biden say about education in his first State of the Union address to Congress? Here's a point-by-point summary.
3 min read
President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington as Vice President Kamala Harris applauds and House speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., looks on.
President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in attendance.
Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times via AP