In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has increased its commitment to exploring the potential of learning games and researching their effectiveness, highlighted by initiatives such as ED Games Week, the White House Education Game Jam, the Games for Learning Summit at Games for Change, and a mini-conference focused on games for learning at E3.
Keeping the momentum going, on December 9, 2015, representatives from the Department of Education and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) collaboratively organized a day of events to build capacity for and showcase learning games. In all, 45 game developers participated, 30 of whom were recipients of awards from the Small Business Innovation Research programs at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and five other federal agencies.
Games For Assessment Working Meeting
In the morning, more than 20 members of the game-based learning community gathered at the White House to focus on the potential of games for assessment. Participants discussed the state of the field and opportunities for researching and developing new game-based assessment models and engines that can support teachers by providing real-time progress reports and insights on student mastery of content.
Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at OTSP, discussed the potential of games to transform traditional methods of testing. Roberto Rodriguez, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Education, said the Every Student Succeeds Act calls for new types of assessment, many of which could be accomplished with well designed game-based assessments, and highlighted the need for more rigorous research in the area of games for learning and assessment. And Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, talked about the need to create more opportunities for girls and students of all backgrounds to code and develop games for learning.
Games for Learning Stakeholder Meeting
In the afternoon, the group gathered for a series of short briefings from stakeholders in the educational technology games space. A few of the presenting organizations included BrainPOP, EdSurge, Games for Change, PBS Learning Media, 1776, and the Consortium of School Networking. The goal was to increase collaboration and strengthen approaches for the broader creation, dissemination, and use of quality games in classrooms and beyond.
ED Games Expo 2015
In the evening, the ED Games Expo provided a forum for all 45 developers to demo their games. More than 200 individuals attended, met face-to-face with the developers, and played games that covered a range of topics in areas such as STEM, history, and coding. The free event was co-sponsored by 1776 and the Entertainment Software Association. The event was highlighted by a visit from the Small Business Administration’s Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, who spent time chatting with several developers about their learning games.
A few examples of SBIR games demoed at the Expo included:
- Happy Atoms, where students learn about chemistry by using modernized ball and stick models with an augmented reality interface.
- Eco, where students collaboratively build a virtual world to learn about ecosystems.
- Kiko’s Thinking Time, where young children solve challenging tasks to strengthen cognitive skills related to executive functioning and reasoning.
For videos of all of the SBIR games for learning that demoed at the Expo (and more), see this playlist.
ED is committed to growing the ecosystem for high-quality learning games, researching their effectiveness, and assisting developers in building games that reflect effective pedagogy and engaging game mechanics to expand and improve in-and-out of classroom learning opportunities for students.
Edward Metz is the Program Manager for the Small Business Innovation Research program at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.
Joseph South is the Acting Director of Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.
James Collins is the Internal Liaison of Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.
Erik Martin is an intern at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.