Gates funds game-based learning

Kids’ enthusiasm for video games could be harnessed by the classroom of the future, Bill Gates told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Gates Foundation is investing $20 million in teacher tools, including learning games.

Students are grouped according to skill set. One cluster huddles around a computer terminal, playing an educational game or working on a simulator. Another works with a human teacher getting direct instruction, while another gets a digital lesson delivered from their teacher’s avatar.

Gates envisions games as “an adjunct to a serious curriculum.” His foundation is working with the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington to develop learning games, said Vicki Phillips, education director for the Gates Foundation.

 The idea is that in coming years, there could be a digital mall full of low-cost or free online games teachers could download to use with the entire class or individual students.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is make more robust the array of things teachers have access to at their fingertips that are aligned to standards, that are high quality, that engage kids though technology and let [teachers] be the orchestra leader,” Phillips said.

“Motivation is such a huge part in what ends up differentiating student outcomes,” Gates said. And games are motivating.

Do our schools support innovation?, asks Aran Levasseur, a middle school teacher turned technology coordinator, on Mind/Shift.

Technology widens the spectrum of how individuals and teams can access, construct and communicate knowledge. Education, for the most part, isn’t creating learners along these lines. Meanwhile, computers are challenging the legitimacy of expert-driven knowledge, i.e., of the teacher at the front of the classroom being the authority. All computing devices — from laptops to tablets to smartphones — are dismantling knowledge silos and are therefore transforming the role of a teacher into something that is more of a facilitator and coach.

. . . Great teachers are needed now more than ever. But what it means to be a teacher and student is changing . . .

In the comments, Barry Garelick argues the “content of the future” will look a lot like the content of the past, at least in math. “The 21st century will require mastery of the same math skills needed in the 20th century,” he writes.

The Serious Play Conference next month in Seattle will look at measuring the effectiveness of educational games.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Cranberry says:

    The article states, Last year, the foundation announced it would invest $20 million in a variety of teacher tools, including this and other technologies geared toward changing the way teachers teach and kids learn.

    I think it’s much easier to change the way teachers teach than to change the way kids learn. Certainly, one can force kids to change their actions in a classroom. I would like to see some proof that it’s possible to change “the way kids learn.”

  2. lightly seasoned says:

    Oh, educational software. There’s a new idea…

  3. It would surprise me if it works. Yes, it could work for fact-based learning (say, history), but not so much for skill-based learning (say, math). Over my years as a math teacher I’ve found that most students cannot transfer using “manipulatives” into actual math knowledge, no matter how well-done the manipulatives are; why should educational video games be any different?

    I can be convinced with evidence, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for this evidence.

    • I beg to differ Darren. Independent research recently published in Norway showed that, after one hour of playing the new Algebra DragonBox Game, 30% of the tested 12 year olds were able to tackle equations that hitherto they were unable to understand. Following two hours of playing, an astonishing 80% were then able to solve complex equations that even their parents might struggle with.

  4. It’s about whatever works, Bill. Hopefully, you won’t also dictate that students get degrees in gaming if they are already competent with the skill set.

  5. Bill Gates is doing what is to be do by other millionairess.
    good luck gates.

  6. Hi! Our company, ´We Want To Know´ also signed an agreement with the Center for Game Sciences at the University of Washington two weeks ago to test our revolutionary new Educational Maths Game, DragonBox, across 100 schools in the US.

    DragonBox was the idea of We Want To Know´s Co-Founder, Jean-Baptiste Huyhn, himself a Maths Teacher, and it enables children to solve algebraic equations while they are having fun playing the game. The children are quite oblivious to the fact that they are learning Maths.

    DragonBox, replaces the numbers, letters and signs in Algebra with more child-friendly symbols such as funky dragons, cool animals and other engaging characters. Using the medium of a fun game, contemporary designed animation and the touchscreen technology of a smartphone or tablet computer, Kids quickly learn how symbols can be moved and combined on both sides of a split screen divide that represents the equal sign in an equation.

    By hiding x, y and other algebraic symbols under a layer of animated gameplay, the software is capable of introducing Kids from as young as 8 years of age to the world of Algebra, gradually revealing its underlying mathematical logic to them. We like to think that DragonBox puts the “Fun” into the Fundamental Mathematics.

    Independent research already published in Norway showed that, after one hour of playing DragonBox, 30% of the tested 12 year olds were able to tackle equations that hitherto they were unable to understand. Following two hours of playing, an astonishing 80% were then able to solve complex equations that even their parents might struggle with.

    Dragonbox was launched last week in the US and the UK and is available to download at the Apple Mac Store and Google Games.

    If anyone would like any more information on DragonBox feel free to contact me at Ianmac@wewanttoknow.com or visit our website http://www.wewanttoknow.com

    Best regards
    Ian