Roblox goes to school: Plan a Mars mission or join the Pathogen Patrol
Roblox is going to school, reports Benjamin Herold in Education Week. The popular gaming platform is adding immersive online “learning experiences” developed with nonprofit STEM education groups.
Mission: Mars, developed by the Museum of Science in Boston and Filament Games, aims "to develop students’ engineering skills by allowing them to plan and execute virtual space missions," he writes.
Pathogen Patrol, developed by Tipping Point Media and Project Lead the Way (PLTW), "places users inside the body of a virtual person, where they assume the roles of different types of white blood cells charged with fighting off a viral or bacterial infection." The game will be part of PLTW's Biomedical Science career pathway.
Roblox lets players connect and interact across millions of “experiences” created by a network of independent developers "who earn money based on players’ engagement and in-game purchases," writes Herold. Roblox says there will be a "fence between the public Roblox platform and the educational side."
Digital games are educational, according to researchers in Germany, writes Alyson Klein in Education Week. "Students can learn more from digital games than from traditional instructional approaches such as lectures, according to the meta-analysis.
Digital games also motivate students, though the effect was smaller, researchers concluded. "Games’ positive impact was apparent across a range of school subjects, from learning a language to grasping STEM concepts," writes Klein.
Greg Toppo, who wrote The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter in 2015, made the case for learning through gaming during the pandemic in USA Today.
"Research on the cognitive benefits of games now finds that they help develop better visual acuity, emotional regulation and decision-making," Toppo wrote. "Many games are simply beautiful storytelling tools."
In addition, gaming proves "hard fun." Children try, fail, learn and try again. They get instant feedback. Players can pretend to be heroes, villains or "everyday adults." And games are social. "Doing something hard with your friends, then reflecting on the results, is satisfying and powerful."
Newer games are more complex and challenging, Toppo wrote. "You can role-play as Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond or as an attorney defending the Constitution. You can learn about databases or logic, topology or inequality, photosynthesis or atomic structure, the water cycle, the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle, and history from the Dust Bowl to the Iranian revolution."