Higher Education News
Did you know that game-based learning is gaining popularity in education as more young people and adults learn from games in and out of the classroom? Well-designed games can motivate students to actively engage in content that relates to coursework, and to master challenging tasks designed to sharpen critical thinking and problem solving, as well as employment and life skills.
On January 8, 2018, the 5th annual ED Games Expo occurred at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The event was organized in collaboration between the Department of Education’s (ED) Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Kennedy Center’s Education team. The event showcased more than 100 learning games, most developed with funding from 17 different government programs within and outside ED. The games were for students of all ages in education and special education and covered topics across STEM, reading, social studies and social development. Many incorporated emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, augmented reality and maker spaces with 3D printing stations, as well as engaging approaches to learning, such as narrative adventures and puzzle games.
This year the Expo featured panel sessions with game developers and live demos by more than 80 developers from around the country. At a daytime panel session on the Millennium Stage titled “So You Want to Be a Game Developer,” 13 different game developers shared inspiring stories for why and how they became game developers. The audience included more than 500 DC-area school students, many of whom took the microphone and asked questions such as “What is it like to be a game developer?” and “What can I do to be a game developer?”
The live demos of learning games and technologies occurred across multiple galleries on the Terrace Level of the Kennedy Center. Across the day and into the early evening, the students and more than 200 other visitors played games while meeting face-to-face with the developers. The experience provided a unique opportunity for attendees to discuss how the games were developed and to learn about the research findings on how games can impact student performance.Learning Games Emerge Across Many Government Programs
Along with being a fun and rich learning experience for everyone, the Expo demonstrated the impact of a wide range of government programs that invest in learning games as a strategy to advance their mission to support education and learning.
At ED, seven programs that support such projects were represented at the Expo. Four are operated by IES, through its Small Business Innovation Research Program, Research Grants Programs in Education and Special Education and its Assessment Program. Other ED programs included the Office of Special Education Programs; the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education; and the Ready to Learn program.
Outside of ED, learning games at the Expo were supported by ten different government programs, including the SBIR programs at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Agriculture, and the National Institutes for Health and research programs at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health. A group of games were also developed from programs at USAID, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Lastly, the Kennedy Center joined the Expo this year in recognition of the arts and creativity embedded in the game development process. The Expo provided tangible opportunities for students to learn directly from game developers how they use the creative artistic process to design multi-modal, differentiated games that are engaging, customized learning experiences for all. Through its Education programs, the Kennedy Center encourages a broad audience of students and stakeholders to consider game development as an opportunity for a range of learning experiences, through concept ideation, design, coding, graphic art creation, musical score writing and performance, or research and evaluation during and after development.
Edward Metz is a Research Scientist at the Institute of Education Sciences within the Department of Education, where he leads the SBIR and the Education Technology Research Grants programs.
Jeanette McCune is the Director of School and Community Programs in Education at the Kennedy Center.
Follow IES (@IESResearch) and the Kennedy Center (@Kencen) for updates on the next ED Games Expo and other initiatives.
This past fall I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, twice — first, in October, and two weeks later, in the company of Secretary DeVos. There, I saw firsthand the wholesale destruction left by back-to-back hurricanes. The experience was both humbling and uplifting.
During my first visit, I joined the Commissioner of Education for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dr. Sharon McCollum, on a car trip around the Islands. On our way, she noticed the owner of a damaged wholesale club store — he was outside, combing through inventory, trying to salvage any goods that Hurricanes Maria and Irma had spared.
Pausing our scheduled tour, Dr. McCollum stopped the car in front of the store. She began negotiating the sale of cleaning supplies to be used in some of the many schools under her care. Simply getting students physically back to school is a monumental undertaking, she said: they shouldn’t have to fear getting sick from mold and the like once they’ve returned to the classroom.
Her goal that day — as it is every day — was to return a sense of normalcy to the more than 14,000 students whose lives and studies were interrupted by the powerful storms. I learned that, these days, such encounters are an integral part of Dr. McCollum’s day-to-day work: staff told me she can often be found out in the field, exploring the Islands in search of supplies and other resources to help students get back to school and engaged in learning again.
This is a fundamental objective on the Islands, where the scale of devastation from the storms defies description. Surveying the damage by military helicopter, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. Roofs had been ripped off houses; stores destroyed; roads impassable. School facilities that had once been home to fine arts and music — integral parts of the culture and education on the Islands — are gone forever, with many well-loved instruments, such as the region’s iconic steel drums, lost.
Read more about Acting Assistant Secretary Botel’s visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands on Medium…
Jason Botel is Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education