The President of the ESA testified before Congress that educators are using games to effectively teach.
Back when I was a wee lad, my elementary school teachers used supposedly clever games to get us kids to pay attention to how to multiply fractions or whatever. But these were usually poorly veiled quiz show-type activities and I quickly lost interest despite Mrs. Miller's half-hearted attempt at gamification. But when used more effectively by inserting an over-arching game to the classroom or using videogame play-time to teach specific lessons can be very effective. One needs only look at how the U.S. military has co-opted game simulations in its training of soldiers for proof that games can teach. Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, was instrumental in winning the Supreme Court case that validated videogames as an artistic medium and he this week he took up the banner for game's place in education before the United States House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
The committee called for ways to increase American students' interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), subjects that the rest of the world's students are exceeding the United States'.
"Our industry's interactive technology provides students with a new mode of learning," Gallagher said in the hearing held in Washington D.C. "With the power to improve critical thinking and problem solving skills, games are next-generation learning tools that have the potential to transform the educational experiences of children across the country.
"We encourage educators and policy makers to take steps now to incorporate these resources into classrooms and ensure that our young people are equipped for success in emerging STEM careers," he continued.
I don't think that Gallagher is suggesting that history teachers make kids play Black Ops to learn about the Cold War or Minecraft to learn about the diamond mining of Africa. Instead, he is calling for games to be used to foster interest in math and science to encourage kids to look for careers in those fields.
The ESA has instituted programs to get kids excited about making videogames in the past - like the First Annual National STEM Video Game Challenge - but I'm not sure that's what is needed here. What do you think? How can games be used to get American kids interested in learning new technologies and building the next great wonders of the world?
I know! Have them play Civ V all day!