At The Atlantic’s annual Technologies in Education Forum, video games emerged as a new way educators are teaching students today.
Policymakers, education professionals, and students recently convened at The Atlantic's annual Technologies in Education Forum in Washington, DC to discuss how schools can effectively utilize technology, including video games, to enhance traditional classroom instruction. Co-sponsored by Entertainment Software Association and AT&T, the forum featured nine panel discussions and a series of one-on-one interviews that explored ideas and best practices for incorporating technology into school curriculum.
The conference began with Engaged Students: Game-Based Learning in the Classroom, a discussion among John Bailey, executive director of the Digital Learning Now! campaign; Lisa Guernsey, director of the New America Foundation's Early Education Initiative; and Justin Leites, vice president for games at Amplify, a developer of digital educational tools. The panelists urged educational game developers to create software that captures kids' attention and provides instruction in critical topics. Bailey, for example, said that designers ought to focus on the three "C's" – content, context, and children – to develop effective educational games. That is, create games with interesting content that closely relates to course work; introduce games in a context of teachers and parents who monitor screen time and are available to answer questions; and develop games that can be customized to students' individual learning styles.
During another panel, The Innovative School System: Voices from the Field, middle and high school teachers shared how they are using technology as a learning tool. Kate Selkirk, master teacher at New York City's Quest to Learn school, explained that her students learn physics by assembling rollercoasters with Rollercoaster Tycoon; study energy efficiency and sustainability by constructing schools with SimCity; and learn about Roman architecture by re-building ancient structures in Minecraft. David Pinder, principal of McKinley Technical High School in Washington, DC, described a new phenomenon of "flipping the classroom," in which teachers send students home to complete an assignment on their computer. Students can ask questions via class chat rooms and apply what they learn at home to in-school course work the next day. The panelists agreed that in order for teachers to advance these innovative styles, principals and school district leaders must allow them to experiment with new lesson plans and software, as well as provide them with appropriate resources to incorporate technology into their classrooms.
The forum also included thought-provoking conversations with students and policymakers. One spotlight session featured two winners from the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge who reflected on their love of programming and explained how it sparked their interest in video game design. Later, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) advocated for increased U.S. investment in science, technology, engineering, and math education to better prepare students for manufacturing and technology-related careers, fill open jobs in technical fields, and propel the nation's economy forward.