by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin-Madison have joined forces to catalyze new, creative, teaching and learning innovations around the next generation of commercially available educational electronic games. The Education Arcade, a two-year-old research and educational initiative established by leading scholars of computer and video games and education at both universities, plans to focus efforts by partnering with educational publishers, media companies and game developers to produce new educational electronic games and make them available to a larger audience of students and their teachers and parents.
The Education Arcade’s mission has been to demonstrate the social, cultural, and educational potentials of videogames by initiating new game development projects, coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts and informing public conversations about the broader and sometimes unexpected uses of this emerging art form in education. Having sponsored several annual conferences with the Entertainment Software Association at its E3Expo in Los Angeles, and with a series of landmark research projects in the field now complete, the Education Arcade looks ahead to help drive new innovations with commercial partners.
Previously, researchers at MIT have explored key issues in the use of a wide variety of media in teaching and learning through the Games-to-Teach Project, a Microsoft-funded initiative with MIT Comparative Media Studies that ran between 2001 and 2003. The project resulted in a suite of conceptual frameworks designed to support learning across math, science, engineering, and humanities curricula. Working with top game designers from industry and with faculty across MIT’s five schools, researchers produced 15 game concepts with supporting pedagogy that showed how advanced math, science and humanities content could be uniquely blended with state-of-the-art game play.
Several challenges have severely limited broader development and availability of educational games in the market, including the collapse of the CD-ROM software market, the failure of educational media in retail spaces, strict state adoption requirements, expensive production costs, and limited collaboration across the variety of disciplines needed to create compelling and educationally viable interactive media. By working with leading textbook publishers, media companies and game developers, the Education Arcade aims to help overcome these formidable challenges by focusing on an initial set of strategically-targeted, educationally-proven and expertly developed and produced on-line computer games that will be distributed through desktop computers and mobile devices.
By serving as the glue between university-based research and commercial product development, the Education Arcade is uniquely poised to make a profound impact on the production and use of games in the classroom and beyond. Education Arcade contributions to game production include (1) creative contextual development, (2) pedagogical and learning framework development, (3) curricular and teacher support, and (4) assessment and student evaluation studies.