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Pa.could lead educational games trend

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Pennsylvania has an opportunity to get ahead of the curve when it comes to educational games, but it cannot happen unless businesses, educators and students work together toward that goal.

Educational games have been growing in popularity in recent years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. Study after study has shown us that games can have a drastic positive effect on education and training programs. The movement around these games is happening now all across the country, and missing the opportunity to be a part of it would putPennsylvaniaat a disadvantage in business and education. We can be a leader in this movement, but there are obstacles impeding our ability to get ahead of this trend.

Perception of high cost slowing adoption

We are not short on excitement around the topic of games for education.Pittsburghis abuzz with educators, designers and technology-oriented businesses ready to lead the charge. However, there is a perception among many that games are too expensive for most schools and businesses.

It is true that entertainment games can be expensive, many costing
millions of dollars to develop. But those games have a different goal than games for businesses and schools. Basic games that cover a single topic can be made relatively quickly and for as little as a few thousand dollars. These costs can be spread across multiple organizations that have a common objective or paid for entirely by grants. Another alternative is to get in touch with local universities and find out which programs are making games. Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, for example, hosts game development events, the annual Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum and entrepreneurship programs to help new game companies in the region.

Acceptance by teachers and administrators

A quick look at the most recent data on the National Assessment of Educational Progress state profile shows thatPennsylvaniais above the national average for almost all subjects and age groups. These are smart people — students and teachers — who are increasingly asked to show the same results with fewer resources. Most teachers are excited about the prospect of using games but are unclear how to use them and defend their use to skeptics. To assist these teachers, universities and businesses that develop games must foster relationships and provide training. Teachers also must become versed in the body of research that supports the use of games. It is much easier to defend using a new technology to administrators when using the language of statistics and return on investment.

Expertise

Our state is full of instructional designers, game designers and technology schools that have a common interest. Connecting them with educators and administrators is an important step toward adopting games into our businesses and classrooms. Groups like Spark — here inPittsburgh— are working toward that goal and have seen great success in recent events. Statewide, our goal should be to build symbiotic partnerships across all interested parties. An ideal scenario would include university students working with local game developers to create games for schools and businesses. This gives the students real-world experience working with a client and provides schools and businesses with a constant flow of cost-effective educational tools.

The combined efforts ofPennsylvania’s universities, public schools and businesses, if focused properly on educational gaming, can keep our state in the forefront of education and business. This success will be realized only through cooperation and the understanding that this new technology is something that can benefit everyone in theKeystoneState.

Lucas Blair is founder of Little Bird Games and a member of the corporate faculty at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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