One time in high school, I was able to convince a stern teacher it was “essential” that I play Grand Theft Auto III for a presentation. It was easily one of my favorite experiences at school simply because I was able to mix gaming and education. Now with video-game publisher Valve’s new “Steam for Schools” initiative, other students might get the chance I had to add video games to the classroom exercises.

The “Steam for Schools” program is Valve’s newest foray into the world of “edutainment” and its Teach with Portals site details the program’s goals. Teachers and other education professionals can now apply to be part of the beta program. If they are accepted, they get access to version of Valve’s digital distribution service Steam with Portal 2, a level editor, a workshop for housing user-made levels, and the Valve Education forum, where teachers can share their insights. Educators receive dministrative control of the programs.

Ideally, Portal 2 will help teach students about physics, math, spatial reasoning, and problem solving. With level editor access, they can also put their creativity to the test and challenge each other with different maps and challenges.

What’s especially awesome about this is that this version of Steam for educators will be entirely free, even out of beta. Valve is receiving no outside grants, which makes this quite the contribution, and it’s a direction we hope other companies eventually go in as well.

Check out the video below to see how a group of seventh graders visited Valve and used its Hammer Editor for learning:

Photo credit: Valve