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Deanna Terzian has been working in education for three decades. But at our recent GamesBeat Summit 2017 event, the president of educational gaming company CurriculaWorks was able to sum up one of her big lessons in five minutes.

Terzian spoke in a “lightning round” talk about “Gaming the system: Why the military embraced game-based learning and the classroom has not.”

Terzian made a game for the military — Project Azriel — that promoted brain training. It was a zombie-shooting game for the Office of Naval Research, and it taught cognitive focus in the hopes of developing fluid intelligence. It was educational, but it kept users engaged with the task at hand, and that made them play it for a longer time.

Terzian argued that schools need to take a similar approach. She said that games like The Oregon Trail might seem educational, but they aren’t actually teaching much. Schools should think more about effectiveness, not just filling a game up with numbers and words.

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Terzian runs both CurriculaWorks and its sister company TutorWorks. For more than 15 years, she has led the creation of digital products and direct services that provide effective and fun learning experiences in challenging educational and operational environments.

Tutorworks has served more than 20,000 struggling students in 700 schools using a motivational learning approach that blends digital learning and traditional academic tutoring.

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