The United Nations’ educational agency, UNESCO, is sponsoring a conference in India to promote social and emotional learning in children and how to use digital technologies — such as video games — to build more peaceful and sustainable societies.

As part of that effort, the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (UNESCO MGIEP) is promoting learning through video games and using games to transcend national boundaries, hone problem-solving skills, and promote empathy.

The UN agency promotes social-emotional learning (SEL), or teaching children social and emotional skills such as understanding the feelings of others. The program promotes using digital technologies to help meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, Target 7.

Increasingly, studies show that video games are not just fun — they’re also highly educational. Under the Rethinking Learning Program, the institute recognizes that games help people learn new skills at their own pace and making learning more engaging through interactivity, immersiveness, and multimodal environments. The games for learning programs are running on an open-source, AI-enabled platform called Framerspace, where the group has not only designed its own games but also designed the curriculum for games such as Florence.

The institute’s games include:

  • World Rescue: a narrative, research-based video-game inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Through fast-paced gameplay set in Kenya, Norway, Brazil, India, and China, you will meet and help five young heroes and help them solve global problems — such as displacement, disease, deforestation, drought, and pollution — at the community level.
  • Cantor’s World: a game that educates people about the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) and how it complements other indices. In the game, players experiment with policy choices and experience first-hand the tug-of-war between short-term results and long-term sustainability. The participants play the role of the sole architect of the country and decide the specific targets for their respective countries.

UNESCO MGIEP has an annual global education tech event in India called TECH 2019 (Transforming Education Conference for Humanity) in India on December 10 to December 12, with workshops on December 8 to December 9. The event will take place in the coastal city of Vizag, Andhra Pradesh, India.

The event is held in partnership with the state government of Andhra Pradesh, India. The scientific advisory board at Tech 2019 includes  renowned experts in the field of social and emotional learning, data science and artificial intelligence, and education for peace, global citizenship and sustainable development.

The board includes Susanna Pollack, president of Games for Change; Harri Ketamo, chairman, Headai; Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, professor of education at the University of British Columbia (UBC); Mila Thomas Fuller, assistant director of online learning at the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Last year’s participants came from 50 countries. Some of the confirmed speakers at the conference are:

  • Jesse Stommel: executive director of the division of teaching and learning technologies, University of Mary Washington
  • Patricia Jennings: associate professor, department of curriculum, instruction and special education, University of Virginia
  • Elliot Soloway: professor, department of computer science and engineering, University of Michigan

Digital games have the advantage of combining immersive technology with good pedagogical practice. Digital games are also helping educators answer ongoing assessment questions develop kids’ intellectual and emotional intelligence and break down the boundaries between disciplines and cultures.

The call for proposals for the event is open until August 31.