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The game industry and nonprofits are teaming up to create a video game design lab that will do research on engaging students and measuring learning.

It’s part of a broader “gamification” trend toward making education as fun and engaging as playing games. The new Games, Learning and Assessment (GLASS) Lab will be managed by the Institute of Play, a nonprofit video game institute with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Electronic Arts, and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). It will be supported by $10.3 million in grants.

Based at EA’s global headquarters in Redwood City, Calif., the lab will integrate state-based educational standards and measure learning by modifying popular games or creating original games. Once those products are complete, they will be made available to middle and high school students, school districts, and families at little or no cost. The lab was announced at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado today.


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“Video games can revolutionize American education and students’ testing and learning,” said Michael Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, the trade group for the game industry. “We can harness students’ passion and energy for video games and utilize that to reach and educate a 21st century workforce with skills critical for college and career readiness.”

The GLASS Lab acknowledges that there is a major shift in the way students learn and acquire knowledge. Students today are expected to learn skills such as creative problem solving, collaboration, systems thinking, and mastering new technologies. Games are good for that, and they can give teachers and parents real-time feedback on student progress.

“We are very enthusiastic about the GLASS Lab project,” said Robert Torres, Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We need projects that will work with students and speak to them in their native language — digital media. Through game-based learning, students will be challenged, and teachers and parents can get real-time feedback on student progress.”

The GLASS Lab will use simulations to validate student learning. In contrast to traditional measurement tools, video games are designed to measure progress in the experience of gaming itself.

“MacArthur is excited about the potential for GLASS Lab to create and apply new video games and innovation to learning,” said Connie Yowell, Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation, which leads a $100-million digital media and learning initiative that aims to determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life.

“The video game industry has experienced a transformative change over the past decade with the advent of new mobile, social, and online platforms that have opened up opportunities for gaming in a number of sectors, including education,” said Jeff Brown, senior vice president of public affairs at EA. “We are excited to be a founding partner of GLASS Lab and not only house the organization at our headquarters but lend our world-class IP and talent to the project.”

Katie Salen, executive director of the Institute of Play said: “Video games are data rich environments designed to provide ongoing feedback to players; tapping into this richness has the potential to radically alter the way we approach both teaching and learning.”

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