When the US military starts paying attention to educational gaming, you know it has passed a threshold from novelty to necessity. It looks like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the Defense Department is looking for a development platform to test a range of educational games. The call for proposals entitled "Game World" specifies the DARPA is looking to "develop a framework that permits game development by non programmers and the cooperative assessment of a range of instructionally rich educational games using performance on other games as the learning metric."
And this is not just for the next version of "America’s Army," but something with a broader application to science education, other government departments, and corporate training. Read on…
The call for proposals specifies three phases of work:
- PHASE I: Conduct a comprehensive literature scan of psychological and educational literature to develop a way to evaluate games for their educational value.
- PHASE II: Create a framework that various developers can use to build educational games that can be measured against each other based on a set of established metrics.
- PHASE III: Explore how these games could be applied to other mileu from schools to government agencies to corporations.
"Game World" sounds very similar to what educational specialist Dr. John Bransford was
calling for in how educators use and evaluate virtual worlds as learning
environments. I.e. there are lots of qualitative claims made about the efficacy of this application over another for "virtual learning" and "e-education." But how do you compare different tools against each other to determine what works best for your particular educational need?
Honestly, the Quaker in me is less-than-excited about the
military applications of educational gaming. But I must admit there are obvious benefits
to the enormous budget of the DOD being put into developing education
gaming frameworks. I am reminded of how it was in no small part US
military investment in a decentralized communications infrastructure
that later evolved into the Internet as we know today.
I am particularly excited about DARPA’s interest in using educational
gaming to help spur interest and learning about science among American
students, who lag behind their colleagues in many Western and some
developing countries. The proposal anticipates "successful application of science and technology
curricula to the video-gaming medium would result in tremendous gains in both
learning quantity and efficacy by exploiting the significant time allocation
and high content retention associated with the video-gaming medium."
The CFP shows a sophisticated understanding of the possibilities of computer games to impart important knowledge. It talks of "rapid skill acquisition and other benefits associated with
intrinsically-motivated learning" and the "high score" as a powerful carrot spurring knowledge acquisition. The proposal envisions a "meta-game" where "players would be competing with other players for high scores,
and games would be competing with other games for learning efficacy."
[Linked from Games for Change listserv.]