White House studying use of video games in education

A recent interview done by NPR with Constance Steinkuehler, a senior policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy reveals that the White House is looking into the benefits of using video games in education. A lot of the research done on video games in the past years has been looking into the relationship between video game violence and actual violence. However, as studies began to show that no such relationship exists, research turned toward how video games can be used to positively benefit society.

“It turns out that many of those relationships just haven’t borne out in the research, and new fields have emerged around looking at how games function as a means for turning screen time into activity time,” said Steinkuehler in the interview. According to Steinkuehler, federal investments in games is not a new concept, and dates back well before the Obama administration.

Funding was originally directed towards military training and simulations, and Steinkuehler is now working to make sure that the government is making the most of those investments. Steinkuehler argues that the point of a federal investment is to pick up where the market stops, and points to pharmaceuticals as another possible avenue to investigate.

A virtual environment developed in MOSES, an OpenSim grid. (Image courtesy Douglas Maxwell.)

However, the call for video games in education is also coming from higher up. Last year in March, the president addressed the Tech Boston Academy and told them “I want you guys to be stuck on a video game that’s teaching you something, other than just blowing something up.” He said that educational video games can be just as compelling as regular main stream video games, and in fall of last year hired Steinkuehler.

The Obama administration has looked into the practical uses of video games before. Back in 2010, the Obama administration asked Microsoft to build a federal budget flash game, which they hoped would give average citizens an idea of how difficult balancing the federal budget actually is. The game was released in 2011, and can be played here. The army also sponsors the Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge, which is designed to showcase the use of virtual worlds in education.

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