Why Schools Should Embrace Gaming Technology

The current structure of our public school system has lead us to a point where both students and teachers are under-performing, and technology will need to play a major role in reinvigorating our schools.

Joel Klein, former Chancellor of the New York City School System, in his recent Atlantic piece explored the crippling inefficiencies of the public school system and how student engagement, test scores and graduation rates suffer as a result. Gaming technology holds the potential to recaptivate students and help teachers who are stretched too thin ensure that each student is receiving personalized attention and absorbing the lessons at hand.

Others are also seeing the huge potential for the gamification of education. Last week, researchers at New Media Consortium (NMC) in collaboration with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), released “2011 Horizon Report K-12 Edition.” The report explores six technologies – including gaming — that are poised to have a massive impact on education in the near term, midterm and long term. Gaming is by no means a new concept—I grew up playing Math Blasters and Oregon Trail–but new technology enables game development that is well positioned to transform education in an extremely positive way.

Of course, gamification and personalization make the learning process more engaging for students. SokiKom, a startup I met at the ASU Summit, builds a social learning math game so that students in grades 1-6 collaborate with and compete against their classmates as they learn. The School of One pilot program in New York City implements performance-based learning technology which tailors lessons to individual student needs–the student progresses at they rate that he or she can complete increasingly difficult questions. Because these games gather data on individual student learning patterns, teachers are able to leverage the same classroom gaming technology to better assess student understanding instead of relying solely on tests, which measure only correct answers. As a result, students remain engaged and teachers are better equipped to address individual student needs, which is especially advantageous for teachers managing large classes where individual student attention can be nearly impossible. The same data can also help schools, districts and states make better informed decisions when assessing which programs require the most aid.

Additionally, earlier this year, the Obama Administration endorsed the Common Core Standards. Where previously student performance goals were determined on a state-by-state basis, now 44 states have adopted CCS, which establishes common aptitude levels for grades K-12. CCS allows student performance to be easily compared between states and aggregated to the national level as well. Games that leverage cloud technology and are backed by sophisticated analytics could provide the accessibility and data collection necessary to help districts and states excel in the face of CCS.

There is absolutely a growing interest in the educational game space: just this spring, MindSnacks closed a $1.2 million round of funding and Bill Gates invested $7.7 million in educational video games and game tools—I think we’re about to see the industry really take off.

Andrew Grauer is CEO of Course Hero, an open education environment connecting students and teachers around the world. Follow him on Twitter @coursehero or email him at agrauer @ coursehero.com.