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Friday, March 27, 2015

Can Games Teach? Big Players Say Yes

For some, “educational games” mean the simple types that teach counting to preschoolers or vocabulary words to fourth-graders. They have a hard time seeing how computerized gamification, currently a flame-hot academic trend, can lend itself to serious learning for older students.

A couple of heavy hitters in the education world are betting on gaming to help high-schoolers build math and science skills. With funding from the Gates Foundation, the MIT Education Arcade collaborated with Filament Games to create the Radix Endeavor, a multiplayer online game that sneaks in lessons about biology, geometry, algebra, probability, and statistics while students explore a mysterious island world and save its people from destruction.

The game has the look and feel of something students might play on their Xbox or PlayStation. Through their on-screen avatars, players must work together to gather and process information and come up with solutions to help the island’s inhabitants.

The Radix Endeavor is still in development, although it recently won a 2015 Cool Tool Award from EdTech Digest in the new product/service category. Currently, the developers are piloting a free version of the game to monitor how students interact with it, what they actually learn from the instruction, and whether gaming can be implemented in a classroom environment. Teachers can set up an account at no charge for their classes to try it out.

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