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Technology + Online + Industry + Partnerships

Putting Their Game Faces On

Microsoft Research and NYU set out to find hard proof of the efficacy of gaming in education.

In BriefCAN GAMING TRULY IMPROVE EDUCATION? Microsoft Research and New York University have teamed up to find the answer to that question, announced Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft, during an Oct. 7 visit to NYU. The two organizations have partnered with a number of New York-based universities to launch the Games for Learning Institute (G4LI), a research project that aims to provide scientific evidence showing that computer games can be successful learning tools.

“While educational games are commonplace, little is known about how, why, or even if they are effective,” said John Nordlinger, senior research manager for Microsoft Research's gaming efforts, in a statement. According to Nordlinger, the institute “will address these questions from a multidisciplinary angle, exploring what makes certain games compelling and playable, and what elements make them effective, providing critically important information to researchers, game developers, and educators to support a new era of using games for educational purposes.”

Microsoft Research, NYU, and their university partners have invested a combined $3 million to fund the G4LI for its first three years. The institute will be located at NYU and directed by Ken Perlin, professor of computer science for NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and founding director of the Media Research Laboratory at NYU. Jan Plass, associate professor of educational communication and technology at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, will serve as Perlin's co-director.

In its first phase, the G4LI will focus on evaluating computer and video games as potential learning tools in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for students in grades 6 through 8. The institute chose to focus on middle school because it is “a critical stage for students, a time when many are introduced to advanced math and science concepts,” said Perlin in a statement. Eventually, the institute aims to expand its research to cover all of K-12.

The G4LI has already begun preliminary research, and plans to evaluate game prototypes, introduce them to a network of 19 New York City schools, and track the results. Scientific results from the institute's research will be shared with educators, game developers, and other researchers.

For more information and updates on the G4LI, visit here.

FREE COURSES PROMOTE DATA QUALITY IN SCHOOLS

THE US DEPARTMENT of Education's National Forum on Education Statistics recently released the second of its two online courses aimed at improving the quality and management of data in K-12 schools.

The new course, Improving Education Data Part 2-- Coordinating Data Quality, focuses on the role of data coordinators in planning quality data initiatives for local education agencies. The eight lessons that comprise the course include information on data coordinator responsibilities, data flow and cycles, data entry, creation and use of a data dictionary, data calendar development, data errors, validation and audit of data, and communication.

Improving Education Data Part 1-- Creating a Foundation, the first of the two courses, was released this past spring. Its four lessons center on creating a culture for producing quality data, and include topics such as assessing your local education agency's data quality, classifying education data, and examining security and confidentiality.

The forum developed both courses in cooperation with three nonprofits dedicated to educational issues: the Schools Interoperability Framework Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit. The free courses are available here.

:: Awards and Contests

In Brief

LEFT TO RIGHT: Bill Goodwyn,
president, Discovery Education;
Melissa Rey, America's Top Young
Scientist; Edward Evans, America's
Top Science Teacher; Alex Cirillo,
vice president, community affairs
and 3M Foundation, 3M.

YOUNG SCIENTIST WINNERS ANNOUNCED. Discovery Education and 3M recently announced the winners of their Young Scientist Challenge, one of the country's leading science competitions for middle school students and their science teachers. Melissa Rey, from Chesterfield, MO, was selected as the grand-prize winner of the student competition, earning the title of America's Top Young Scientist and $50,000 in US savings bonds. Edward Evans, from Welch, WV, was named America's Top Science Teacher, winning $5,000 in cash, a Discovery Education multimedia service suite, and a number of 3M products.

MA DISTRICT HONORED FOR COST AND ENERGY SAVINGS. Energy Education, a national energy conservation company, has awarded Taunton Public Schools (MA) with its Energy Excellence Award. The district earned the honor by achieving more than $1 million in cost savings in less than three years since forming an alliance with the company. Energy Education, which has worked with more than 900 educational organizations across the US, trained Taunton personnel on how to reduce energy consumption, an effort that saved the district money and ultimately resulted in a bigger district budget for educational resources.

:: Industry News

FREE E-RATE CALENDAR AVAILABLE. To help schools keep up with fluctuating E-Rate deadlines, Funds for Learning (www.fundsforlearning.com), an E-Rate compliance services firm, is offering a free online E-Rate calendar. The calendar notes events and deadlines related to the federal E-Rate program, and can be integrated with Google, Mac, and Windows calendar applications. To subscribe to the Funds for Learning E-Rate calendar, visit here.

SCIENTIFIC LEARNING JOINS LITERACY PROJECT. Scientific Learning, an educational software company, announced it has joined Google's Literacy Project, an academic resource for teachers and literacy organizations. The project's website includes books, scholarly articles, videos, projects, blogs, groups, and a customized search engine to find literacy-related documents on the web. Scientific Learning will donate to the project its BrainApps brain fitness exercises for K-12 students, videos, and lesson plans. The project's other partners include LitCam and UNESCO's Institute for Lifelong Learning.

THINKRONIZE RELEASES SAFE SEARCH INDEX. Thinkronize has released its annual Top 100 Educational Safe Search Index to recognize school districts that kept student internet searches safe during the 2007-2008 school year. The districts were ranked according to the number of safe searches their students performed on Thinkronize's NetTrekker d.i. educational search tool, and were broken down by district size. For the second straight year, Forsyth County Schools in Georgia was ranked the top large-sized district, with more than 7 million safe searches. Missouri's Blue Springs School District topped the midsized districts with 2,615,184 safe searches, while DuPage County School District in Illinois lead the small-sized districts with 629,401 safe searches. The winners received prize packages including professional development workshops and premium NetTrekker d.i. products.

LODESTAR PARTNERS WITH EFOLIOWORLD. LodeStar Learning has announced a new deal with eFolioWorld. The company will integrate its electronic-learning authoring suite, LodeStar, with the eFolioWorld electronic portfolio system, a hosted portfolio system developed jointly by ed tech provider Avenet Web Solutions and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. The LodeStar authoring suite is designed to allow both K-12 and postsecondary educators to create web-based educational activities that can be accessed through a learning management system or via external sites. Through the new partnership, these tools have been reconfigured so that they can be integrated within the eFolioWorld environment.

FETC 2009 REGISTRATION OPEN. Educators can now register to attend FETC 2009. The ed tech conference, one of the nation's largest, will run Jan. 21-24 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, and will feature workshops and exhibits from leaders in education technology. See the FETC website and the brochure included with this issue for more information.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2008 issue of THE Journal.

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