Gaming in Education
Video Game Prepares Texas District for State Test
Austin Independent School District (AISD) in Texas is expanding the use of the DimensionM educational video games to seven middle schools and 15 charter schools. The expansion is part of an effort by the district to find innovative ways to help its students prepare for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) standardized test that all eighth-graders must pass in order to advance to the ninth grade.
The district said it based its decision on the results of a pilot test it ran last summer in a 10-day remedial course to help 350 eighth-grade students who had failed the math section of the TAKS for a third time. Students spent 30 minutes per day out of four hours class time playing the games, and teachers said the results were remarkable.
"We asked the impossible of Tabula Digita and its DimensionM games and they met and exceeded our expectations," said Norma Jost, secondary mathematics supervisor for AISD. "In just a few weeks time, they instructed our teachers on how to incorporate the games into the acceleration curriculum; students were given 30 minutes a day to play the games. What we saw next was amazing--our students were not only succeeding, but truly becoming interested in learning mathematics again."
DimensionM is a series of video games from software maker Tabula Digita designed to engage and excite students while educating them. Comparable to many games designed primarily for entertainment, they offer graphics, sound and sound effects, storylines, and multiple levels, but with the added component of middle school level math problems, including algebra, that challenge and test the players' skill and build understanding of the underlying mathematical concepts being presented.
"An important consideration in selecting the DimensionM gaming software for the pilot program," said Mary Thomas, who oversees state and federal accountability for the district, "was the mounting research showing that game-based learning is a highly successful 21st century teaching and learning tool for today's digitally-advanced students." Equally important, she noted, was its alignment to federal and state mathematics standards.
Finally, AISD took into account the students' own response to the games. In two surveys of the students in the summer mathematics prep course for the TAKS, 86 percent said they liked DimensionM and felt the games were helping them to improve their understanding of and performance in math.
Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.