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Math and Biology Lessons To Go Massively Multiplayer and Online in MIT Project

An MIT research team that explores the value of learning through games has just received a $3 million boost to create an MMOG--a massively multiplayer online game--specifically to teach math and biology to high schoolers. The MIT Education Arcade received the three-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a game that aligns with the Common Core standards in mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards for high school students.

The initiative is being led by Eric Klopfer, who directs the Education Arcade as well as MIT's Scheller Teacher Education Program. The associate professor is no stranger to game-making. He's behind the creation of StarLogo TNG, a platform for helping kids create 3-D simulations and games using a graphical programming language, as well as several mobile game platforms.

The latest endeavor will be designed as an MMOG, a genre of online games in which many players' avatars interact and cooperate or compete against each other in the same virtual world. "This genre of games is uniquely suited to teaching the nature of science inquiry, because they provide collaborative, self-directed learning situations," Klopfer said. "Players take on the roles of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians to explore and explain a robust virtual world."

The game will have task-based assessments embedded into it to provide opportunities for players to show their mastery of relevant topics and skills. Those same assessments will provide teachers with data for tracking student progress.

The content team will work with a Wisconsin-based game studio, Filament Games, to build the software. Filament specializes exclusively in creating learning games.

The team says they expect a pilot to begin in spring 2012 among a small number of Boston-area teachers and students. By the end of the project, the team plans to have 10,000 users nationwide.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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