Video Games in the Classroom

Child using computer

The education industry, a sector of the economy as large as the pharmaceutical industry, spends just 0.1% on research and development efforts -- an amount that Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the Department of Education, said was dwarfed by the R&D spending of the potato chip industry.  I hope she was kidding, but I fear she was not.

This was just one of the striking comments made by panelists at The Atlantic’s Technologies in Education Forum in Washington, D.C. to discuss video games, STEM education, and the future of the American classroom.

In an attempt to drive innovation in the educational space, President Obama’s FY2012 budget proposed the investment of $90 million to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED).  Karen Cator explained ARPA-ED will really focus on projects with the potential to power up the educational space, using video games and other technologies in the classroom.

While panelists conceded that the creation of more than just “one killer app” was necessary to achieve widespread video game utilization in the classroom, winners of the National STEM Video Game Challenge presented educational video games with a promising chance of going viral and achieving this goal.

Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, announced the winners of the National STEM Video Game Challenge with much fanfare, and a video featuring the next generation of video game developers which left audience members with warm fuzzy feelings inside. (Watch it on YouTube.)

The game You Make Me Sick! was awarded the Grand Prize in the Developer Prize category, and a math games called NumberPower:  Numbaland! received both the Collegiate prize and the Impact prize, which is a the prize awarded to the best video game focused on reaching underserved populations.

Sarah Russell is a research assistant at The Stern Group in Washington, D.C.