Students regularly turn to games for fun after school. But the wall between games and the classroom has been thinning in recent years. Now, researchers are helping to develop games to help young players become better students.
The University of Southern California (USC) and its partners are launching a new project on this topic, funded by a $2.7 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The funding will fuel the development of a digital game created to improve the "identity-based motivation" of students in middle and high school to become better learners.
In a news release, USC Dean’s Professor Daphna Oyserman said the project will reinforce the effects of action and consequence, "making the future feel relevant and connected with the present."
“We are excited about figuring out how to harness student motivation to improve success not through good intentions alone but by taking the time to carefully test the conditions in which an innovation works,” said Oyserman. “Our short-term goal is to improve academic outcomes; in the long run, the project should create a larger cohort of students ready for the next step—college and beyond.”
The game will be developed by Filament Games, a Wisconsin–based studio that specializes in creating learning games for schools. Fossil Forensics and The Counting Kingdom are two of the company’s products.
“We couldn’t be more excited to explore the intersection of games and identity for this project, particularly because research shows that identity immersion is one of the greatest strengths of game-based learning," said Filament's CEO Dan White in the news release.
Universities have been studying the effects of gaming for years. In 2014, researchers at MIT’s s Center for Collective Intelligence launched a study to measure behavioral data from players of “League of Legends,” one of the most popular online games, to better understand collaboration dynamics. The institute’s MIT Game Lab, a research and development laboratory that studies and creates games, has become a thriving hub of innovative game-based analysis.
Universities have also been infusing classrooms with game-based learning as a way to increase engagement. However, gamification fell off the list of growing trends in New Media Consortium’s 2015 Horizon Report for K–12 after the consortium’s CEO said the concept was difficult to institutionalize across several districts.