Get great games into schools

I’ve repeatedly said that games are not going to save neither the world nor education.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t think games can be very relevant and valuable in schools.

They most certainly can.

It only means that they shouldn’t be considered anything but a little piece of the big educational puzzle – how do we create more meaningful education, that empower kids to change the world?

When looking at the big, sprawling field of “games & learning”, many of the most interesting tendencies are tied to games that are not “learning games”. They’re “just” great games:

Civilization.

The Walking Dead.

Minecraft.

Sim City.

Portal 2.

Gone Home.

None of these games are developed to support the formal learning goals in education, and they don’t do so if all you do is play the game (no games or media do that, by the way).

The secret behind the use of these “entertainment games” in school is deceptively simple, as it’s (in almost every case) initiated by great teachers performing creative experiments (which is also, incidentally, the only way I see real change happening in education).

I’m fortunate enough to know a fair share of these amazing teachers, in Denmark and around the world, who are constantly in the midst of these experiments, and who are consequently huge sources of inspiration.

One of the issues all of these teachers are trying to solve and one of the big barriers for “games in schools” (but far from the only one, mind you) is getting access to the games.

It’s currently quite the undertaking to A) find relevant games and B) acquire the relevant licenses for students, and there’s no one way of going about it. Often teachers engaged in this are simply playing games themselves and either buying “deals” (e.g. in Steam sales or in the Humble Bundle) or using their own or students’ copies of the game. Some go the extra mile and initiate a conversation with the developer, who actually more often than not are willing to make a particularly good deal or even give away their games for free (major props to any developer supporting the use of games in schools like that).

While I salute the effort of these passionate teachers, I can’t help but wonder:

Wouldn’t it be better, if teachers could focus on what they love more than anything: teaching?

I have actually written about exactly this issue before, but maybe this is a better moment in time?

What we need is something along these lines:

A central hub/website, where great games are curated based on their potential use in education, and where cheap and easy access to school licenses are readily available in a flexible way.

These licenses should be negotiated with the developers, who will probably have to be interested in partly sponsoring games to schools. They would gain access to a new market (education), create awareness and build massive goodwill (more about this in the old post).

The actual initiative behind the effort could be a new, independent non-profit, or it could be affiliated with existing initiatives:

I think it’s important that any initiative in this direction should be a non-profit, as it’s not about making more money off of other people’s games.

It’s about providing access for teachers. That goal should be completely clear.

I don’t know if I should really get involved in something like this (I did say I’d talk less about games), but if that’s what’s needed to make it move forward, I’ll make myself available.

Who wants to talk about the idea?

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