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Study recommends fix to digital disconnect in US education and workforce training

Features of video and computer games teach skills in demand by present-day employers

Groundbreaking recommendations calling on government, educators, and business' to develop comprehensive strategies to use video games to strengthen U.S. education and workforce training will be released at a press briefing today, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced.

The action plan identifies steps that the federal government, industry and education community can take to develop a comprehensive strategy to take advantage of the features of video games to address the increasing demand for high quality education and training, and commercialize educational games to help students and workers attain globally competitive skills in demand by employers.

"Many recent reports warning about declining U.S. competitiveness point to an urgent need to improve workforce skills and our system of education," said Henry Kelly, FAS President. "Video games are engaging and can teach higher order skills, and they are especially attractive to today's young digital natives who have grown up with digital technology. This plan outlines concrete actions we can take to put powerful tools for teaching and learning in the hands of educators and students at a time when the need for education improvement is great."

America's position in the world is increasingly dependent on its standing in the technological field. Summit participants agreed that features of video and computer games can make learning more effective and accessible by teaching players higher-order learning skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change – all skills very much in demand from present day employers.

"These findings communicate what we in the video game industry have known for years – that video games can make a significant contribution to educating our kids, enriching learning, and to preparing the workforce required for the high tech digital economy of today and tomorrow," said Doug Lowenstein, president of the ESA, the trade group representing U.S. computer and video games. "Video games are more than just great entertainment, they're having a positive impact on kids and adults alike in fields from education to health care, from the military to the workplace. We are grateful to the Federation of American Scientists for conducting this important study and look forward to working with them to implement the recommendations."

The US spends about $700 billion on elementary through post-secondary education, and billions more on workforce training. Yet little is spent on R&D to improve the productivity and effectiveness of learning, and despite the potential of educational games, the digital technology has not been adopted by mainstream education or training industries. FAS calls for government research dollars to stimulate the experiments and developments needed to make breakthroughs in educational games and simulations, and to support meaningful evaluations of their efficacy.

The action plan is based on deliberations from the National Summit on Educational Games held on 25 October 2005 in Washington, D.C. The Summit brought together more than 100 experts to examine how to harness the power of video games for learning. Participants included executives from the video gaming industry and educational software publishers, researchers and experts on technology and pedagogy, game developers, representatives of user communities such as teachers and the U.S. military, R&D funders, and government policy makers. The Summit was sponsored by FAS, ESA, and the National Science Foundation. The report is believed to be the first time that U.S. business, education and government policy leaders have endorsed a comprehensive plan to address the future of American education and training.

Monica Amarelo | EurekAlert!
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