News Article

EDC Awarded $9.2 Million to Research Video Games for Teaching

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New York, NY: Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) has been awarded $9.2 million by the U.S. Department of Education to serve as a National R&D Center on Instructional Technology, investigating how video games can be used in middle school classrooms. EDC will develop and pilot-test a series of game modules-built to be used with the very popular Nintendo Dual-Screen (DS)-that capitalizes on youth's fascination with electronic games.

EDC's Center for Children and Technology in New York will collaborate with colleagues at EDC's Center for Science Education in Boston and game developers Electric Funstuff to develop and pilot-test a series of game modules that infuse inquiry-based game activities into traditional classroom practice for grade 7 science. Known as Super Sleuths, the modules will offer teachers and students in-depth explorations of scientific problems, countering students' scientific misconceptions, reading difficulties, and lack of motivation that often complicate science teaching.

"We see a lot of excitement around this technology for use in classrooms," says Shelley Pasnik, who directs EDC's Center for Children and Technology. "We see educational potential in the experience of gaming as students test strategies, discover mistakes and successes, and then use that experience to make progress," she said.

Each game module for Super Sleuths will open with an animated video featuring a scientific challenge or investigation. For instance, Organisms and Ecosystems may start with a natural disaster. Players may be assigned to teams where they work on extended problem-solving games that call on and build their scientific know-how.

In the process, students use the Nintendo DS as a combination portable lab, field notebook, scientific instrument, and communicator. The devices enable student groups to collect and analyze data and build hypotheses for solving problems posed by the unit. The games will also build literacy skills, with mini-games that ask students to discern word meanings from the context of a passage.

"The real potential of this kind of game is not so much in delivering content and facts as permitting the kind of inquiry-driven investigations that are difficult to accomplish in real life classrooms," says EDC's Cornelia Brunner.

"Our goal is to design an experience that not only motivates students and supports teachers in achieving their goals, but is a real product that can be flexibly implemented across a broad array of classrooms once the research phase is complete," said David Langendoen, a partner at Electric Funstuff.

Super Sleuths will undergo an extensive evaluation phase, tested in a variety of classroom settings. While the research focuses on 7th graders who are struggling academically, especially those in urban schools, EDC anticipates that the games and supporting materials will have broad application. In addition to designing and testing Super Sleuths, EDC will also be researching the effectiveness of the video games, with plans to share its development process and lessons learned with educators and game developers.

The new R&D center and its work are funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.

Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) is an international nonprofit organization that conducts and applies research to advance learning and promote health. Celebrating its 50th year, EDC creates and manages more than 300 projects in 35 countries. Visit

EDC's Center for Children and Technology (CCT) investigates the roles that technology can play in improving teaching and learning within children's classrooms, schools and communities. CCT designs and develops technology applications that support engaged, active learning and student-centered teaching practices. Our work seeks to inform stakeholders at across the educational system and shape programs and polices at the local, regional and national levels.

EDC's Center for Science Education (CSE) seeks to improve preK-12 science education by supporting school districts, state agencies, higher education institutions, science museums, and science centers. We specialize in the development and implementation of standards-based curriculum materials, offer high-quality professional development and technical support, and conduct comprehensive research and evaluation studies.

Electric Funstuff specializes in applying game design principles to a broad range of experiences, including formal and informal learning products as well as all forms of trans-media entertainment (web, desktop, console, print, mobile). Clients include Scholastic, McGraw-Hill, Channel 13 (WNET), Sony Online Entertainment, The Princeton Review, and Fisher-Price. EFS served as lead designer for Scholastic's ReadAbout reading comprehension program and are core consultants for Scholastic's Lab for Informal Learning.

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