Parents everywhere know that few things are as frustrating as seeing their children getting sucked into video games and social networking. Technology appears to take over their kids' lives, while the parents are left forlornly wondering how their offspring will ever get the grades they need to get a good start to adulthood.
Why not incorporate education into these things? To use a couple of clichés: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, or, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade [insert groan here]. Anyway, if there's anyone who lives these clichés, it's Bill Gates, so it's little wonder that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are the ones who are putting over $20 million into - you guessed it - educational video games and social networking tools. And digital curricula, and embedded assessments.
The money is going to a dozen organizations that have developed innovative ways to educate kids through technology, in line with the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative - a set of English Language Arts and Mathematics standards that have been adopted by 42 states to-date.
A bunch of the money is going to boring stuff like curriculum development and assessment - which is all very noble, but if you want to know more, look it up on your own time. The interesting stuff is the games and social networking. So let's have a quick look at that:
- Digital Youth Network is getting $2.6 million to develop their iRemix social learning network;
- Institute of Play receives $2.5 million to build more game-based teaching tools;
- Quest Atlantis have another $2.6 million to spend on creating even better 3D multi-user video games that surreptitiously teach you things like math, literacy and science. (Shhhhh); and
- Next Generation Learning Challenges, "a collaborative, multi-year grant program aimed at dramatically increasing college readiness and completion through applied technology," receives $10 million "to support promising technology-enabled programs" to help students master their studies.
So, next time you see your child playing games or chatting to friends online, you can rest assured with the knowledge that they might actually be learning something.
Who are these organizations? Well, here's one of them: