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Educational Games are Now a “Hot Topic”

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I recently joined game developer Say Design as a full-time consultant, and one of my responsibilities is to help them expand their reach into the educational market. I actually began my career developing educational software, first as head of development for educational software publisher Edu-Ware Services and later starting my own company, Electric Transit, which developed serious games (long before they were called “serious games”). But that was many years ago, and I am very interested in learning about developments in the educational space since I last worked there.

Last week Say Design sent me to San Francisco to attend the “SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit, which describes itself as ” the nation’s leading education technology conference.” This year the conference’s focus on “Navigating Next”: review what’s coming next in the teaching and learning process in a post-PC world. The conference schedule identified the following as “hot topics” for this year: Game-Based Learning; Distribution and Implementation of Game-Based Learning; and Going Global, Going Mobile.

Towards the end of the conference, I attended the Education Technology Awards Luncheon, where awards were given out to educational technology innovations that were “most innovative” and “most likely to succeed.” To my surprise (although I voted for it), both awards were given out to a game — SimCEO, a multiplayer serious game that teaches kids how to run their own business.

Actually, the entire conference was a bit of a shock for me. Back in my Edu-Ware days, it was a tough sell getting our educational tutorials — let along educational games — into the school market; most of our sales were to home consumers. The problem back then was there were very few computers in schools. Few schools even had a computer lab, where teachers could take their class for an hour each week.

I credit the iPad for now getting schools to embrace educational software in general and game-based learning in particular. Schools across the nation are starting to bring the iPad and other tablets into the classroom, and they need content — both ebooks and elearning software — to integrate them into their curriculum.

I suspect I’m going to become very busy.