2013-09-16-educade
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Thumb_tony-wan-beanie Tony Wan ·

When to Teach Physics with ‘Angry Birds’

GameDesk’s ‘Educade’ lets teachers share lesson plans around games

You can design games around lessons. But can you design a lesson around a game?

That’s what GameDesk, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, wants to encourage with Educade, a new online portal where teachers (and yes, parents, too) can submit and share lesson plans around any game, from popular digital titles like Minecraft to such board game classics as Settlers of Catan. Users can filter searches by subjects, grade levels, games and platforms.

Games vary in nature, but lesson plans typically include learning objectives, standards alignment, and basic gameplay instruction along with basic information about costs, setup time, and required technology. Each lesson plan in Educade, says GameDesk CEO Lucien Vattel, is aligned with Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, or 21st century skills. Some, like this lesson on terminal velocity using Portal 2, or the physics behind Angry Birds, outline in fine detail the sequence of activities and questions teachers can use in a class. Others are more open-ended and open to interpretation.

Vattel believes Educade can help small developers from the research and non-profit sectors by spotlighting their work. “One of the problems we ran into while creating our own games was marketing,” he says. “Grants often do not not allow for marketing budgets, which means a lot of people are creating great work can’t spend any money on getting the word out.”

Vattel first gave the public a sneak peek of Educade this summer at ISTE, where he says more than 2,000 people signed up during the conference. He also held sessions to help game vendors and developers post their own products on Educade. “We didn’t want to have to find all the resources ourselves,” he says. 

The site currently has over 1,000 resources, including games, lesson plans and a host of apps and websites. Teachers and game developers can submit a lesson or a game (or both) via a template.

Submissions are vetted by an in-house team of learning scientists, content specialists and instructional designers. “One of the vetting rules for lesson plans and new games is the quality of discourse,” Vattel explains. “We spend a lot of time looking at how much effort or intent is put into the writing.”

His team is still figuring out the best way to surface quality lesson plans. “We don’t know yet what the algorithm is between community voting and internal voting,” Vattel says. “This is something we’ll find out as part of our first year of discovery.”

Educade is supported by AT&T, which provided a $3.8 million grant to Gamedesk in May 2012 through its Aspire Initiative to support educational causes.


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