Blog: The Educated Reporter

Gaming: The Future of School Assessments?

This week we’re catching up with sessions from EWA’s National Seminar, held at Stanford University. Today’s guest blogger is Caitlin Fertal of (Willoughby, Ohio) News-Herald.  Stream any session from National Seminar in your browser, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

While video games might seem out-of-place in the education world, some innovators actually are looking at gaming as the future of assessment in schools.

During a session at EWA’s National Seminar, Girlie Delacruz — a senior researcher at the University of California in Los Angeles’ National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) — shared her experiences of working in the field with software developers to create games specifically designed to assess a child’s academic skill levels.

Creating these assessment-based games requires specific data and crystal-clear communication between developers and educators, Delacruz said. Defining the intent of the game/assessment is critical to its success. Rather than simply stating that the goal is to teach the student math or reading, she said the overall idea should be more comparable to teaching the child how to think.

Developers then have to transform that technical input into an experience that is entertaining and engaging for kids.

“Take the Common Core State Standards and turn them into things that look like that,” Delacruz suggested as she showed a slide of cartoon video-game characters. “That’s no easy task; I feel sorry for you.”

But just because the material itself may be very straightforward doesn’t mean the games have to be rigid, she said. There’s still room for creativity.

The commonalities between gaming and learning are what make it natural to put the two together, said Michael John of GlassLab, an extensive partnership between gaming and education companies.

“The love of gaming is very similar to the love of learning,” John said.

Kids already learn much more from games than many adults may think, John asserted, pointing to the popular Sims video games. For example, he then read a comment from a 12-year-old child who had played the game: “I learned to make decisions when there are people on both sides of a conflict,” John noted.

“All of these very agreed upon understandings around how learning occurs can be identified in video games,” John said. “A well-constructed game makes people care a lot about what happens; we can leverage that.”

While gaming may be the future of assessment, widespread use is still effectively a few years off. John said the technology exists in the gaming world right now and developers are ready to create.

Girlie noted that schools need to upgrade their own technology to be able to support such assessments in the future.