MF: That's tough! Games are so versatile; they offer different value to different stakeholders. From a district and state perspective, though, I think the most compelling story is around the promise that games show as 21st century formative assessment tools. It's no secret that we need new and better ways to assess student outcomes. We all know one size does not fit all. Many times a multiple-choice question doesn't provide the kind of evidence of learning that educators need to inform their instruction. The gameplay data we're able to surface to students and teachers through our dashboards provide nuanced insights on student learning. That's an exciting prospect for educators looking to take it personalized instruction to the next level.
RB: I've always been a big believer in the approach that understanding what children like to do and then incorporating those elements into my approach with them. Is it a stretch to say that quality games provide a platform for students and adults to engage in meaningful discussion, problem solving and rapport building?
MF: It's not a stretch at all, but it is pretty early - at least in terms of digital games. Teachers have been using non-digital games to engage in meaningful discussion and deep problem solving for literally centuries. Digital games absolutely can be a bridge into much deeper learning, but it will take more than interest to do that on a grand scale. The first challenge was to get games to be generally accepted pedagogical resources. Check. The second challenge is to make games a generally adopted pedagogical resource. We're definitely on the path.
With greater adoption will come innovative ways of using games to deepen the classroom experience and enrich the learner-educator relationship. There are definitely teachers out there who embrace this idea, but it's not mainstream yet. Once it is, though, teachers will begin talking to each other about how to utilize games to their fullest potential. That is the shift we are looking for - the move from "How do I implement..." to "How do I make the most of..."
RB: Where is game development taking place outside of the U.S. and are there regions, globally, that are tackling this more than others that we should be aware of?
MF: We're seeing widespread virtualization of teams across many parts of software development, and the highly specialized form of game design and product development needed to make effective learning games means that there isn't a geographic center for the work yet that we know of. Small, often distributed teams working together online are becoming the norm. Because of the innovative nature of the field, you see founders often located in major software areas like San Francisco and Seattle, but often their developers are far afield, even in other countries.
We're beginning to see a lot of collaboration between designers and founders in the US and software teams in South America, the UK, and eastern Europe. Balancing this is the tricky way that educational needs tend to be very regional -- which means there are efforts in China, Europe, and India bubbling up that we have little exposure to in the US.