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Foundations Go For Gaming

Can digital media and video games boost student learning? Two major education foundations — the  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the foundation associated with Pearson, the giant textbook and school technology company — clearly think so. On April 27, the pair announced a $20 million effort to create online reading, math, and science courses aligned with common academic standards that 42 states and the District of Columbia have adopted in the past year.

The 24 new courses will use video, interactive software, games, social media and other digital materials to present math lessons for kindergarten through 10th grade and English lessons for kindergarten through 12th grade, the New York Times reported.  Pearson, which is writing the courses, will make four available at no cost for schools so educators will see the power of new instructional approaches to teaching the new standards.

Grant winners include the Florida Virtual School, which will receive $2 million to develop two math and two language arts classes. Quest Atlantis will receive $2.6 million to develop math, English, and science-focused video games while the Institute of Play will receive $2.5 million to develop teaching tools and game-design curricula.

In addition, a $2 million grant to Educurious Partners will help develop high school courses in biology, freshman literature, and Algebra I using a project-based learning design and incorporating a social network Internet application. These include two literacy-based and two math-based courses that are contextualized within disciplines, such as engineering or writing in the natural sciences.

The new digital materials, said Gates foundation education director Vicki Phillips, “have the potential to fundamentally change the way students and teachers interact in the classroom.” Tweet that, Angry Birds!

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