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Videogames and Learning

Michael Trucano's picture

playing to learn?Not a week goes by where I don't receive an unsolicited email from a company touting the benefits of its new 'educational videogame'. Indeed, just last week I opened my inbox to find two separate emails proclaiming how two different mobile gaming apps were destined to "transform learning!!!" Now, in a lot of the cases, I must confess that I am not always sure why something is an 'educational game', and not just a 'game' (although if I am in a difficult mood, I might offer that in too many instances an 'educational game' is 'a game that really isn't much fun'). That said, there is no denying that videogames are big business around the world. So -- increasingly -- is education. Even most people who fear that potential negative effects of some (or even most) videogames on young people would, at the same time, acknowledge the promise and potential for videogames to offer enriching learning experiences. The history of the introduction of educational technologies is in many ways long on promise and potential, however, and short on actual evidence of how they impact learning in tangible and fundamental ways.

Much is made of the potential for ICTs to be used to promote more personalized learning experiences through the introduction of various types of ICT-enabled assessment systems. For me, it has long seemed like the most powerful real-time learning assessment engines have been found in videogames, where actions (or inactions) are often met with near instantaneous responses, to which the player is then challenged to respond in turn. This feedback loop -- taking an action, being presented with information as a result, having to synthesize and analyze this information and doing something as a result -- might meet some people's definition of 'learning'. A good videogame engages its users so strongly that they are willing to fail, and fail, and fail again, until they learn enough from this failure that they can proceed with the game. Even where educational software is not explicitly labeled as a 'game', designers are increasingly introducing game-like elements (badges, achievement bonuses, scoring systems) as a way to promote user (learner? player?) engagement as part of a process known as 'gamification'.

The use of videogames for educational purposes, or at least in educational contexts, is far from an OECD or U.S. phenomenon. Whether I am visiting a school computer lab after hours in central Russia, an Internet cafe filled with students in Indonesia or standing behind some schoolgirls carrying phones between classes in Tanzania, 'educational' videogames seem to be nearly everywhere. Past posts on the EduTech blog have profiled things like the use of video games on mobile phones to promote literacy in rural India and EVOKE, an online game for students across Africa which the World Bank helped sponsor a few years ago. When I speak with young software entrepreneurs in Nairobi or Accra or Manila, they often talk excitedly about the latest educational game they are developing (for markets local and distant).

Do educational games 'work'?
Are they 'effective'?
And if so: How can they be used in schools?

Questions such as these are of increasing interest to scholars. Given both their potential for learning, and how aggressively videogames are being marketed to many education systems, they should be of increasing interest to educational policymakers as well. Some recent research brings us a little closer to a time when we can answer some of them.

New Pledges Expand GAFSP's Food Security Work in World's Poorest Countries

Rachel Kyte's picture

When you want to put money, ideas, innovation, and hard work together to increase food security, there’s nowhere better than the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program – GAFSP.

Don’t just believe me. Listen to the Rwandan farmers whose now-terraced hillsides are getting higher yields, producing better nutrition, and improving their livelihoods.

Similar stories can be told in Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, and elsewhere.

Japan and the Republic of Korea are among those convinced that GAFSP is a good investment in food security. Inspired by a challenge from the Unites States, Japan and South Korea just pledged an additional $60 million to GAFSP at a meeting in Tokyo held in conjunction with the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings.

The United States announced that it was prepared to contribute an additional $1 to GAFSP for every $2 contributed by other donors, up to a total of $475 million.

Why is GAFSP so successful?

The Art of the Posse-able

Michael Green's picture

If you want a model for how the world can solve its most pressing problems in the 21st Century, it is the posse. As governance systems go, the Wild West approach of rounding up a few available hands and driving the bad guy out of town is certainly messy, but, if our favourite westerns are any guide, it could be highly effective. Political theorists who can see the potential dress it up in highfalutin’ language as "coalitions of the willing" and governance based on "flexible geometry", but we prefer to call it what it is: a posse. And this week, in New York, we are going to see plenty of evidence of why, increasingly, solving global problems is all about the art of the posse-able.

Teachers Need Incentives, But Also Better Tools

Emiliana Vegas's picture

Bill Gates has the right ideaIn his 2010 Annual Letter for his foundation, Bill Gates highlighted the need to focus on “helping teachers improve." While many continue to advocate for increased accountability and incentives for teachers, he mentions the need to provide teachers with more and better information on their performance. As he puts it:

“It is amazing how little feedback teachers get to help them improve, especially when you think about how much feedback their students get."

 

What Are We Doing?

Many of us who work on research and policy advice for developing countries are constantly reminding governments of the need to assess student performance, to improve mechanisms to reward effective teachers and remove those who are not so effective, and to provide information to parents and communities about school quality.

One more promise kept: the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

Fionna Douglas's picture

Launch of Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

A remarkable thing happened at the US Treasury in DC today; the United States, Canada, Spain, South Korea and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to pool resources, and as Bill Gates described it, “put small holder farmers, especially women, front and center” of a new multilateral agriculture and food security program. The Gates Foundation will contribute $30 million.

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) will focus on increasing agricultural productivity and linking farmers to markets. A special feature of the program is the focus on country ownership that puts countries in the driver’s seat.

The GAFSP was created in response to a call from G20 leaders last year for the World Bank to work with interested donor to set up a multi-donor trust fund to implement some of the $22 billion in pledges made by the G8 leaders at L’Aquila, Italy.