Valve is a company who are in the business of making games. They are well known in the gaming community, having had a lot of success with titles such as the Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead, and Portal. Valve has recently launched an exciting initiative, in its STEAM for SCHOOLS program. To provide a bit of context, Steam is software (developed by Valve) that allows consumers to purchase, download, and launch games. STEAM for SCHOOLS puts an educational spin on this idea, by providing content that is suitable for education, whilst removing content that is not relevant to the education experience.
Valve is launching the service by utilising one of their most popular games to date, Portal 2. Portal 2 (and its predecessor, Portal) is a non-violent game, which received a lot of critical acclaim for providing a high level of entertainment, whilst encouraging its audience to use logic and problem-solving skills. Valve and the online teaching community take the learning aspect one step further, by creating lesson plans based on Portal 2. Some lesson plans, already available here, include lessons on: Spacial Visualisation and Perspectives, Gravity, Terminal Velocity, Influence of Setting on Characters, and The Conservation of Momentum.
STEAM for SCHOOLS is in beta, so at the moment you’ve got to apply to try and join the program. Further information can be found here. Once you’re a member, you get free access to Portal 2, a level editor for Portal 2, along with user-created levels.
Personally I think this is a great initiative. We all know that technology is developing at a rapid pace and it can be difficult to engage students, in the classroom, at the same level that they’re interacting with technology in their homes. I can’t think of a better way to achieve that level of engagement than by trying to use a popular and award-winning game for educational purposes! Of course Portals 2 isn’t going to be ideal for every classroom, but I do look forward to seeing what the future of this initiative comes up with.
What do you think? Is this a genuine way teachers can capture students attention, whilst educating them? Or is this simply a way that a gaming company can get some free advertising with teachers and students alike?
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