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MADISON, Wis. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Educational Psychology has teamed up with the UW Systems Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab
to create new worlds in which people can learn by exploring and doing.
"The Department's Learning Sciences Program
studies how human beings learn best," said James Gee
, professor in UW-Madison's School of Education. "We have made digital learning technologies, which include video games, one focal point of that program."
The Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab, established in January 2000, specializes in competency-based modules for worldwide learning that can be utilized anytime and anywhere in the classroom, in the field and online.
"The Co-Lab makes products and delivers goods; the education department is strong in building theory and research models," Gee said. "We are now meeting regularly to meld our two cultures and marry an interest in e-technology whether it's e-learning, distance learning or video games. Once this is accomplished, we will seek funding for projects, some of which will be using video games for learning."
According to Gee, there is a massive growing interest in using video games for learning throughout the nation. A new international consortium, the Education Arcade, made up of game designers, publishers, scholars, educators and policy makers includes UW-Madison faculty. Consortia members are exploring the educational frontiers that have been opened by computers and video games.
"My colleague and consortium director, Kurt Squire
, probably the world's leading video game scholar, has been a key player in shaping the vision and research of this new consortium and will be a member of the Co-Lab partnership," Gee said.
Over the past few years, weve seen digital games really starting to come of age, and their impact is being felt across society from health care to the military to the arts, and hopefully, to education and learning, explains Squire, an assistant professor of educational technology at UW-Madison. Our partnership with the Co-Lab gives us a unique opportunity to sit at the nexus of academia, government, the military and private industry. Just as digital technologies are revolutionizing these other institutions, we hope that we will also see some positive impact on public education in Wisconsin.
"The Co-Lab partnership is not just an academic program, " Gee said, "but one that will benefit the military, businesses and the State of Wisconsin."
According to Gee, the military is the biggest user of video games and simulations; the Army uses both for training its employees and its soldiers. Also, and very importantly, the Army has stressed that the gamers must work collaboratively in teams. Through video games and simulations, persons not only learn to use new technologies but also how to network. "This characteristic of video gaming is very attractive to businesses," Gee said. "Modern work places necessitate that employees work in teams and network with tools and technologies in an integrated system."
In summary, Gee believes e-learning via video games and simulations has many opportunities for the university's research initiatives and the state's businesses. "The states that do not invest in emerging digital technologies for learning will be left behind the learning curve."
Gee, is the Tashia Morgridge Professor of Reading in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the UW-Madison. He has authored several books, including "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy."
Squire is a visiting research Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Also, he is the co-director of The Education Arcade consortium, a research and service project investigating the educational potential of digital gaming.