Skip to main content

Educational Video Games: No Longer a Contradiction

by Claire Watry, Terra Linda HS

The definition of a video game according to Merriam-Webster is: an electronic game played by means of images on a video screen and often emphasizing fast action. The definition does include the phrases “must contain violence,” “must be uneducational” or “guaranteed to turn children into zombies.” Video games are often stigmatized as a waste of time, and few realize that video games can actually be educational and help children’s learning rather than hindering it. With proper implementation, educational video games have the potential to transform traditional education and propel students into high-profile jobs in the tech-savvy world.

Video games are an innovative way to engage students in science. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution experimented with alternative methods of teaching science and created the video game Vanished where students are presented with the scenario that in the future all historical records are destroyed, and are asked by the people of the future to investigate the causes of this catastrophe by researching and recording data about present-day Earth. The game incorporates problem-solving and analytical skills in an interactive way of exploring science in the hopes that science is seen as an “engaging process of mystery and discovery” rather than the sadly common perception that is a boring process full of memorization. Vanished gives the students a hands-on experience by requiring them to go out into their neighborhoods to research and record what they experience instead of  just memorizing vocabulary and looking up the answers on the internet. Although the trial run of Vanished is over, researchers hope to use the game as a model to create interactive educational tools for teaching science.

A leader in the use of education video games in the classroom is the Redwood-City-based GlassLab (Games, Learning, and Assessment Lab). The goal of the video games is to engage the students in an interactive manner and stimulate their interest in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). For their first project, GlassLab took the commercially-successful SimsCity video game and modified it to be educational. The science-based video game titled SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge! challenges middle-school students to run a successful town by considering the environmental impacts their actions have while maintaining employment levels and citizen happiness. For example, in the game a city will run out of electricity and the students must then solve the issue and return power to the city. The video game engages the students’ critical thinking and allows them to gain valuable insight into real world problems and potential solutions. The game follows lesson plans and assesses the students’ progress by tracking their progression through the various scenarios. Check out the video below to learn more about SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge!.

For more information about GlassLab visit

Learn more about educational gaming at "The Making of an App—The First Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game" with David Fox, of Electric Eggplant, Marin County -Wednesday, September 25th, 2013, 7:30 - 8:30 pm, Terra Linda High School, San Rafael, Room 207.


Claire Watry

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Bacteria, Botulism, and Beauty

--> By Talya Klinger, MSS Intern
What do foodborne illnesses, neck dystonia treatments, and celebrities’ beauty regimens have in common? Clostridium botulinum, baratii, and other species of Clostridium bacteria produce all of the above and more. These seemingly innocuous, rod-shaped bacteria, commonly found in soil and in the intestinal tracts of fish and mammals, produce one of the most deadly biological substances: botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin that intercepts neurotransmitters and paralyzes muscles in the disease known as botulism. Nonetheless, botulinum toxin isn’t all bad: this chemical not only protects the bacteria from intense heat and high acidity, but it makes for an effective treatment for medical conditions as wide-ranging as muscle spasms, chronic migraines, and, yes, wrinkles. 

Clostridium botulinum and similar bacteria can make their way into the human body in a number of ways. Wounds infected with Clostridium botulinum or spores ingested by infants can lead to …

An Interview With Diara Spain, Ph.D

By Rachael Metzger, MSS Intern

Ocean acidification is an issue becoming apparent in the effects on both sea creatures and humans. Diara Spain, the Associate Professor of Biology at Dominican University, came to Marin Science Seminar to talk to us about her studies in marine invertebrates and the damage ocean acidification is causing them. 

To learn more about Diara Spain and what inspired her studies we conducted an interview:

1. How did you get interested in biology? Is there a time, event, 
or person in your life that inspired you to pursue the study? I've always been interested in biology, really science in general. I grew up in rural North Carolina and as a kid it was expected that you'd spend most of your free time outside playing with your friends and pets.  One thing that sparked my interest in marine organisms were the summer vacations at the undeveloped beaches in North Carolina. 
2. Why did you specifically decide to focus on functional morphology, locomotion in echinode…

Invention in Medicine this Wed. 10/26/16

Marin Science Seminar for Teens & Community Presents Invention in Medicine How Medical Devices get Invented and Go to Market with Art Wallace MD PhD of UCSF & VAMC SF
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 7:30 - 8:30 pm Terra Linda High School, Room 207 320 Nova Albion, San Rafael, CA 94903 

Art Wallace started out in experimental surgery and radiology studying imaging of the heart using CT
scanners. He has worked on a number of devices that originally were built for experimental studies that evolved into clinically useful devices including a cardiac output monitor, the off pump CABG, off pump aneurysm surgery, electronic sedation, and a selective coronary vasodialtor. Dr. Wallace will explain his experiences with the inventive process using examples from both device design and drug development. There will be a brief discussion of the importance of intellectual property, patents, venture capital, FDA approval, and business development in completing the invention process. There will …