Immersive Learning as the Educational Methodology for the 21st Century

Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. 

Benjamin Franklin found this statement true for himself, in his time.  Given the evolution of learning and how we process information in today’s day and age, what Ben Franklin said in the 1700’s is a profound message for how we learn and how we can teach in the 21st Century.   And we are fortunate that today we have a broader spectrum of tools which are accessible to a larger audience.

Immersive learning is the future.  It has always been the way human beings have learned best.  It happens that the evolution of education in the United States has distanced immersion from the educational process.  Even as small children, we learn spatial relations by reaching out to touch everything (and then chewing on it).  We learn language by listening and starting to make sounds ourselves.  We learn the names of colors by identifying a sound of a word with visual input.  We learn because a contextual world surrounds us and involves us, literally, in every step we take.

Today most K-12 based learning (indeed most learning of any kind) takes place out of context, in a rather passive manner.  People read, report, present, but rarely are they in the environment in which the content they need to comprehend is active, usable and demanding their response.  Video games change this.

To learn biology, students may finally get a chance to dissect a frog, but until that point they were looking at text books, movies, illustrations, reading and discussing.  When it comes to molecules and their functions, these topics are “abstract,” difficult to introduce, and even more difficult to testThe video game Immune Attack lets players activate individual proteins and see what effect they have on the body.  Immune Attack is listed as the #1 game at because it is popular with players.  As a further example, the video game, Discover Babylon (available for free at, shows players real artifacts from library collections displayed not on sterile shelves, but in use by real families in ancient times.  Also a highly popular game, rates it at #3.

It is this interaction which makes teaching tools such as video games so vital to education.  They provide immersion within the context of what is being learned.  Students become the activity about which they are learning.  They are the cell which experiences the energy boost when the right protein locks in; they feel the tense desperation of being a white blood cell fighting the uncontrollable growth of an infection.  In short, through games they are involved in the content they are studying.

We’ve been conducting play tests with middle and high school students of our Immune Attack I (AI-I) and while statistics are still being compiled, I can say that watching how the students interact with the game and then seeing the analytics recording the knowledge they have gained has been fascinating.  It continues to reinforce my conviction that video games, gamiifcation of content (which means adding game-oriented elements such as health meters and leaderboards) and other forms of interactive learning will become the norm of how we choose to educate people of all ages in the near future.

What is going on at FAS Learning Tech?

Here are a few places where you can hear Melanie Stegman speaking about Immune Attack2 development, how to use Immune Attack in a classroom and how learning games (should optimally) get made.  Melanie is also very interested in getting feedback from teachers, so if you are at any other these events, step up and say hey.   Or send an email.  Leaving a comment is nice, too.

Invited Speaker
Harrisburg University Pitch Workshop
October 19th, 2011

Invited Speaker
eTech Ohio
Feb 13-15, 2012 Greater Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, OH
eTech Ohio hosts the third largest state educational technology conference in the country where more than 6,500 educational innovators gather once a year and share their successes and challenges with one another. The conference is an opportunity for educators to honestly share their experiences—what works, and what doesn’t—for the benefit of their peers.
**I will be presenting Immune Attack 2 to teachers in a presentation and getting their feedback in all day workshops.**

Supreme Court protects video games same as books and plays

Here is the press release from the Entertainment Software Association and the ESRB:


June 27, 2011

ESA Welcomes Sweeping U.S. Supreme Court

Ruling on Constitutional Protections for Video Games

Landmark Ruling Hailed as a Win for First Amendment and Artists

June 27, 2011 – Washington, DC – The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) today welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that underscored constitutional protections for video games, developers, and video game industry artists. At issue was a 2005 California statute restricting the sale and rental of computer and video games. The ESA, the lead party in the case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association/Entertainment Software Association, argued that the statute presented unconstitutional limitations on expression, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed, holding the California law unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

“This is a historic and complete win for the First Amendment and the creative freedom of artists and storytellers everywhere. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed what we have always known – that free speech protections apply every bit as much to video games as they do to other forms of creative expression like books, movies and music,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA, which represents the U.S. computer and video game industry. “The Court declared forcefully that content-based restrictions on games are unconstitutional; and that parents, not government bureaucrats, have the right to decide what is appropriate for their children.”

In its 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court cited many of the same reasons cited by lower courts when striking down this and similar statutes: that video games contain expression that is protected as much as the best of literature; that California had not shown that video games were harmful to minors; that less restrictive means of achieving the state’s intended goal of protecting children from violent content exist, including the Entertainment Software Rating Board rating system; and that parents rather than the government should have primary responsibility for what games their children play.

Because the California statute attempted to restrict free speech on the basis of content, the state had to prove a compelling government interest for the law and also that California’s proposed remedy was the narrowest possible way of furthering that interest. The U.S. Supreme Court said California failed in both respects.

In the decision, Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, stated with regard to the validity of the scientific evidence put forth, “The State’s evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, ‘[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.’”

Of the “least restrictive” requirement, the majority opinion stated, “California also cannot show that the Act’s restrictions meet the alleged substantial need of parents who wish to restrict their children’s access to violent videos. The video-game industry’s voluntary rating system already accomplishes that to a large extent.”

In closing, Justice Scalia, again for the majority, writes, “California’s effort to regulate violent video games is the latest episode in a long series of failed attempts to censor violent entertainment for minors…Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply.”

“We are very gratified that our arguments – and those of over 180 other groups and individuals from across the ideological spectrum – were heard in this case,” said Gallagher. “The Court has now definitively held that legislative attempts to restrict video game content will be struck down.

“It is time for elected officials to stop wasting time and public funds seeking unconstitutional restrictions on video games. Instead, we invite them to join with us to raise awareness and use of the highly effective tools that already exist to help that parents choose games suitable for their children.

“Congratulations are due to our legal team, including Paul Smith of Jenner & Block who did a superb job in oral arguments before the Court. Ken Doroshow, the ESA’s former general counsel and lead architect of our industry’s legal strategy, also deserves an enormous amount of credit for spearheading our winning approach.”

The Entertainment Software Association is the U.S. association dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies publishing interactive games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers, and the Internet. The ESA offers services to interactive entertainment software publishers including a global anti-piracy program, owning the E3 Expo, business and consumer research, federal and state government relations, First Amendment and intellectual property protection efforts. For more information, please visit




June 27, 2011

NEW YORK, NY – The following statement was issued today by Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) president Patricia Vance regarding the Supreme Court’s decision rendered in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association/Entertainment Software Association:

“ESRB welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in this case, especially given its validation of the ESRB rating system as an effective and reliable tool that parents use to decide which video games are appropriate for their children and family. Today’s decision acknowledges the value and effectiveness of the ESRB rating system, the Federal Trade Commission’s positive assessment of our self-regulatory regime, and the latest research showing that game retailers overwhelmingly enforce their voluntary store policies regarding the sale of Mature-rated games. In striking this law the Court has made clear that the video game industry effectively empowers parents to be the ones to decide which games are right for their children.

“The most constructive means of ensuring that children play age-appropriate video games is to educate parents about the tools at their disposal, including ESRB’s two-part rating system (age categories and content descriptors) and rating summaries available at and via a free mobile app. We remain eager to work with government officials, legislators, parents groups and any others who wish to participate in or otherwise support these constructive efforts, which achieve the intended goal without infringing Constitutional rights.”



(This was all in the ESA press release today.)

Teachers role in a high tech classroom

Everyone seems to have an opinion about teacher’s role in the classroom of the future.  Some claim that teachers should get out of the way and let kids simply have unfettered access to the internet.  Others imagine a classroom in which teachers curate the vast world of information that is available and facilitate students’ understanding.  Certainly, there is more to learn in any subject than any one person could be an expert in.  How can we take the best advantage of technology in the classroom?

Please share your comments below!  I am preparing a blog post addressing the role of teachers in the future, and I would appreciate your thoughts and any resources!


Growing the Video Game Industry in the US

Congressional Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology, or E-Tech was formed in February by U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kevin Brady.  You can read about the Caucus and see which members of the House have joined it on the Video Game Voters Network.  You can watch Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz speak on Technology and Education HERE at the Atlantic Forum on Technology in Education.

Why does Entertainment Technology need a caucus?  Why is there a Network of Video Game Voters?  Well, video games are big business, and the US is a big market for video games.  From The VGVN Blog:  In 2010, computer and video games contributed $24 billion in sales to the U.S. economy. The computer and video games industry employs 120,000 Americans in high-paying jobs in 34 states.  Computer and video games help soldiers rehabilitate, keep seniors active, and educate our children.  For more information on the roles of video games in our lives, see the Entertainment Software Association’s website.

Like any big business, everyone working and investing in it needs to anticipate growth in the future.  For growth in the video game market we need freedom to create and sell the games that will grow the market and we also need a local workforce trained for the jobs required.  Therefore, limiting regulation and enhancing education are key to increasing the strength of America’s video game industry.

Limiting regulation: Limiting what video games can contain is very similar to limiting what a book can contain, extremely similar.  Limiting the content of our stories and our speech should be resisted, regardless of the economic considerations.

Who is trying to limit what video game contain?  The State of California has had a law since 2005 that could be used (but never has) to restrict the sale of video games.  The Supreme Court will rule in the next two months on whether this law is constitutional.    The VGVN has an excellent FAQs page about the case. You can download the Supreme Court filing on the VGVN FAQ page, too. And here are the direct links:  Read the summary of ESA’s Supreme Court filing
Read the full Supreme Court filing.

Enhancing Education: We will need trained workers to keep up with the world video game and other technology related industries.  Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultzspoke about the E-TECH caucus at the Atlantic’s Forum on Technology in Education,March 30, 2011, see minute 4:30.  Rep. Wasserman Schultz spoke mainly not about regulation but about how we can use technology to enhance our education system.  For example, US students could debate with students in other countries.  It is easy to see how technology can enhance the education of student in every topic, not just technology related ones.  Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s example is simple:  debating economics with students in another country could enhance our students’ understanding of the topic.  Imagine learning about Roman ruins from students in Rome or debating the finer points of baseball vs cricket with students in India.  These kinds of interactions should be common place.

Moving forward locally… To make the innovative use of technology common place in our schools we need to speak up and demand it.  I suggest for starters, that we all go to your local middle school and see if their network allows access to Wikipedia.  You may be very surprised.  We could start by simply that our local tax dollars be used to give this free service available to curious 10 year olds.  See Wikipedia’s FAQ about Wikipedia in School. Then we can turn our attention to down loadable video games like Immune Attack, and blog sites where students could contribute to discussions on current events and science.

Additionally, their many opportunities for teachers, students and parents to get involved in projects that involve technology.  See our Science Games post for updates.



March Learning Tech Newsletter. Educational Molecules for Fun

We need you
Are you a teacher with access to PC computers?  Test IA in your classroom!  We spent 2010 developing an excellent test of learning and attitudes toward molecular biology.  Now we need students in 7th – 12th grades to play IA1.0 for 2 class periods and and then take our survey.  Please register here and we will send you more information.


Serious talks!  Melanie Stegman, speaking in DC and NYC

Melanie Stegman, Director of the Learning Technologies Program at FAS, speaks March 30 in Washington, DC in a forum on Technologies in Education.  The forum is held by the Atlantic Monthly.  Here is a link to upcoming events held by the Atlantic Monthly.

Melanie Stegman speaks April 7 in New York City at the second NYC Health Games event. This event is organized by Kognito Interactive with the support and input of Games for Health, Games for Change, and the NYU ECT program.


Moleclues and the Year of Chemistry is a website where you can learn about the things molecules do… like make us fall in love, for instance.

Moleclues wants you to know that 2011 is the YEAR OF CHEMISTRY!  Watch their videos about chemistry, there will be a new one every month of 2011. Teachers can also get some teachers guides for each month… topics range from fashion, to weather, to love…


Immunology Is…  FUN!

Making IA2.0 requires finding the fun in Immunology

Many thousands of people spend their lives in windowless laboratories, standing day in and day out, barely speaking to their silent lab mates, often working in a 4°C room, or holding their arms up for hours while they conduct their experiments inside the awkward, but sterile cell culture hood.

Why are they doing this?

…continued in Melanie’s blog post on finding the fun in immunology.

Friend us…   You can support the cause of technology for education by playing IA1.0, sharing and commenting on our blog posts, following us on facebook, and/or joining FAS.


IGDA Newsletter Feature: Positive Impact Gaming

If you are a game developer, you have probably heard of the International Game Developer’s Association (IDGA). If you are a student who is interested in a career in gaming, if you make games as a hobby, or if you are a teacher/professor with students who are interested in game development you can find/recommend the local IDGA chapter and go there for camaraderie, advice, helpful critiques of your ideas…. The IDGA has created a new newsletter, and this issue is focused on a new interest group in the IDGA, positive Impact gaming.

Double click on the picture below to make it a full screen browsable magazine. (It’s pretty neat technically, informationally, and because it’s about positive games this issue!.)