Tag Archives: Washington DC Public School

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.



Making Molecular Biology Video Games!

McKinley Technology High School students, and other students from across Washington, DC, learned to make their own video games this summer, using a program called Game Maker.  They also learned to create their own 3D images. What kind of games dis they make?   What kinds of objects did they model?

Well, this summer at McKinley Tech kids made games about gene regulation and inter neuronal signaling.  And the 3D Models they made are of Neurons, their Myelin sheath and of motor proteins carrying their cargo to the end of axons.  Not what you expected, is it?

Immune Attack can teach players about the molecular processes in the game.  But Immune Attack also inspires students to make their own game.

When I go over to McKinley Tech to talk to the students, I usually find fun looking images on their computer desktop backgrounds.  Popular singers, movies, and animation characters all show up on the computers… but this summer, on my third visit, I noticed that one of the desktop background images was changed to a really neat image taken with a scanning electron microscope of an artery full of red blood cells.

I went to McKinley 4 times this summer, once a week. I gave an initial 30 minute introduction into basic neurology (really basic, I mean I’m a biochemist, not a neuologist.)   I explained the was ion channels allow an electrical impulse to travel from the cell body to the end of the axon.  I explained how Myelin helps speed the electrical impulse.  I explained that receptors on the cell body receive chemical signals and certain combinations of those signals can cause the electrical impulse to start.   And I explained how some chemical signals cause a signal inside the cell that sends in turn another signal to alter gene expression.  Yes, that is right: I explained a LOT more molecular biology than High School sophomores ever learn.

But these kids we not learning biology, they were learning how to listen to a “subject matter expert” and how to design a video game based on what she says. While I talked their eyes darted about and I could see creative sparks all around. After my presentation I fielded questions for 30 more minutes.

Each time I returned to McKinley, I fielded another 20 minutes of intense questions from each of 4 groups of Game Maker students. The 3D modeling students, who are using Maya, asked many questions, too. But their models clearly showed that they had done a lot of excellent research independently.

Here is the story that eSchool News wrote about our four week project:

And finally, I need to thank Dr. Kevin Clark, professor in the George Mason University Instructional Technology, and Mr. Rick Kelsey STEM coordinator of McKinley Tech for inviting me to participate in their summer technology program.

If you are interested in having your students create video games about molecular biology, contact me.  Creating a learning is an objective that requires much learning and makes it fun at the same time.

The games and the moels that the McKinley students made will be posted soon!