Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), in conjunction with Learning Port Strategies, is gearing up to roll out a new learning tool for students, one that will combine “serious game technology with training.”
Dubbed Learning in a Virtual Environment (L.i.V.E.), the program will consist, at first, of two components: a “repository” for virtual games created around science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) called the Virtual High School, and a challenge for students to create a pitch for a STEM-based videogame, which is entitled The Contest.
Two additional aspects of the program are planned as well—Gamification Boot Camp, in which teachers are instructed on gaming vocabulary and technology and how to implement it alongside traditional teaching strategies, and the LPS Loft, billed as “a group of gaming professionals and tech-minded individuals who will join teachers in reviewing student story pitches and developing the first level of a game, based on the winning Contest pitches.”
LPS Founder Joe Biglin, who is no stranger to the videogame business (he co-founded BreakAway Games in 1998) explained how the initiative will overcome the high costs of creating games, which has typically been a barrier to entry for schools, “…costs can be substantially reduced by developing only a single level of the game and then allowing the game to be built out based on user preferences.”
He continued, “In the same manner as online games such as Farmville are developed, The Loft will capture metrics on user game preferences as students play the initial level of the game, helping to further refine the game into a finished product.”
Students will become technically proficient while also gaining the ability to add real working games to their portfolios.