Back in April, 2013, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk sat down with Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, to discuss, among other things, education. When asked about what Musk thought was the most effective way of teaching, he said that “[With education] you’re basically downloading data and algorithms into your brain… it shouldn’t be this huge chore…[and] the more you can gamify the process of learning, the better.” Now, it sounds like President Obama echoes that sentiment, as he wants gaming to be a big part of his new $4 billion dollar STEM education plan.
On Saturday, the President released the details of his Computer Science For All initiative, which aims “to empower all American students… to learn computer science and be equipped with the computational thinking skills they need to be creators in the digital economy…” In essence, the initiative sets aside $4 billion dollars to fund computer science programs for K-12 schools across the nation, and focuses in large part on minorities and women. Obama says this is critical because “In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill — it’s a basic skill, right along with the three ‘Rs… Yet right now, only about a quarter of our K through 12 schools offer computer science.”
In the video above, the President also says that “part of what we’re realizing is that we’re starting too late when it comes to making sure that our young people are not just familiar with how to play a video game, but how to create a video game…” Tom Kalil, deputy director of policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, adds to that saying “Certainly video games are an entry point for some young people,” and that “you see companies like Zynga or Microsoft using games as a way to get people interested in computer science, graphics and programming.”
This is exciting news because it seems like it’s easy to find people who love to learn, but hard to find people who love school. And with the gamification of learning, the tedium and drudgery often experienced in the classroom is washed away and replaced with a desire to solve a puzzle, earn a new ability, or beat friends in a game of Super Smash Bros. even though the new DLC characters are so overpowered (looking at you, Corrin)!
When we learn in gaming, we don’t ask “why are we learning this?” because the reason is obvious: we get better at the game. And that’s satisfying because we can prove our skills, as well as our desire to overcome intellectual challenges. We can beat our friends or achieve new high scores, and all the while, let all of that data and algorithm input, all of that “learning,” go on in the background.
What do you think about the President’s plan to include gaming as a part of his new STEM initiative? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image: The White House