The Games and Learning Publishing Council delivered a report late last month concluding that the potential market for learning games in the classroom is expanding, thanks to emerging trends in technology and education.
The report, “Games for a Digital Age: K-12 Market Map and Investment Analysis,” was written by Dr. John Richards, Leslie Stebbins and Dr. Kurt Moellering, all of Consulting Services for Education, Inc. Through 50 interviews with industry leaders, researchers and policy makers, they were able to describe the current school marketplace for games as well as places for industry to invest in digital learning.
The authors explained why the educational market must be approached differently than the commercial games industry. On the industry side, a few big players have a hold over the education market, such as the big three textbook producers: Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. As educators embrace digital technology, such as interactive whiteboards over blackboards and tablets over textbooks, the council theorizes there is room for new industry players.
The authors of the report also traced the flow of money in education, which unlike purchasing in the consumer sphere. Public schools receive $513 billion in funding every year, but local and state money is often tied up with salaries and other less flexible allocations. Only eight percent of the funding is federal money, but it includes grants for technology and other innovations. The authors advise game design companies to work with school districts to write grants and to keep grants in mind when designing games.
The report distills the types of games that are ready for investment into two categories: short-form games that can fit in a classroom period of less than forty minutes and long-form games that must be spread out over several class periods. Short-form games, they suggest, should allow for teacher flexibility and provide assessment and feedback that allows for personal learning environments (PLEs). Long-form games are more immersive and are more likely to teach 21st century skills of problem solving or analytic thinking. There has also been more research done on long-form games, which can satisfy educators’ demands for proof of effectiveness, though the authors suggest that short-form games can be bundled into sellable collections that would appeal to teachers trying to give their students a variety of games across subject matters.
Additional developments, such as the movement to one-to-one technology and bring your own devices (BYOD), have made the field of educational gaming in the classroom more likely for investment, according to the paper’s authors. They cite that the Internet infrastructure in classrooms has improved and the government has recently emphasized STEM skills and PLEs for students, all of which support a market for learning games.
Although the authors cite that there are few models for investors to follow, there has been increased funding for educational technology companies that mimics the previous peak of the 1990s. As digital media become more pervasive in students’ lives, they believe digital games offer a robust market for expansion as well as improvement for pedagogy.