Educational gaming gains ground in Texas

Schools in the Plano Independent School District have joined hundreds of other schools across the state in using immersive educational video games to help teach mathematics and raise academic achievement scores on high stakes tests. Plano ISD has added Tabula Digita’s futuristic mathematics series DimensionM, part of DimensionU™ Learning System, into its PowerMath remediation program targeting more than 800 students in 13 middle schools. In doing so, Plano joins a growing number of Texas districts, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Arlington, Spring, Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Garland Independent School Districts, that are embracing game play as an effective teaching tool.

“We need our students to decidedly sharpen their mathematics skills and raise academic achievement levels on state mandated accountability tests,” said Jim Wohlgehagen, Ph.D., secondary mathematics coordinator, Plano ISD. “We are excited to help them achieve their full potential by giving them rich, standards-aligned content in an intriguing format that is compelling and relevant to today’s ‘screenage’ learners.”

Educators in Dallas ISD joined the educational gaming movement by purchasing the DimensionM for use in its 35th Annual Mathematics Olympiad last fall. This marked the first time in the competition’s history that paper and pencils were replaced with a hands-on, inquiry based learning tool. The decision to use the software came after the DimensionU Games were named to the district’s approved instructional materials list. In all, more than 500 middle and high school students participate in the district’s respective events.

The attraction to the games for educators and students alike comes from its primary design which engages students in a series of quick-paced, immersive missions that are embedded with the more than 200 math lessons. During the games, students amass points while they assimilate mathematics concepts from topics previously discussed during their classroom instruction.

“We are all about keeping kids in the ‘game’ of learning and reinforcing key concepts,” said Ntiedo Etuk, founder and chief executive officer of Tabula Digita. “Given the fact that American students trail their international peers in math and science scores, it’s gratifying to see educators embracing the notion that students can have fun and master complex subject material at the same time.”

Garland ISD added DimensionM to its middle school curriculum more than two years ago. Since then, student interest and confidence in mathematics has risen, bolstered by the collaborative-yet- competitive nature of the game-based learning tool. In fact, the district has hosted two multiplayer gaming tournaments where more than 60 students from around the district went head-to-head in math competitions.

Currently, Garland ISD has six students who have qualified to compete in the Tabula Digita’s U Games National Scholarship Tournament. The virtual competition, co-sponsored by Intel and in partnership with Dell, began in November and runs through May 2011. Any student can join the competition at any time during the six-month event, comprised of 12 individual rounds, even if they did not participate in one of the earlier round by going to www.dimensionu.com/UGames.

At the end of the virtual tournament, the top ten middle and elementary school players from each round will be eligible to attend the live U Games Tournament in New York City on May 21, 2011. At the conclusion of the live competition, the middle school winner will receive a $50,000 scholarship to be used towards the child’s college education, plus $1,000 cash. The elementary school winner will receive a $10,000 scholarship and a trip for four to DisneyWorld in Orlando. Throughout the individual rounds of play, student can compete for additional prizes including iPod Touches, iPads, popular gaming consoles, 32” LCD TVs, Razor Electric Bikes, gift cards, and more.

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