Jay Bachhuber is a researcher at the Center for Children and Technology, part of the Education Development Center. With support from the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation, Bachhuber and CCT are developing handheld games and research that target struggling middle-grade readers, whose limited comprehension skills often hold them back from full exploration of difficult content. Before joining CCT, he worked as a freelance game designer, curriculum designer and writer on a number of domestic and international educational gaming projects. He’s also managed an after-school program in New York City where students studied game design and partnered with a game studio to create an award-winning video game about Hurricane Katrina.
T&L contributing editor Matt Bolch spoke with Bachhuber about his views on education and gaming.
Explain the goals of Center for Children and Technology
Researchers at CCT explore innovative ways that technology can enhance teaching and learning in formal and informal settings, for people of all ages. We both develop new educational tools and study existing ones with the goal of helping technology better serve the needs of learners and teachers.
How does technology help struggling students learn?
I don’t think that digital technology is inherently more useful than any other type of learning tool, but well-designed and well-implemented digital technology has certain unique attributes that can benefit learners. Specifically, I work with digital games, and they can allow students to model and manipulate complex systems, assume different persona and act within those roles and facilitate collaboration between peers. Digital games can also provide instant feedback to scaffold the learning process and serve as safe spaces within which learners explore and transgress in meaningful ways.
What are you and CCT working on presently?
Currently, I’m involved in the formative research and design of two game projects for the Nintendo DS: Portable Word Play and Possible Worlds. PWP is a pair of games that focuses on middle school literacy, allowing players to use images and text to play with multiple word meanings. There are four games comprising Possible Worlds, each one addressing a different common misconception related to seventh-grade science topics.