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Classroom games are likely to fail if teachers aren't on board

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It's all well and good to develop games and technology to be used in the classroom, but if school teachers aren't on board, the games are likely to fail, according to a panel of developers and researchers speaking at the Games for Change Festival in New York.

"Presuming we're talking about K-12 public schools, one novel piece of advice is perhaps engaging a teacher in the [development] process early on," said associate professor of digital media at the University of Wisconsin, Constance Steinkuehler. "Technology doesn't get taken up in many classrooms because it's a solution looking for a problem no one ever had. [We need to] make sure it's useful and it's a problem the teacher wants to solve, whether it's a conceptual understanding or making something faster or better."

Managing partner of Education Growth Advisors Chris Curran echoed this sentiment, saying that the question investors ask is whether the piece of technology — hardware or software — can fundamentally alter the efficiency of the teacher's life with the teacher as the starting point. If the answer is no, "you're dead on arrival."

The panelists emphasized the importance of communicating with teachers to identify what they need to ensure any technology developed will be useful, be used, be efficient and be cost-effective.  It's not enough for the technology to be introduced to schools — teachers also need to be trained to use them, and they need to be armed with the skills to make the best use of the resources available to them.

Co-founder of publisher E-Line Media Alan Gershenfeld said one of the mistakes developers make is not understanding whether a game or game-based solution is replacing time or money in the classroom. If a game is aligned to a part of the curriculum, that's great, but if it's only covering half a day of a year curriculum, "[it's] not going to be enough."

"The big question is can game-infused learning be the dog and not the tail," he said.