Technology developers looking to sell educational games to K-12 districts would be wise to create products that can serve as supplementary materials, and those that can be used in classroom-friendly, 40-minute bursts, a new report says.
"Games for a Digitial Age," a report released recently by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, offers that counsel, among other observations on the market, concluding that many opportunities exist for companies to produce games that will sell to schools, though many barriers remain, too.
Among the barriers for developers to overcome: the dominance of a handful of major ed-tech developers in the market; school districts' long and often cumbersome buying cycles; and demands from school officials that products be grounded in research showing their effectiveness.
The report by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, an independent research lab that examines educational technology, draws from literature and other research, and was also based on 50 interviews with game developers and publishers, foundation and government funders, and nonprofit and for-profit investors.
The authors, noting the seemingly insatiable demand for video games among students, say there are opportunities for developers, publishers, and investors to tailor products to meet K-12 needs, if it's done the right way. Some of the authors' recommendations include:
• Develop games as supplementary, as opposed to core materials. Districts may be more inclined to purchase those materials because they can address specific student needs, such as for reading remediation, and can be used in flexible ways;
• Consider focusing on English/language arts products, a major area of demand in schools;
• Create games that work with multiple technological platforms and infrastructure, and which are aligned with the Common Core State Standards (a factor weighing heavily on the minds of ed-tech officials everywhere); and
• Come up with "short-form games that allow teachers greater flexibility for using them within a 40-minute classroom period," as well as games that can be used as homework to circumvent the constraints of traditional instructional periods.
Whether developers are ready to churn out products that meet those qualifications remains to be seen. But the report offers one snapshot of what schools are looking for—and the distance that game developers will have to go to satisfy those needs.