- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Video games may not belong in the home anymore: Students and employees in the future should be able to use them to learn and train.

That was the message from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), which yesterday showed employers and teachers groups on Capitol Hill how three games that it has developed can help educate interactively.

“The dynamic of education learning has changed. Everything is simulated. Students are multitasking all the time. They’re not the kids who walked into classroom in the beginning of the 20th century,” said Anne Murphy, executive director of the Digital Promise Project, a nonprofit group that promotes using new technology for education and training. It has partnered with other groups, including the FAS, since 2000 to promote technology in education.

The FAS has developed three 3-D video games to be used for training and education.

Each game is targeted toward a specific industry or educational topic.

“Multi Casualty Incident Response” trains firefighters in their duties and priorities for their respective jobs. When the game places players in their positions, they have to react to given clues in the correct order. The decisions could include rescuing people in the building, making the correct radio contact or turning off the correct electric equipment, said Mark Schleicher, learning technologies project manager for the FAS.

“Say we have an arson situation and a fire on another floor. Or we have a situation where we have no power in the building because the power lines are melted,” he said. “The game then puts that person in that environment where they have to make that decision.”

The game gives a final report on how the player responded, as well as a score.

The FAS is partnering with the New York City Fire Department to determine duties for each firefighter position. After 18 months of development, the group will put the game online so that any fire department can download it for free.

Another game, “Immune Attack,” places players on a tiny vessel that can travel inside the human body. The game aims to educate high school, college and graduate-level students in immunology. The goal is to find and attack dangerous bacteria, said Kay Howell, vice president for information technologies at the FAS.

Students at McKinley Technical High School in Washington, Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and three other schools tested “Immune Attack” for a week this spring.

“It’s a lot better than just reading from a textbook,” Ms. Howell said. “You’re employing the student to learn at their own pace, and there’s not a gatekeeper to that information.”

Another round of testing will take place next year, with more schools. One day, doctors could be using the same technology to teach patients about illnesses, she said.

But how quickly this technology reaches the private sector and schools depends on federal funding for more research, Ms. Howell said.

The Digital Promise Project is promoting the creation of the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust, a government entity to research and fund digital-learning projects.

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