MdBio Foundation, Inc. today announced it will provide science teachers and students nationwide with an innovative and immersive educational video game platform free of charge beginning in 2013. The online platform, called MdBioSphere™, seeks to advance student comprehension in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and revitalize student interest in science-related careers through the use of innovative gaming technology. The serious game is being developed by Hunt Valley, Md.-based BreakAway, Ltd., and will be previewed at the BIO International Convention (June 18-21, 2012, Booth 0753 in the Maryland Pavilion) in Boston.
"The Foundation believes that creating a globally-competitive U.S. workforce begins in the classroom," said J.J. Finkelstein, chairman of the MdBio Foundation. "The MdBioSphere platform, which will be the first serious game platform to be mapped to the new U.S. science education standards, can be a breakthrough application that helps inspire the next generation of scientists that America needs if we are to compete in the 21st century. The MdBioSphere platform merges the captivating elements of online gaming with educationally-driven STEM curricula to deliver an exciting classroom experience that enriches both students and teachers."
The first MdBioSphere game will be "Survival!," which will let students explore the building blocks of life science, including heredity, DNA structure and genetic code. Students create their own living creature by selecting different mates and genetic traits that must survive a virtual world by finding food, building shelter and defending against predators. Game play challenges and reinforces student knowledge to ensure retention of critical life science curricula.
"Serious games and simulations are some of the most innovative tools available to educators today," said Douglas Whatley, CEO and founder of BreakAway. "As a pioneer in the serious games market, BreakAway harnesses the power of game technology to transform the way people work, learn and live their lives. By creating powerful learning tools, like MdBioSphere, students are exposed to content in an engaging format and become empowered learners. BreakAway is excited to work with the MdBio Foundation in support of its vision for enhancing middle and high school bioscience education and awareness."
"Troubling signs" in Science EducationThere is growing consensus that science education in the United States has failed to keep pace with other developing countries. The President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology warned of "troubling signs" in a 2010 report, stating that "despite our historical record of achievement, the United States now lags behind other nations in STEM education at the elementary and secondary levels. International comparisons of our students' performance in science and mathematics consistently place the United States in the middle of the pack or lower. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show proficiency in mathematics and science." In the Foundation's home state of Maryland, nearly two-thirds of eighth graders are not proficient in science, according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
How Serious Gaming Can HelpIn its 2012 report on higher education technology trends, the New Media Consortium believes it is just two-three years before there will be widespread adoption of game-based learning. Studies show serious games can improve student performance in the classroom. Serious game-play can deliver a 40 percent increase in learning improvements when compared to traditional lecture programs, according to a 2009 study published in Science Magazine by the Kaufman Foundation. Serious games allow the student to engage in inductive learning -- or learning by example -- so that the student uses modern technology to think differently and solve real world problems. The expectation will be to improve science learning outcomes and assessment scores while stimulating student interest in science topics and careers. Serious games are increasingly used by top U.S. employers, including IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton and Cisco, for product development and public awareness.
About MdBio Foundation: The MdBio Foundation is a private 501(c)3 charitable organization that provides and supports bioscience awareness, education and workforce development in Maryland. It has been instrumental in providing companies with business development and information services in addition to education and workforce development programs. Its signature program, the MdBioLab, is a state-of-the-art mobile laboratory that travels to Maryland high schools each year providing students with a unique bioscience laboratory experience. The Foundation is an affiliate of the Tech Council of Maryland.