By putting $2 million in grants up for grabs, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-run Digital Media and Learning Competition has recognized that gaming can be a highly effective tool for teaching complex subjects.
The contest granted hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money to entrants who clearly drew inspiration from video games. There were 19 winners this year in total.
Durham, N.C.'s Anthony Pecorella won a $25,000 grant for Cellcraft, a Flash-based learning game that teaches kids about cellular biology.
History Game Canada garnered a $147,000 grant. The game is built on the Civilization engine, and puts students in control of early Canadian civilizations.
Another game-related winner was DevInfo GameWorks, whose gameplay implements U.N. development data to have students virtually tackle the world's social issues.
Competition winners were divided up into two categories: Innovation in Participatory Learning and Young Innovators. Prizes in the Innovation in Participatory Learning division ranged from $30,000 to $250,000, while the Young Innovators category, open to participants aged 18-25, featured awards between $5,000 to $30,000.
Among this year's winners in the Innovation in Participatory Learning category was "Playpower: Radically Affordable Computer-Aided Learning," a proposal that uses a $12 TV-computer as an open-source participatory development platform for 8-bit learning software.
Other winners in the category include "Women Aloud: Videoblogging for Empowerment," a blogging platform targeted at low-income women in India, and "WildLab," a project that enables grade school students to record, analyze, and discuss data collected in nature via GPS-enabled iPhone devices.
The Digital Media and Learning Competition is part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's $50 million digital media and learning initiative, which observes and promotes technology's role in the lives of young people worldwide.