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The Gates Foundation continues to demonstrate its commitment to funding education technology efforts today with the announcement of another major round of investments. The Gates Foundation will invest more than $20 million in a number of programs that will focus on game-based and social learning.

Boost for Common Core Courseware

The resources will all align with the Common Core State Standards, the curriculum standards that have been actively promoted by the Gates Foundation and have been adopted by more than 40 states.

Much of the investment today will go towards building out digital courses -- some online and some blended learning -- aligned in support of Common Core, an endeavor with the Gates Foundation has paired with the Pearson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Pearson, the world's largest education company. The Pearson Foundation will develop 24 online math and language arts digital courses, which will eventually be made available at no cost to schools. Florida Virtual School, the country's first state-wide Internet-based public high school, has also received funding to build two math and two language arts courses.

It's hard to argue with the notion that there are things every child should know. But the Common Core Standards have been viewed skeptically by some who see them as part of a move towards a nationalized curriculum and as a part of a trend towards increased standardized testing.

Investing in Game-Based Learning

About a third of the round of financing announced today will go to support a variety of game-based learning tools. As I wrote over on MindShift today, gaming and gamification hold a lot of promise for more engaged, collaborative learning.

The funded projects include:

  • iRemix, a Digital Youth Network project includes a set of 20 literacy-based trajectories where students tcano earn badges and "level up" in areas like creative writing
  • The Institute of Play will build a set of game-based pedagogical tools and game design curricula.
  • Quest Atlantis is development video games that build proficiency in math, literacy and science.

The announcement of this round of investment follows news earlier this week from another Gates Foundation-funded program: the Next Generation Learning Challenges. The NGLC announced the finalists for its second wave of grants, aimed at boosting the college-preparedness of middle-schoolers. This $10 million in grant money will also support the Common Core State Standards.

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Audrey Watters


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