Update: The Educational Games Database now exists, pretty much exactly as described here. I built it in Drupal initially, but will shortly (2012) be porting it to MediaWiki, which is a much better fit for an open-access, community-created resource. Please join me there and share your knowledge, talents and experiences!

Proposal submission time draws nigh for what I’m ready to officially dub “The Educational Games Database” (TEGD?). Over the past few days, I have been reaching out to communities of teachers and other professionals interested in video games for education for feedback on the idea. For the benefit of those of you who have been kind enough to visit this blog to provide your take, here is the clearest and most focused outline of the project I’ve yet developed.

The idea was that he was, like, accessing the database. I think. Get it? Me neither.

What is The Educational Games Database?

The Educational Games Database is a project I will be working on beginning in January of 2010. It will be a website designed to help teachers who want to bring video and computer games into the classroom, but who don’t know a lot about games or how to use them.

What specific things will The Educational Games Database include?

My vision for the site includes the following elements:

  • a glossary of common games-related words and phrases
  • explanations of common game genres and mechanics
  • assessment tools to direct site visitors to specific articles that are appropriate for their level of interest and understanding
  • forums where teachers can communicate with site writers, administrators, fellow teachers and other interested parties
  • a database of articles about specific games, written with a focus on those games’ potential to teach specific subjects, as well as their appropriateness for various grade levels (due to content and difficulty)
  • easy searching by criteria that matter to educators, such as age appropriateness, game genre, technological platform, cost to purchase software and educational content alignment

The site will be built using the following technology:

  • Drupal — a PHP-based free content management system, because I have worked with another PHP-based CMS in the past (WordPress) and Drupal is well-supported by the University of Arizona and the Learning Technologies Center
  • Wiki — I can’t possible create all the content for this site alone, and a wiki is a great crowd-sourcing solution that allows for easy cross-referencing of content
  • Forums — to allow for freeform discussion of The Educational Games Database and any other related subjects, as well as direct and public communication with me and other site administrators

The site will be media-rich throughout—games are more a visual and auditory medium than a text-based one, so videos and screenshots can frequently give a clearer and quicker picture of game concepts and content than words. Finally, my goal is to have all content licensed under Creative Commons.

Is there a need for a resource like this?

I’d love to hear teachers answer that question. Clearly, I think there is. I know a lot about games, and I’m working hard to learn a lot about the frontier of academic thinking and research regarding how to teach using games. However, the experiences I have had talking about these issues with working educators have demonstrated that there is frequently a need for very practical training and remedial “gaming literacy” training before any advanced integration of games into classroom curricula can take place. Teachers have limited time, money and attention to expend on professional development. I hope to lower the barrier for teachers who are interested in games but currently lack the expertise to use them.

What will be developed first?

I recognize that my goals for this project are ambitious, and that it’s not easy to start a site like this from scratch. I hope to develop a community of both consumers of information and experts eager to volunteer their knowledge and help me produce content for the site. I plan to work on the site in this rough order:

  1. Establishing the technological framework for the site (Drupal, wiki, forums)
  2. Building a relatively static front-end for the site that clearly explains the rationale and directs visitors to the core content
  3. Writing the gaming glossary and articles about game genres and mechanics
  4. Writing articles about specific games
  5. Creating search tools

I’ll simultaneously be active on the site forums (if there’s a need to be, as I hope) and out promoting this venture to both potential users and contributors. On the other hand, show me a plan that hasn’t evolved dramatically and I’ll show you one that’s never been put into action…

How can I get involved?

In many ways, depending on your background and desired level of involvement. Here are some important needs I currently have:

  • Feedback on the plan you are reading right now. Comment on this post or write me at maxl@email.arizona.edu, particularly if you’re a teacher with suggestions for improvement.
  • Content writers. Are you a teacher who uses games already? I’d love to have you develop articles on the games you have used, and how. Are you a gamer with an interest in helping teachers use games in schools? Your help writing about game genres and terminology would be greatly appreciated.