Year after year, many schools struggle to teach kids basic math and reading skills. Portal, on the other hand, taught my childlike, directionally-crippled brain a slew of hyper-complex spatial reasoning abilities. In about 30 minutes. So I guess maybe it could be a good fit for the classroom. And hey, what do you know (aside from a Portal-imbued slew of hyper-complex spatial reasoning abilities)? Valve seems to think so too. The resulting program's been dubbed Teach With Portals, and it's just the beginning of Valve's new Steam For Schools initiative.
Teach With Portals' official website outlines the form its proposed amendment to the laws of education (and physics) will take:
"Valve recently began collaborating with educators to develop game-related teaching tools that revolve around STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. We’ve created Teach With Portals as a destination for this partnership, providing free content and game design tools, as well as an interactive community for exchanging lessons and experiences."
"We understand that learning is not fulfilled by a one-size-fits-all approach, so we’re engaging with a community of educators, parents and students to create infinite possibilities for learning. The educational version of our Puzzle Maker empowers students and educators to craft unique puzzles, explore worlds, and share custom lesson plans. Teachers can also simply leverage other contributor’s shared lessons, selecting among the best of them to suit their learners’ needs."
Steam For Schools, meanwhile, currently takes the form of a stripped down version of Steam that prioritizes educational functionality above all else. The hope, however, is that it can expand into something broader with time.
You can already scroll through a list of lesson plans, though, and at the moment, they range from simple physics and math ("getting faster as you fall," "conservation of momentum") to really cool ("man on the moon") to ensuring that I can never win Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader ("building a harmonic oscillator").
Normally, this is the part where I'd speculate where all of this is headed, but I just got off the phone with Valve, so we'll have a larger piece up very soon about the Steam-powered giant's plan to reinvent the positively ancient "modern" education system. It's incredibly fascinating stuff. Here's the short version, though: if you're now finished with school, you were born at the wrong time.