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Our Research 

For the first time in history, technology exists that can make vastly improved learning
systems routinely available. But we can achieve this goal only by undertaking a long-term,
large-scale effort to develop, test, and disseminate tools for building advanced
learning systems.”
FAS Learning Science and Technologies R&D  Roadmap, 2003.

 The Federation of American Scientists’ (FAS) Learning Technologies Program activities are designed to build constituencies to work in support of increased learning science and technology R&D funding, new research management methods and identify opportunities for collaborations to build research capacity and infrastructure.  FAS employs a variety of approaches to do this: design and create prototype games and learning tools; undertake and publish major studies; write policy analyses; hold workshops and conferences; present briefings for members of Congress or Administration officials; and assemble design teams and community leaders to undertake local activities and form research partnerships.  

FAS’ involvement in the creation of games for learning focuses on research and empirical studies to better understand what features of games can be used to improve learning outcomes, as well as the creation of guidelines based on that research which will enable the community of developers to build effective educational games.  These guidelines include:

Understanding the challenges that are crucial for motivation and learning
*  Understanding how stories/scenarios contribute to motivation and learning
*  Understanding the impact of immersion and engagement on learner motivation
*  Linking gaming features to goal orientation
*  Understanding the features of gameplaying that contribute to development of higher-level thinking skills
*  Understanding how games can be integrated in classrooms and formal learning environments to support learning goals

FAS prepared the comprehensive Learning Science and Technology Roadmaps at the request of Congress.   This roadmap, supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, foundations and private industry, identified key R&D areas for next-generation learning systems: pedagogy and instructional design, building physically correct interactive simulations, dialogue and question management, learner modeling, and tools for assembling and constructing learning systems from these components.  This report was delivered to Congress building understanding of the need for the research and providing a practical plan for action.  It formed the underpinnings for legislation now under active discussion.  This work was expanded by two projects that looked in detail at two important areas of research.

  • In October 2005, FAS hosted a National Summit on Educational Games in Washington, D.C. The Summit brought together more than 100 experts to examine how to harness the power of video games for learning.
  • FAS hosted a workshop to explore state of the art systems for training medical personnel using computer-based tools.  Medical schools are looking increasingly to computer based training tools ranging from manikins to virtual reality environments that can track a student’s progress, provide feedback and remediation, and practical opportunities without harming patients.
  • In early 2007, FAS played a major contributing role in the creation of a NASA-sponsored Roadmap outlining viable strategies for electronic education: NASA Roadmap 

In order to understand the practical challenges faced by developers of advanced instructional technology and end users, FAS has actively researched the basic design of learning games and how best to adapt simulations to learning environments by building and evaluating X operational prototypes. (DB< MCI< IA)  These systems will lead to useful educational tools but also provide unique insights into the areas where research in needed. 

Our research addresses two key areas identified in the Learning Science and Technology R&D Roadmap to enable the community of educators and developers to build effective learning games including:

1:      Design of Games for Learning

  • Researching the role of simulations and games in learning

  • Designing the pedagogical process in games and simulations

  • Identifying the best features of games to apply to learning

  • Understanding features of challenges that are crucial for motivation and learning

  • Understanding how stories/scenarios contribute to motivation and learning

  • Linking gaming features to goal orientation

  • Understanding the degree of authenticity needed to support learning

  • Incorporating educational scaffolding

  • Assessing the attainment of higher-order skills

  • Reporting and use of assessment and learner modeling data

2:      Adapting Simulations to Learning Environments

  • Educational density (the amount of learning that takes place per unit of time)

  • Understanding the effect of immersion and engagement on learning motivation

  • Designing simulate actors with specific skills, knowledge or personalities

  • The role of gender and socio-cultural differences in the design of games and simulations

  • Understanding change in education and training institutions

At present, there is no systemized way to coordinate, research, develop, test and evaluate learning technologies in a way that is replicable on a national level.  The need for a strategic approach to improving training and education is clear. Millions of dollars have been spent documenting the inadequacies of our current educational and training sectors and technologies offer an innovative, motivating and effective medium to reach learners.

Any successful strategy for American competitiveness and innovation in the 21st Century must address essential R&D for education and training. 

More Research Publications from FAS

*  Emergency responders face an enormous challenge in having to prepare for many large scale, unfamiliar terrorist threats.  Read more here:  Training Against Terror

* Emergency responders face an enormous challenge in having to prepare for many large scale, unfamiliar terrorist threats.  Read more here: Emergency Training Systems:  A Survey

In training combat medics, physicians and others, simulation can form an effective bridge between textbook and patient, while reducing errors associated with acquisition of patient care skills. Kay Howell's paper discusses learning science principles formedic training for the US Army Medical and Materiel Command. Read more here:  Training Medics for the Field

*  For additional information about the policies of FAS toward this subject, please visit our Policy page: Policy 

*  For additional information on strategies for future learning, visit this page to see all of our Roadmaps:  Roadmaps

To learn more about the value of games as learning tools, visit this page:  Games Summit Findings

To learn more about FAS research into these areas by searching our Research Archives:  Search FAS Research Archives

Contact us at: [email protected]