Obama Looking at Gaming for New Computer Science Education Initiative, White House Says

Thanks, Obama.


One element of President Obama's recently announced $4 billion plan to help children learn computer science may involve gaming, according to White House officials. The three-year plan, which Obama is calling "Computer Science for All," will give states money to train teachers and update classrooms.

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As GameSpot sister site CNET reports, this initiative, aimed especially at minorities and girls, is part of the 2017 budget and would need to be approved by the Republican-held Congress.

"Certainly video games are an entry point for some young people," White House deputy director Tom Kalil told Polygon. "The reason why some kids might get interested in computer science is because they like to play them, but they also want to make them.

"So you see companies like Zynga or Microsoft using games as a way to get people interested in computer science, graphics, and programming."

According to the New York Times, Microsoft president Brad Smith praised Computer Science for All and said the Xbox company is launching a 50-state campaign to expand its existing efforts in computer science education.

Just recently, Microsoft announced big plans for an education-specific version of Minecraft, the sandbox game franchise that it acquired in 2014.

US Department of Education executive director for STEM Russel Shilling tells Polygon that believes games can be leveraged by the government. He said he knows this to be true based on the America's Army franchise, an army recruitment tool that he worked on before being appointed to his new role in 2014.

"I've been a huge proponent of gaming for impact, ever since my work on America's Army," Shilling said. "After seeing what that game could do for engagement and what a strong tool it was. One of the things we did on that game, which got me into games for education, was this level for combat medics. We started hearing about people who had played through the level using those skills in real life."

"It made me start wondering, 'What if we designed this as an educational tool from the beginning?'"

In unveiling the new plan, Obama stressed that the workplace is changing.

"Today's auto mechanics aren't just sliding under cars to change the oil; they're working on machines that run on as many as 100 million lines of code," Obama said. "That's 100 times more than the Space Shuttle. Nurses are analyzing data and managing electronic health records. Machinists are writing computer programs."

Obama will talk more about his plan and the specifics of it on February 9. For now, you can read stories from CNET and Polygon to get more details on what we know so far.

In other news about Obama and video games, the commander-in-chief has a copy of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (though we don't know if he's played it), while his daughters enjoy Just Dance.

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