In the next twelve months more schools will be setting homework assignments for their students to play computer games. This will be because schools, expecting more of their students, will be looking for ways to support them to develop a deep level of understanding in, say, science, maths, or in being effective creators and consumers of the digital world (how to code, mash-up websites, design apps and so on). Schools will also be requiring students to play games so that their students can develop a facility in the types of creative collaboration and problem solving activities that their students will need in the world of work.
Parents, who already recognise that their children spend more time outside of school than in, will be happy their children are spending so much time playing digital games. They will be glad that so much learning is taking place.
Why do I say this? Not just because games, most games really, already have beneficial learning side effects, but because a new generation of educational games will emerge that blend the playfulness and appeal of games with learning, and so move way beyond the "answer a maths question correctly and score a point" type games of the past.
We already have exciting examples. Quest Atlantis is a 3D, multi-user storyline based game that supports "rich inquiry-based explorations". Students who played Quest Altantis, compared to a comparator group that were taught the same science content in a traditional classroom environment, "learned significantly more"; were "able to recall significantly more science concepts than the traditional students could over time" and demonstrated "significantly higher engagement and enjoyment than the traditional groups".
As these examples build, and more creative talent goes into developing new ones, an increasing number of people concerned with learning will recognise the potential of multi-player games to incorporate the social aspects of learning; they will see the potential of the immersive environments that games create to support meaningful student enquiry; and they will be excited by the motivational aspect of game play (in the UK 74% of 16-19 year olds describe themselves as 'gamers').
Next year, recognition will build that we should be encouraging more play: play of educational games that schools want students to play - and so do students.