Teaching physics using Portal 2
Valve has decided to step into the educational system with their game Portal 2, in order to help teachers create an interactive environment to teach Physics to students. Valve began collaborating with teachers and educational institutions in order to create tools that focus around science, technology, engineering and math. Their solution was to use Valve's puzzle game, Portal 2 as a means by which teachers and students alike could create content that could stimulate creative thinking as well as teaching different principles in the area of math and science.
"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." -Teach With Portals
This is a very innovative approach to teaching because it's using video games, which are often stereotyped as being bad for kids, to create a very unique learning environment where they can run experiments that would be very hard to teach in the real world. The technology and coding that went into Portal 2 is so advanced that the physics engine in the game is realistic enough to simulate our world and show true to life interactions between objects. One of the lesson plans that is available in the program aims to teach kids about movement and gravity and how two objects of different mass will fall at the same speed. I could see the example in the game being dropping a marble and a car and showing how they hit the floor at the same time. That kind of experiment would be dangerous and costly to perform at a school and time consuming to set up and run various times, but by using Portal 2, these experiments are set up easily and are repeatable by just a few clicks.
The program is still in beta, but Valve is very open to listening to suggestions from educators on how to improve this new school program, and are giving out the tools to create your own lesson plans and content. This will allow for the program to evolve and be very diverse with the different lessons that will be available since it will be driven by mostly user created content.
I wish my school would have had programs like this one....
For more info check out www.teachwithportals.com