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January 24, 2011
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On January 11-12, NOAA hosted a Games and Simulation Summit at its headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Participants represented 10 federal and state agencies, universities, and nongovernmental organizations.

Panel discussions focused on how gaming and simulation technology can best be used to reach specific audiences, explored current “best practices” in government agencies, and reviewed evaluation methods for gaming and simulation. Other topics included NOAA spherical displays, data visualization, policy and resources, and the future of games and simulation.

On the first day, speakers discussed lessons learned using these new technologies. They included Dr. Paulette Robinson, assistant dean for teaching and learning for the iCollege at the National Defense University, Andrew Boyarsky, project director for the City University of New York School of Professional Studies’ Coastal Storm Plan Training Project, and Dr. Daniel Laughlin, a learning technologies project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. One focus was the use of virtual worlds, such as Second Life, for travel and training—an alternative that can reduce spending at a time when all must cinch their budgetary belts.

"Digital students do not tolerate ‘sit-and-listen’ well, so we need to provide content in ways that better meet their learning styles."
— Peg Steffen, NOS Education Coordinator

On the second day, discussions centered on evaluating whether games and simulations represent a return on investment (ROI). Speakers included Mark Farley from the Oregon Hatfield Science Center, Dr. Len Annetta from George Mason University, Jerry Heneghan, managing director of Virtual Heroes, and Edwin Luevanos from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Panel members highlighted new tools that make web-based methods effective in reaching out to large audiences. They also discussed how games and simulations enable both children and adults to learn by trial-and-error in a realistic environment, and demonstrated how the technology can provide experiences that are too costly or impractical to implement in a classroom or training.    

NOS Education Coordinator Peg Steffen, who moderated the ROI panel, noted, “As agencies and organizations transition to a younger workforce, it will be critical to consider methods that engage and train in new ways. Digital students do not tolerate ‘sit-and-listen’ well, so we need to provide content in ways that better meet their learning styles. We hope that the Summit will encourage NOAA and other agencies to consider expanding the use of games and simulations in learning and reaching out to America’s citizens.”