I love being a lab rat.
I love being poked and prodded through maze-like rooms filled with puzzles that challenge my problem-solving and spatial reasoning skills.
I also love receiving positive reinforcement when I complete those difficult challenges.
But most of all, I love the fact that I can have these experiences while sitting safely reclined in my computer chair, perhaps with a bowl of froyo (yes, froyo) next to the keyboard.
I'm talking, of course, about Portal. If you've played Portal, a video game by Valve Software, you probably understand my adoration. If you haven't played Portal, you can... for free. That's because Valve is now offering their award-winning video game for download at no charge until tomorrow; all for the noble cause of promoting science education.
Wait a tick, how will offering a video game for free help science education? After all, our students don't need another reason to be distracted from their homework. Well, Valve answers this question quite convincingly on their website:
One of the biggest challenges in teaching science, technology,
engineering, and math is capturing the students' imaginations long
enough for them to see all of the possibilities that lie ahead. Using interactive tools like the Portal series to draw them in makes
physics, math, logic, spatial reasoning, probability, and
problem-solving interesting, cool, and fun which gets us one step closer
to our goal--engaged, thoughtful kids!
[The kids] sat down with Hammer [the level design tool for Portal] and they created rooms and they compiled the maps and when those maps opened up, suddenly [the kids] were in the game featuring the room that they had built...They were so excited... so excited!
We've been working on a spatial reasoning project, so the kids were
building these models and they were rotating the figures in space and
they were taking pictures of them and doing drawings. Then we're able to
come to Valve, and using the Hammer tool, [the kids] are working with models
and rotating figures in space in order to create a level in Portal. It
was just a fantastic real-world application of what we did in class.
try. Take my word for it: your mind will never hurt so good.