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New 'SimCityEDU' game doubles as a pop quiz

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SimCity Big Buildings
SimCity Big Buildings

Video games usually get a bad rap in the classroom, but a new startup is looking to change that. Fast Company reports on a new crop of games that could help students get a feel for basic curricular tasks while helping teachers keep better tabs on how well they're learning. The first one is called SimCityEDU, a SimCity mod that asks students to balance energy use, pollution, and zoning within a simulated city. To do well, players need good reading comprehension and problem solving skills — but more importantly, the in-game monitoring will help teachers tell how engaged each student is with the problem at hand.

Developers hope games like SimCityEDU will eventually offer teachers a chance to take a more complex systems learning approach, but in the meantime, they're just hoping the games aren't boring, particularly avoiding the creeping "edutainment" feeling that the team refers to as "the chocolate-covered broccoli syndrome." Still, it's bound to be more fun than a standardized test.