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A clutch of secondary schools across the UK will start their autumn term by testing how computer games could be used to support education.

The project, Teaching with Games, is the brainchild of NESTA Futurelab, a lottery-funded education research group. The basic premise is: games are already being introduced into the classroom, but are they doing any good as a teaching aid?

The project will consider the standard (dull) designed-for-education games, but will also encompass commercial games that kids might play at home. The study will look at what students can learn from computer games, how to introduce them into the classroom and what changes might be required to make them relevant to the educational environment.

Call us deeply cynical if you must, but since the study is co-funded by Futurelab and games developer Electronic Arts, we find it hard to imagine the final conclusions being anything other than that games can contribute tremendously to a teenager's education.

Especially when the EA spokespeople are bandying about quotes like: "Computer games engage the brain like no other media. We believe that children can and already do learn a lot through them."

We look forward to the introduction of an "Age of Empires" section on the History GCSE syllabus.

Four schools will be taking part in total, three from mainstream education and one German school, based in London. The initial phase could be used as a model for a wider, pan-European study.

The results are due in August 2006, and will be used to help design better educational games, NESTA says, as well as useful support material for teachers wanting to introduce commercial games into the classroom. ®

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