Steam for Schools Beta Barges into Classrooms Carrying Portal 2 Lesson Plans

Paul Lilly

I can't tell you the number of times I came down with dysentery, one of the many diseases that stopped me dead in my tracks on the Oregon Trail. But I plodded on, a banker from Boston who developed a skill for shooting bison and fast moving critters. And then it would be time for recess. Today's generation may never known of the awesomeness that was playing Oregon Trail on an Apple computer, but thanks to Valve, a good many will experience Portal 2 in the classroom as part of a "Steams for School" initiative.

Valve is currently accepting applications from educators into its Steam for Schools beta, which is "the educational version of Steam, specially designed for use by teachers and students in a classroom setting either in a school or an afterschool or summer program setting."

Teachers needn't fret that students will wage bloody warfare with each other as soon as their backs are turned, as any part of Steam that isn't "core to the education experience" is disabled. The only game available at this time is Portal 2 (and the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker). What's the appeal for teachers?

"In the Portal world, students interact with physically simulated objects (cubes, catapults, lasers, etc.). The interaction tends to be free-form and experimental and as students encounter new tools and challenges they may develop an intuitive understanding of physical principles such as mass and weight, acceleration, momentum, gravity, and energy," Valve explains in an FAQ . "The games also put a premium on critical thinking, spatial reasoning, problem solving, iteration and collaboration skills, and encourage overall inquiry into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning."

Sounds a heck of a lot more useful than being able to shoot a bison from 100 yards, doesn't it? If you're an educator who agrees, you can find more information on Valve's Teach with Portals website.

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