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“Digital Promise” is a new education technology initiative rolled out by the U.S. Department of Education yesterday, with Congressional support, attempting to “transform teaching and learning.” In a surprise twist, one of the partners is none other than Valve, the Bellevue-based company behind the Steam video-game platform and blockbuster game franchises such as Half-Life and Portal.

So what the heck is Valve doing in the classroom, and why? The explanation from the official White House announcement

Leading Video Game Company Establishes Education Prize: Valve, creator of best-selling video game franchises and leading technologies, is stepping into the educational arena due to interest from teachers, students, researchers, and fans after the release of Portal 2, a brain-challenging puzzle game.  Valve will run a competition next year where middle- and high-school students and teachers can create levels of Portal 2 to be used in the home and classroom while competing for prizes worth $250,000.  As a start, Valve will be giving out free copies of Portal, the first in the series, which is rated for teens.  For more information, go to:

USA Today quotes Valve co-founder Gabe Newell saying he was surprised when teachers were interested in using the game in the classroom: “We were like, ‘Aren’t we enemies? Aren’t we entertainment, and isn’t that in opposition to education?'”

Apparently not. Should be interesting to see how this goes.

Thanks to GeekWire columnist Frank Catalano for the tip.

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