In developing an educational video game, we wanted to obviously come up with a game that worked as far as improving kids’ math scores and that hit on all the key concepts that students are expected to know. But we also know that in order to get kids engaged, we needed to create a game that was going to be appealing to them – interesting storyline, awesome graphics, the kinds of things that would be at the top of the list when you asked kids what they’d want in an educational video game. It’s basically the same kind of things they want to see in a regular video game.
As part of our application for an accelerator, we pulled a few examples of from our usability testing (which is a technical term from when we gave it to people to play to make sure it works- OK, that’s maybe oversimplifying what usability testing is, but it gives you an idea).
Anyway, we pulled a few examples to use in our application and wanted to share them here as well.
Case(s) in point…
In May, we traveled to the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, N.D. While meeting with tribal leaders, we installed the game on the laptop of a woman who worked at coffee shop where we were meeting. Turtle Mountain is in a rural persistent poverty county and its students perform considerably below the state average in both math and reading. When one of our staff stepped out of the meeting, she saw the boy sitting at the computer playing the game, completely of his own accord. The TV was on with cartoons in the background, but he was ignoring it completely while working to solve word problems with a piece of scratch paper instead. (And it was during summer vacation.)
In September, we attended the Minnesota Indigenous Language Symposium in Minneapolis. Several fourth- through sixth-grade students from a local school were in attendance as their school building was undergoing some construction work. They came to our session, and we gave them all a chance to play our game while our speakers presented. Afterward, a fifth grade girl said we should talk to her school about getting the game installed because the kids would “love it.” This is a school where students in grades four through eight are averaging between the 5 percentile and 33 percentile in math statewide.
We can talk a lot about the technical side of our game and the data analysis aspects, but at the end of the day, the most important part of the work we do is the fact that through it we are actually reaching kids and they want to play our games.