Our hope at GlassLab is to be proven wrong as early as possible. That is why we recently took a field trip to ASCEND School in Oakland, CA. Our mission was to test our hypotheses around games, learning and assessment with a very early-stage game prototype. We asked ourselves: is our prototype engaging for kids and effective for teachers? We discovered we were wrong about a lot of things, but right about a few critical assumptions:
- Kids are craving engagement in their learning experiences
- Teachers have absolutely no time to spare
- Immediate feedback is motivating for kids and empowering for teachers
We knew we were onto something when we saw kids sneaking out of not just class, but recess (!), to come back and play with our prototype. Even more exciting was seeing the richness of their learning experiences when they would play the game together as a group – encouraging friends to take risks and teaching each other more about how the game worked.
Perhaps most galvanizing for our team was a shared goal around solving the teachers’ biggest problems – personalization and relevance. It’s not just the challenges of teaching diverse students, incorporating standards and succeeding on high-stakes tests. The biggest problem the teachers communicated to us felt deeply personal – the entertainment value of the learning experiences the teachers can create for their students. It is becoming increasingly difficult for teachers to match the engagement that students have in their personal lives with access to so many digital tools. I couldn’t help but think of a line from that old Billy Joel song, The Entertainer:
I am the entertainer, and I know just where I stand… Today I am your champion. I may have won your hearts. And I won’t be here in another year if I don’t stay on the charts.
If we can give these teachers a tool that not only engages their students, but also helps them personalize instruction through formative assessment, we are onto something.