On December 8th, 2015, we were invited by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, along with a select group of 20+ developers, to participate in a session on Games for Assessment. The timing of this event could not have been more perfect. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act just that very morning gave everyone present a renewed zeal and commitment to their educational mission. In President Obama's words, "With this bill, we reaffirm that fundamentally American ideal—that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will."
We discussed the current state of the field of game-based learning and opportunities for researching and developing new assessment models and engines that can support teachers by providing real-time progress reports and insights on student mastery of content. Many promising ideas were exchanged around technology infrastructure, research validation methods and teacher training and support models.
For Kiko Labs, this session was followed by the opportunity for a one-on-one chat with Aadil Ginwala, Assistant Director for Education Innovation at the OSTP, during which we discussed the potential for a game-based learning program like Kiko's Thinking Time to be turned into a cognitive assessment tool for preschoolers. The current problem with assessments for this age group is that they are extremely time-consuming and expensive, often requiring time with a psychologist. But, given today's advancements - specifically in touchscreen devices, adaptive technology, new cognitive neuroscience research and user engagement, one could conceive of a tool that is delightful for children to use, gleaned important information about those hard-to-measure skills and that is relatively inexpensive to scale. The impact of such a tool could be immense - if there was a way to screen for critical deficits early on, we could intervene earlier. This means at-risk children could be attending better in class, starting positive cycles of engagement with peers and teachers earlier on, and maximizing their chances of getting on the trajectory towards school success. What could be more exciting than that?
Clearly, we have our work cut out for us in 2016! Stay tuned for more on this topic.