- The Pell Institute recently reported that in 2013, the bachelor’s degree attainment rate for US students in the lowest income quartile was just 9% (compared to 77% for the most affluent).
- 20% of US full-time undergrads are the first in their families to go to college. Only 34% of those first-generation students will graduate (compared to 66% of the gen pop).
- A 2008 UC Berkeley study found that low-income children's brains (ages 9 & 10) function differently from high-income children's brains. Berkeley neuroscientists have been using games to improve the prefrontal cortex function — and thus the reasoning ability — of school-age children. Many universities and educational technology companies are doing the same.
In addition to obtaining finances for college tuition, students' academic readiness is absolutely essential to their success in getting into — and completing — a higher ed program. Providing an Xbox edu-console in every student's home has the potential to connect a broad societal ecosystem of individuals and institutions to facilitate better learning experiences from an early age.
This ecosystem would include: Parents & Guardians, K12 Teachers & Administrators, K12 Students, Higher Ed Institutions, Future Employers, EdTech companies. Equal access to an Xbox edu-console would mean the entire ecosystem can focus on seamless, scalable education solutions, as opposed to fragmented those learning experiences across device categories and operating systems.
This program would begin in the US, and would prioritize resources to offer this program first to already at-risk students (low-income, first generation students).
Bundle to Include:
- Xbox One with Kinect sensor
- High-Speed Broadband Connection
- 2 controllers (for tandem-learning scenarios)
- Pre-loaded educational games and learning tools (free)
Extended Learning Support Programs:
- Students can be assigned an accredited (formally approved) mentor from the community, if their parents/guardians are unable to be present and engaged with the learning activities
- Dedicated edu-gaming spaces (if household isn’t a stable and supportive learning environment for the student)
- After-school programs (free)
Platform Features & Functionality:
- Multi-player games — so students can play with siblings, classmates and parents
- Dashboard of educational information and class assignments (filtered through an official approval process)
- Mobile practice modes optimized for smartphones and tablets — just-in-time learning experiences, study tools (e.g. flashcards, short quizzes)
- Educational Mode — block non-educational games and content; ensure no inappropriate games or content (particularly those with violence, blood or gore); block in-app purchases; limit virtual connections with anyone outside of an approved network; potential to enforce timed/limited usage periods. Perhaps the console given to student households could be locked in Educational Mode, and these educational consoles could be sold as a different color than regular Xbox consoles, in order to represent a different mindset (edutainment instead of entertainment).
- Edutainment Hub — teachers can populate “Edutainment Hub” with relevant documentaries, television content (produced by The History Channel and National Geographic, for example), movies (e.g. Saving Private Ryan as part of a lesson about World War II), TED Talks and other curated edutainment.
- MinecraftEdu (for storytelling, STEM skills training, social studies & more)
- Scratch (for learning programming languages)
- Presentation & portfolio development tools (incl. Project Spark)
- Skype Translator
- Brain training games (e.g. Body and Brain Connection, or ADHD Skills Booster)
- Test Prep games (e.g. Zero Hour Threat for ACT & SAT training)
- Fun fitness apps (e.g. ShapeUp)
A few ideas and examples:
Social Studies (history, geography, political science):
Students could use virtual education programs to explore other parts of the world, current events, historical events, geography, topography (like in The Oregon Trail video game). They could also reconstruct these places and events — and even create new lessons for their classmates (like virtual scavenger hunts) — via MinecraftEDU. Virtual reality could be incorporated to provide a immersive global learning experience.
Language Arts (including English):
Studies have shown that 4-year-old children growing up in poor families hear 30 million fewer words than those growing up in middle-class families — highlighting the need to invest in improving home life, providing early access to quality education, and encouraging ongoing parental support. The edu-console could provide dynamic language learning tools that assess and adapt an individual student's vocabulary and reading comprehension level, and help close the "word gap" as early as possible.
Foreign language could use Skype Translator to chat with international pen pals ( all conversations recorded to ensure student safety).
Interpersonal Skills Training:
Students could use programs like Project Spark to capture and create multi-media content, so that they can present learning achievements to teachers and peers. Gaming platform structure can be used to facilitate small group interaction and teamwork activities.
- Learning Management System: Xbox gaming platform can be used as an LMS, through which teachers can distribute lesson plans, update calendars with deadlines, curate relevant content, monitor student usage and share diagnostic information with parents.
- Individual Education Plans: Teachers can use the platform to identify individual students’ learning styles and develop personalized learning and development plans.
- Educator Communities: It could also provide teachers with a great way to connect with other educators who are teaching similar students (based on age, demographic, location) and subjects, in order to share experiences, content, ideas, etc.
- Parent-Teacher Collaboration: Teachers could create an analytics dashboard to provide parents with easy access to information about their child’s progress.
For Parents & Guardians:
- Boost parental involvement in student's learning via tandem learning activities that not only teach the students, but also their parents.
- Teachers could easily transmit information about students' progress and learning plans to their parents and families . Could have a dashboard that features a calendar of homework assignments, test dates, project deadlines (and descriptions) and more.
- The Amazon Foundation's Vroom initiative enables parents of young children to access "age-appropriate, personalized tips based on whatever activity they’re doing with their child, and shows them how to transform it into a brain-building moment. Each tip comes paired with a 'Brainy Background' that explains the scientific rationale behind the activity." The Xbox edu-console platform could offer a similar feature (or offer Vroom tips directly via the platform).
- Students could even create their own learning avatar (like Second Life). This might give parents unique insight into their child’s emotional state, providing an opportunity for rapid intervention if the child seems to be falling into a depressive slump.
For K-12 Students:
- From their own homes (while outside of the classroom), students can engage with interactive worksheets, learning playlists, educational games & more, and play them with parents and siblings.
- Students would have more choice in how they learn, and be able to self-teach at their own pace. Mastering the minimum requirements for their respective grade, Common Core or college prep could unlock new edutainment levels, through which they can explore additional areas of study, exploration and play.
- The gaming console can increase student engagement by making learning fun, social, immersive and challenging, unlocking students' natural desires to explore.
- Since Kinect provides a physical component for the learning experience, the Xbox edu-console could be used to encourage movement and exercise — which could be particularly useful for kinesthetic learners and hyperactive children who struggle to sit still in the classroom all day.
- Further, if the gaming system can monitor performance and detect that a student's cognitive performance is declining, the system can incorporate some form of physical movement into the learning activity.
For College & Career Planning:
Exploration & Discovery
- Increase exposure to potential college and career opportunities and resources, via tools to explore potential career fields & study disciplines, including educational videos ranging in topics from college research to financial aid resources.
- Guided college exploration tools (help narrowing down choices, looking at curriculum, scholarship search, campus tours, Skype/chat with current students).
- A way for students to explore evolving career fields and social challenges, so that they can choose which they might want to be a part of.
Simplified College & Career Counseling
- Help students identify potential professions and industries they might want to work in, and provide tools for them to explore and even simulate various positions in that field.
- A "Future Planning dashboard" could be used to monitor news and trends for the companies and industries students are interested in pursuing.
Support & Encouragement
- Having a strong support system is particularly important for at-risk students whose families lack the ability to provide adequate college-planning guidance (especially for first-generation college students).
- Gaming platform could come with a virtual college prep adviser to help each student optimize his/her college planning, tailoring guidance to each individual student's specific needs, preferences and expectations, as well as information about the greatest financial aid packages available for a particular student or school district.
- Peer support networks to help students prep for college, e.g. bouncing off ideas when writing college essays.
- Some way for students to see how on-track they are to getting into a certain college (requirements like grades, portfolio, subject-matter competency, extracurricular and community contributions, internships, etc.) so they can adapt their learning behaviors as necessary in order to reach their goals.
- Unlock “achievements” as individuals go through the college application process.
- Push reminders about key dates to families — e.g. about when federal financial aid forms are due or when college counselors are available to meet to discuss their student’s post-high school plans.
- Possibly get students going to college earlier, graduating college earlier, or finding an alternate route to college altogether (alternative schooling, apprenticeship, trade school) by allowing students to command control over their own education and college/career planning.
- This wouldn’t be limited to high school students; it could also be available to children at much younger age, so they can set career and college goals as soon as possible — from prepping for the SATs/ACTs to building a portfolio of work.
For Higher Ed Institutions & Future Employers:
- Incentivize universities to engage and provide educational content and activities (either to recruit students to their college programs, to offer early college credit opportunities, and/or to build a relationship between their brand and prospective customers) — e.g. UCSD's K-12 College Exploration Program
- Could put out research questions & assignments that students can voluntarily try to solve, and then submit to university. University researchers able to connect with bright young minds, and students able to get real world, clearly applicable experience.
- Different businesses and institutions could contribute to this college readiness platform, and could be incentivized to participate if it’s a go-to discovery & recruitment platform…
For Partners [Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo; Video Game Developers]:
- The edu-console could be pre-locked in Educational Mode, and even sold as a different color than regular Xbox consoles. This would also help Microsoft ensure continued console sales, since there could be two per household, and the educational model could actually encourage new sales.
Potential prototyping partners:
Businesses & Corporations:
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Sony (maybe it’s a PlayStation instead?)
- Qualcomm (HQed in San Diego)
- Amazon Foundation (they're working with cities, states, non-profits and companies who are coming together to support their Vroom brain-building revolution)
- High Tech High (San Diego)
- Cajon Valley Union School District (El Cajon, San Diego)
- KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter network (Arkansas) — Developing SMS app to send info to high school students and alumni about college admissions and financial aid process through texts (see hyperlink below)
- The MIND Research Institute's “Math Without Words” research initiative is revolutionizing how the subject is taught (especially to dyslexic students, or students with limited English abilities).
- Akili Interactive Labs (Boston) is producing a video game called Project: EVO.
- AdapTac Games is producing and selling an app called ADHD Skills Booster, a tool to help children with ADHD improve cognitive function.
- ThoughtSTEM: Computer Science Education (San Diego)
- UCSD’s K-12 College Exploration Program
- Arizona University's DISCOVER program
- USC game designer is leading team to design video-game version of Thoreau’s Walden Pond.
- Virginia Tech music instructor is leading group of high schoolers through creation of an original opera staged totally in Minecraft.
- Independent teachers
- Education reform advocates
This solution could mean that more students — especially those in the lower income bracket — are able to get into the highest ranked colleges (which offer some of the most affordable tuition options to high-achieving, low-income students).
At the same time, it could even reduce time required to graduate, so students can spend less on their college degrees (according to the Department of Education, fewer than 40% of students who enter college each year graduate within 4 years, while almost 60% graduate in 6 years).
potential issues & Concerns:
- Student Safety & Student Privacy (especially with Kinect sensor & webcam)
- Parental involvement (willingness, ability)
- Multi-child/multi-student households
- Inequality in terms of home environment (supportive or non)
- Theft and insurance fraud
- Accessibility for physical disabilities (e.g. blind, limited arm movement…)
- Crowded households &/or households in which multiple families live together
- StrictFTC requirements to market cognitive improvement claims (what can be classified as a program guaranteed to help children learn)
- Corporate propaganda
- Determining how exactly some in-game skills transferred to real-world skills