Sarah: In our lessons, we want to not only teach important concepts, but also explain why these are significant. We do this through more than 70 digital lessons spanning language arts, math, and science. The lessons we offer now are for children from age three to the end of first grade, but we’re developing curriculum that will cover up through third grade as well.
We firmly believe in a scaffolding approach: We start with a simple topic and grow knowledge from there. Our language-arts curriculum starts with letters and sounds and grows to phonemic awareness, words, and sentences. In math, we start with very simple concepts like colors and shapes and then proceed to counting, decomposing numbers, adding, and subtracting. Our science units are hands-on and cover topics such as plants, animals, the water cycle, and ecosystems.
For instance, in a game that teachers about the water cycle, children watch the process of condensation and evaporation on the screen. They see that clouds have to get to a certain consistency before it rains. Then, they are tasked with watering plants by making it rain; they have to drag enough water droplets into the clouds to make it rain.
eSN: What research did you draw on to make sure the games are not only engaging, but also pedagogically sound? How can educators be sure the curriculum “works” as an instructional tool, and not just as entertainment?
Sarah: We follow the Common Core standards, as well as early learning standards. Our games are based on constructive play theory. We also offer courses online for teachers to make sure they understand how to use the curriculum effectively.
In addition, our learning games are supported by a robust learning management system that operates in the background. While students are playing on their tablets, information is sent to our servers and analyzed, then sent back to the teacher so she can see how the children are doing.
Anything that can help teachers with gathering data is so important today. This takes the weight off teachers’ shoulders and helps them do their job more effectively.