PSFK spoke to Nt Etuk, the Founder of DimensionUabout his series of educational video games, in which students can play and compete against each other globally while learning key concepts in math, science, social studies and literacy. With its larger goal of turning learning into a lifestyle for children, the educational platform rewards children with virtual currency for in-game achievements and allows family and friends to volunteer support for individual accomplishments in the form of rewards.
Tell us about DimensionU and its mission.
DimensionU is an online platform that features educational video games for children. What makes us unique is that we tie the games to motivational tools that are powered by virtual currency and rewards.
Students play fun, free, multi-player educational video games with their friends and as a reward for getting answers right, they earn virtual currency that allows for the purchase of in-game items. Parents are able to participate in the experience by funding the rewards that serve to motivate their children.
Due to the pervasiveness of modern technology, children are faced with an endless number of distractions that take time away from their education. We feel that for education to compete with these myriad distractions, we have to make learning feel like a game and include a powerful reward mechanism to get children to adhere to the curriculum.
What are the benefits of learning through a game, as opposed to classroom learning?
There are a number of reasons that games provide a great platform for learning. First, there is the size of the market. If you are living in the US, by the time you’re 21 years old, then you’ve likely played 10,000 hours of video games.
Second, games are nature’s way of teaching, and human-kind’s way of learning. Play is the way that children learn boundaries and basic skills. While you aren’t going to learn chemistry or biology from the type of play that children engage in, you can apply the same game mechanics in environments that allow for those skills to be learned.
Third, educational video games provide a safe environment in which to fail. You may fail 100 times before you beat a videogame, but you are doing so in a risk-free environment that encourages experimentation. Gaming motivates and empowers children through a process of continuous failure and achievement.
In essence, we are looking to help children build real-world skills in a safe, virtual environment.
DimensionU allows parents to participate in the rewards structure featured in your games. How does that work?
Educational allowances funded by parents are an extension of rewards as a psychological motivator. These ‘tangible’ rewards serve as a quick and easy way to encourage participation over an extended period of time. This is particularly important, because most children at one point or another are going to question why they need to learn something. We are trying to make that question irrelevant, because they have a different reason to be motivated to learn (to receive rewards).
Parents participate in the educational allowance system by pledging a small amount for the completion of weekly educational challenges built to enforce the skills children will need in the 21st century. Children set a reward they are working towards (eg, Nintendo 3DS) and parents commit incremental amounts of money in support of their children reaching those goals.