Funded by a generous grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Flashback was our first foray into educational technology. Our task was to find a new media solution to stem declining enthusiasm for American history amongst teenagers. In a 10-day beta with just 300 public high schoolers across the country – Flashback generated 1200 completed missions, with over 200,000 page views. 80% of the students liked Flashback more than regular class, and 11 of 12 teachers said they would definitely use it again.
As one AP American History teacher enthused: "Nuvana has designed a teacher's dream…Students enjoy the competitive nature of the "missions" and are easily pulled into a highly student-centered content and skills based curriculum that is enjoyable for both the teacher and the student. A win-win all around! Click to see the web demo: http://www.flashback.paragoogle.com
What happens when you combine a question mark with an exclamation point? You get an interrobang. Which is also the name of our science and service-learning game. Sponsored by Microsoft Partners in Learning in partnership with the Exploratorium, ePals, the Smithsonian, and Learn & Serve America – InterroBang had two successful runs in 2010 and 2011. Thousands of students joined the game, and with no marketing, spread to 88 countries. Players took on missions that gave them a clearer understanding of their world, allowed them to speak out against bullying, empowered them to make change in their own lives and in the communities they live in.
One of 4 finalists in the Best Learning and Education Game category at the 2011 Games for Change Festival.
After making Flashback and InterroBang, we noticed three glaring facts in many American public schools: 1) the dropout rate is alarming, 2) the first thing administrators cut back on is not science and history – but art, 3) schools that have the highest drop out rates seem to have no arts education.
That's when we decided to create JAM – the Jamboree for Arts & Music. The beta was launched with the help of San Francisco Unified School District, New York's Department of Education and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Within weeks, the Affiliated High School of the Art Academy of China asked to join in as well. High school kids who had not had any art or music classes since they were in kindergarten were suddenly discovering their creative instincts again.
A non-profit project that was funded by our own Nuvana Foundation, we are looking to re-launch JAM with more cities involved.
One of our most exciting projects, G-Next is a partnership between the Nike Foundation, Grameen America and Nuvana to change the lives of adolescent girls in poverty. The game focuses on financial literacy and health issues – with particular focus on keeping at-risk girls enrolled in school and preventing early, unwanted pregnancies. The closed beta is currently being played by 250 teenage girls in the New York area – and early indications show that the G-Next game is a success. Grameen America plans on scaling up the project and disseminating it nationwide. One of the fascinating aspects to surface revolves around the oft-debated question of technology access by at-risk communities. You can't make an impact if your intended constituency can't connect to the web-based game.
One thing that G-Next already proves is that with this demographic, access is not an issue. The girls in the beta were pre-tested: All were below the poverty line. All had web access either through schools or libraries and did not consider it to be an impediment. All the girls owned cell phones, and many of them were smart phones. The high engagement within the G-Next game proves several things: our games attract girls, even those in impoverished circumstances, and even when the game play revolves around health and finance.
As one G-Next player told us: "This is better than Facebook!"
In the process of creating G-Next with us, the Nike Foundation realized that the Nuvana platform, despite its game persona, has a serious tool set that provides excellent methods to do what every foundation must do when disbursing grants: monitor and evaluate the work of its grantees. After all, the Nuvana game engine is a 24/7 platform that provides missions resulting in behaviors that can be verified – even when the user might be thousands of miles away from the mission-creator.
The result of that epiphany is DIG, a game for the adult grantees of the Nike Foundation who are spread out around the globe, working in non-profits and NGO's, all helping to carry out the ambitious vision of the Nike Foundation: 50 million girls broken out of the cycle of poverty by 2030. In the near term, the Foundation is planting seeds for 1 million girls to find traction on the path out of poverty by 2015. DIG helps the Foundation realize their goal by having a platform that socially networks their grantees, gives them public and private communication channels, allows the grantees to share best practices with one another – and do it with power and immediacy.
For Nuvana, it was exciting to see our game platform adopted by adults in a serious real world effort: ending poverty. Considering the number of girls the Foundation intends to reach, and in the very short time frame, Nuvana is an extremely useful tool for them which allows them to amplify, scale up, and attract global support for their mission.
After DIG's launch, now we know: the Nuvana platform also works for adults, in corporate circumstances, and to achieve serious real world goals.
Our school garden game. Intertwining earth science, nutrition, physical fitness and service learning with cooperation from farmers, restaurateurs, schools, and food banks. Coming soon.