"Eat My Words" is designed to connect with kids where they want to be -- on tablets and online -- and it utilizes the latest technology to deliver effective, relevant vocabulary instruction based on proven research.
And it's fun.
Why a vocabulary learning game?
Research shows that by 3rd grade, high-performing
students have double the vocabulary of low-performing students. And the gap
only gets worse as they grow older. By 12th grade, high-performing students
know 4-times as many words as their lower-performing classmates.
We can close that gap.
Vocabulary is a leading indicator for success in all school subjects, not just
reading. By 3rd grade, kids need to move from learning to read to reading to
learn. Their ability to understand a broad range of words becomes critical for
their understanding of math, science, social studies and more.
Academic research shows kids retain vocabulary better when they learn basic words first and then build on them. For example, kids learn words like lake, river and ocean, and then they're primed to learn more advanced but related words like brook, delta and gulf. Grouping nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives by concept, from basic to advanced, helps kids learn vocabulary in a natural, effective way. And computers are well-suited to deliver and track student progress through this semantic network of vocabulary learning. It's like Amazon.com's recommendation engine for vocabulary instruction!
The game has 4 main components. The first piece is assessment. Kids choose the best words to fit into sentences, and we use their interactions to determine where to place them in the fluency/sorting game. As they play the core game, they earn collectible cards with new vocabulary words that show the context of related words so kids can compare the new words to words they already know. Then, as kids reach milestones in the game, we reassess them to measure their progress. Reassessment also helps us confirm the effectiveness of the game and ensure we're placing kids at the best starting point.
Note: Our prototype only shows the fluency/sorting component of the game.
Tiffany Young and Robert Wallis met at a Startup Weekend event in September in Seattle. Out of 62 pitches and 16 final presentations, their team's work for the "Eat My Words" prototype took 2nd place overall. In just 24-hours, they created a working prototype on iOS, Android and the web. After that success, they decided to continue the momentum and team up to found "The Fun Studio," an educational gaming company. The "Eat My Words" educational vocabulary game will be their first release.
Co-Founder Tiffany Young worked for a decade making over 400 games, websites and activities for the top kids' toy and entertainment brands. From Mattel, Hasbro and Nintendo to Disney and Nickelodeon, Tiffany has deep experience in what kids like. Just a few examples of her work include the Hannah Montana movie website, ICanBe Barbie site and games, Polly Pocket site and games, Monster High site and games, strategic work for the Disneychannel, games for Nickelodeon and over 50 sites and interactive ad campaigns for Nintendo including Nintendogs, Pokemon, major Mario titles and Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
That takes care of the "fun" part, but what about the "effective" part?
In the past two years, Tiffany worked as Creative Director of one of the few proven-effective educational technology programs, creating a framework of engagement for kids in 3rd-5th grade including a currency system, personalizations, a mini-game and collection system and more. She also worked as Content Co-Director, partnering with the Curriculum Director to re-invent fractions, multiplication and other math curriculum for the digital age.
And Co-Founder Robert Wallis has over a decade of experience leading and maintaining development of large-scale websites (15MM unique visitors/month), as well as creating countless custom Internet applications and developing for server, web and mobile deployment. He has been programming since age 5, learning C++ at age 14 and has been working with C# since its public BETA, and Objective-C before the first iPhone SDK. He's fluent in many other programming languages and is currently utilizing his experience in Natural Language Processing to develop the semantic system for our vocabulary game.
How will the money be spent?
What if we receive more money than we anticipated?
If we're lucky enough to receive more than our goal, we hope to invest the surplus in these areas:
• More usability testing • Independent efficacy study • More marketing & sales • Office space • Travel & conferences
When will the game launch?
Our goal is to have a first version of a minimum viable product live in the app store, Google Play and online in February 2013.
What's our long term goal?
Now is the time to re-invent the parts of education that can benefit from today's technology and today's devices and computers. Rigorous curriculum based on proven research already exists in many areas, but we'd like to re-imagine and redeliver it for today's digital kids.
We'd like to be at the nexus of effective learning and purposeful fun. The ed-tech space is cluttered with entertainment games and "edutainment" that claims to be educational without sharing results. There is also a fair amount of effective learning, but most of it is far from fun.
Our goals are to engage students and make education fun, to empower parents and teachers and to ensure the highest efficacy in our games and applications. We plan to iterate and improve this app until it is as fun and effective as it can be, and then seek funding to grow and branch out into other subjects. If we can't show true efficacy with this approach, we'll try other approaches until we can.
Risks and challenges
If making effective, fun educational games were easy, we wouldn't even try it. We are mission-driven to make a difference for kids and education. We believe we are better-suited than anyone we can think of to make this happen. Our depth of experience and expertise is the right fit, right now.
The reality is we have 10-12 months of runway to get this company off the ground. If we can't get traction with this first game and move forward with future versions and new titles, we'll have to get real grown-up jobs again.
The semantic system that runs the progression of words kids receive is complex. We know we'll need to test and iterate to make it work. We're working with a sense of urgency, determination and singular focus.
The look-and-feel of the game needs to resonate with kids 8-11. This is no easy task, but our experience with over 400 games for Disney, Nick and more makes us confident that we can make this happen. Kids will quickly tell us if we're wrong.
The pedagogy behind the semantic system is a conglomeration of much research into best practices for vocabulary instruction. We'll need to review the instructional piece with several teachers. Measuring instruction to ensure it is effective is not a simple task. How much forward progress should we expect kids to make? How can our product complement in-class instruction? These are risks we must mitigate through testing, customer interviews and iteration.
Sounds great! Get a digital music file of any theme music we create for the game, Associate Producer title in the "Eat My Words" game on the credits page and on the contributor page of our website, plus awards above.
You get our undying gratitude, a Producer title in the "Eat My Words" game on the credits page and on the contributor page of our website, plus awards from all previous tiers (except for conflicting Associate Producer credit).
Wow! You not only get the previous tiers (including only the highest credit title), but you also get the ODD PRIZE, a personalized autograph from your choice of rescued flock members of the co-founder's "Ducks and Clucks" animal rescue. We'll take your rescued duck or cluck of choice, walk them through eco-safe paint and send you the footprint, "autographed" and framed.
For this, you not only get the previous tiers (except for producer titles), you also get an "Eat My Words" bookmark, and a "Sponsored By" Executive Producer credit of your name or small logo on the pre-roll screen in the "Eat My Words" game, on the in-game credits page and on the contributor page of our website.
Unbelievable! For this, we will publicly declare you a saint to anyone who will listen, and you not only get the previous tiers (except for duplicate producer titles), you also get a 1-hour skype or webcast with the co-founders to chat about rapid prototyping, game design or just shoot the breeze.