by Neil Hopkin, Headteacher and National Leader of Education
Many schools around the world have used Mathletics, the creation of Australian educator and EduTech entrepreneur, Shane Hill. Well the technology has moved on and equally Shane’s ambition to support learners worldwide has moved on with it. His latest creation, Skoolbo, is one of the greatest apps you are likely to stumble across.
Skoolbo looks like a game. It is a game, and a competitive one at that, with each player competing against the recorded performance of another child and a computer generated competitor. It features very high quality graphics, the kind that are only normally seen in high end games such as Skylanders so the children that use it are immediately familiar and impressed by the visual appeal of the game. The child can customise their own avatar and then navigate various race courses, dance competitions or terrains by correctly answering a series of literacy or numeracy questions. The engine driving Skoolbo is a sophisticated algorithm that adjusts to the ability of the player, regardless of age and revises previous topics to ensure that knowledge is embedded. As the players succeed they accumulate points and can trade these in for game enhancements such as suits, vehicles and so on.
What’s more the game is very eSafety aware. The ‘bo-coins’ have no real currency value and cannot be purchased with real money. There are no in app purchases and although players appear to be competing live against each other, they are in fact competing against a recording of another child’s performance. There is no direct contact therefore and no way of the player being contacted by anyone else. It is ingeniously and perfectly sealed from the outside world whilst giving the impression of live competition.
I have seen a lot of educational apps which are either not very educational or are just a money spinning venture. Many of them are quite disheartening in their commercialisation and monetisation of learning, although we pay this fee because we are so keen to harness the seductive power of learning environments such as this to support the rigorous embedding of literacy and numeracy fundamentals. However, this app is free! It is funded partly by a collaborative investment by Microsoft and also by the option to buy a premier account for parents, which allows more sophisticated reporting. Failure to take up this option does not affect the game at all, so it can still be freely adopted by the child either way, at no cost whatsoever. Furthermore, it works on all popular platforms and looks great on mobile devices.
My 6 year old son is absolutely captivated by the game. He loves that he can play a game which has all the features of other games he plays, whilst knowing that he is consolidating his learning. I am quite captivated by it too, to tell the truth. I think that every school should sign up to it. I met Shane over dinner recently and was very impressed with his enthusiasm, altruism and big heart. His product, Skoolbo, delivers on these fine attributes in every way. Install it on your system and watch your children’s learning take off.
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