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  • Educational Video Games engage learners

    In the first part of our blog post, we finished our brief history of educational video games by explaining the specific ways video games engage learners. The fantasy element of a game is not only attractive but also immediately rewarding. Interaction and identification are two main factors that require memory retention and involvement. The Institute of Play, for example, conducts learning research and classes to explore the possibilities of a learning model based on these principles.

    Not only have video games become a primordial social tool to make friends, but what a child experiments during the process of playing helps them to regulate feelings, challenge themselves, express their identities in a virtual and fun world, as Dr. Cheryl K. Olson explains in this paper. The Pew Internet research paper shows that gaming experiences can have a social relevance as well as an educational value. Games for Change facilitates the creation and distribution of games with social impact; companies like the Games Learning Society are dedicated to innovative gaming experiences that have the potential to foster the communication of ideas.

    We asked David Miller, Director of Learning at Kuato Studios, to explain this transformation of educative methods that affects every step of learning, from kindergarten to high school.

     david miller youtube



    Is there really a need to use videogames as an educative medium? Is it a question of talking the language of the learner?

    Videogames certainly have a place in the classroom. There seems to be a view that videogames of themselves provide the stimulation and engagement, but really the best learning games will be ones where a teacher can manage and choreograph a great conversation around what is happening in the game. I’m not saying that without this learning won’t happen, but the richest learning experience is a social interaction. In terms of talking the language of the learner, yes, young people are familiar with video games, and the language of video games, but learning is so much more than leveling-up and receiving badges and rewards with each level. In some ways, gamification panders to an old-fashioned learning model – less about curiosity and exploration and more about assessment and achievement.


    How would you define the philosophy of Kuato Studios?

    In a sense, games are already learning environments teaching the player mechanics, systems, and skills. For example, playing Skyrim will make a player a health potions expert. If a game can teach about fictional botany in a way that makes the player both interested and invested, why can’t a game help others learn about real world skills?  The current wave of educational games doesn’t follow modern education guidelines or 21st century skills, which place much more stock in creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration. For so many “educational” games, it is all about curricular content and assessment rather than skills and creativity. We are also very careful about how we use the terms teaching and learning. We are more interested in creating games in which young people learn, than games that teach. Teachers still do the best job of teaching, whereas a game can enhance a child’s ability to grasp a concept or develop new skills. Learning is about exploration, learning the rules (and breaking them), and discovery.

    One of the unique aspects of Kuato is that we want to make games that are about learning but can also compete with other hard core gaming titles. Graphics and sound are key to creating an immersive learning environment. The learner has in a sense to suspend their disbelief – they have to believe this is a cool game as well as an interesting learning environment. The environment has to engage them emotionally, aesthetically AND intellectually. We are proving we can create such environments with two games so far: Hakitzu which introduces kids as young as eight to the rudiments of JavaScript, and Dino Tales which is all about literacy and storytelling. Hakitzu takes place in a vibrant world of robots and atmospheric arenas; Dino Tales takes place in a Jurassic wonderland rich in storytelling possibilities.


    dino tales


    Is it necessary to make sure that the educative outcome of the game is more relevant for the learner than the playful aspect?

    The best learning game should be an equal marriage of game design and learning design; game mechanic and learning mechanic. Games are already an interesting and fun environment, which is not to say that the learning has to be fun. There can be problems which require hard thinking, but the satisfaction of solving a problem within a game, or creating a solution, can give immense satisfaction to a player / learner. Games can also allow players to fail and try again where failing doesn’t seem to carry the same weight as it might in a classroom. The presence of avatars also allows players the fun of ‘being’ someone else, to shape their own learning from the point of view of an external character.


    This post was first published at the Open Education Challenge blog.



  • The use of video in MOOCs: new tool or disruptive innovation?

    The use of video has been a major trend in MOOCs, especially when linked to universities and with teachers presenting actual courses. This challenge has led many teachers and learners to use it as an integral part, if not the main part, of a learning experience.

    However, most of the time its format remains deeply tied to the traditional classroom setting. This relationship has its advantages and its disadvantages: it allows the learner to identify the usual key reference points but at the same time it can often fall short of the original classroom experience.



    Rethinking the class for the e-learner


    The attractiveness of a video-based course is a main factor in maintaining the learner’s attention. In most cases, a short video is preferable; yet a more vital aspect is the importance of preproduction in the process. When the content of a normal class is edited and transformed in postproduction in order to adapt it to the exigencies of MOOCs, it usually fails to get the learner’s attention and ensure memory retention. However, if the video is designed from the beginning to be used as a digital interface, the end result is improved.

    It can be effective to present the course specifically for e-learners: in which case, it is better to leave behind the usual classroom setting in favor of a more informal one like an office, such as a student might have one-on-one with the teacher. However, the main point is to consider the final product when presenting the course; for example, divide it in recognizable sections, regularly use key sentences, etc. This should be done keeping in mind the interactivity at play here: the learner may stop the video (especially for tutorials), go back to the beginning or even increase the speed of the video. The most innovative videos used in MOOCs are the figure-based ones. For a traditional PowerPoint presentation, a Khan-type video is preferable, with an interactive dashboard to integrate drawings and explications by the teacher.


    Combining text and image for an efficient content


    One cannot emphasize enough the importance of text-image synergy. For many years, studies have demonstrated the power of this synergy for improved memory retention. When the mind has to process varied and difficult input it will tend to focuses on one aspect but may get so distracted that retention becomes difficult. Scientific studies since the 1940s have shown that the most effective medium for memory retention is comic books; by combining text and images simultaneously (rather than in parallel, like a newspaper or a PWP), this type of medium doubles the strength of the idea or notion. According to Josh Elder, the 3 Es of comics are Engagement, Efficiency and Effectiveness. This technique is not only useful for educating children, but has a practical application when developing videos for MOOCs.

    What is a digital interface if not an interactive image-text combination? Yet, contemporary MOOCs or video-based devices in them do not take advantage of these unique memory enhancing options. Think about a drawing showing the different aspects of the course: the learner could click on the area that interests him, then enlarge to interfaces, texts, comic books or videos, and within videos find interactive items (as some e-learning courses already do on Youtube) to go to other infographics, videos or websites. We are already able to study the way students click, stop, go to another website or do a research during a video presentation. Proactive teaching method can be created by incorporating these other diversions (specific websites, short activities, tests in videos …) and ensuring their pedagogical quality.


    Video in MOOCs shouldn’t be used as a tool for already previewed course curriculums, but as an opportunity to reshape the course in itself, and eventually the way of teaching.


    Originally published at The Open Education Blog

    Video in MOOCs headline
  • "Technology has the potential to solve the problems of inequality"

    We talked recently to Alex Beard, director of System Change at Teach For All. Alex, who was a mentor in our 2014 edition, dedicates his time to relevant and timely projects; one such project is developing a vision for school education in the year 2030. He is an active member of the policy panel at Teach First and of Ashoka’s Changemaker Schools initiative.

    We asked Alex to give us his views on the future of education, a subject  both complex and compelling. As we expected, his point of view was innovative, personal and passionate.


    Technology… a tool to tackle inequality of access or a source of educational elitism?

    Technology has the potential to solve the problems of inequality. For the first time, any person on the planet can access higher education courses at Stanford or Harvard. In developing countries, distance learning techniques are bringing the best teachers to the hardest to reach kids. The work of Mandla Makhanya at the University of South Africa Online is a case in point, as is Urvashi Sahni’s work at Digital Study Hall, which builds on the Khan Academy model to provide in-class video support to struggling teachers in rural communities.

    Thispossibility though depends on five key tests for equality:


    • Connection – is there universal connectivity?
    • Platform – does every person have access to a platform to get online?
    • Content – is the best and most effective content available free or at low cost?
    • Teacher – is there a skilled teacher mediating the experience for the learners?
    • Learner – does the learner have sufficient competence and motivation to log on and do the learning?


    Applying these five key tests, it would appear that technology is currently increasing equality in some ways, whilst giving rise to new kinds of elitism. On the question of connectivity, it is not the case that all kids in Europe are online. Sure, most are. But that means a few aren’t; the ones that aren’t will be the ones already experiencing inequality. The same applies to the other points. However, I have great faith that because technology is quite cheap to scale, we’ll be able to achieve almost universal coverage quite soon. And then perhaps, we’ll see a huge increase in equality of access.


     alex beard photo_0


    The automated teacher: a modern fantasy

    I find the idea of an automated teacher to be the stuff of science fiction. If you look at the types of jobs that machines are taking over, they tend to include ‘routine manual’, ‘routine cognitive’ and ‘non-routine manual’. The kinds of jobs that humans are still needed to do are the ‘non-routine cognitive’ and ‘non-routine interpersonal’. For me, you could define teaching as being all about non-routine cognitive and non-routine interpersonal skills. That is what it is. Happily, in a famous recent academic paper about which jobs computers are going to take over in the next 20 years, it was found that teaching and its related activities are in the top 10% of jobs least likely to be automated.

    However, I will make two concessions. First, I think that we can automate a number of things that take place in schools – the routine manual and cognitive tasks. This includes things like sending a text to a parent if their child has detention, carrying out an analysis of data at the school or local system level, or doing a quick group test and analysing the results at the end of the lesson. These things are happening already. Second, I know that advocates of Artificial Intelligence will say that soon we’ll have machines capable of non-routine analytic and interpersonal skills. If that is so, perhaps they’ll make great teachers.


    The practical effects of educative innovations

    Too frequently there is a divide between the creators of technology and the end users, or the key users. This means that in education you get a lot of inventions that make a lot of money for companies, and that administrators really like, but they end up adding no value on the ground for kids. One great example of this is the Interactive Whiteboard. In the UK there is one in every classroom, but there’s no evidence that it is more effective than the blackboard. It would be quite easy to run a control trial of this, and I’m surprised no one has.

    [Alex Beard then recommended taking a look at the evaluation work done  at Pearson with their Efficacy Unit; at OEC we wrote a blog post a few months back on this topic.]


    Originally published at The Open Education Blog

    alex beard - headline

The Judges

Don Burton

Don Burton

Co-Founder, EDGE EdTech accelerator, NYC
PA - head

Pierre-Antoine Ullmo

Founder and manager, PAU Education, Open Education Challenge

Fernando Valenzuela

President, Latin America, Cengage Learning / National Geographic Learning.
Grace Gould

Grace Gould

Early stage investor at Index Ventures
Marcelo Burbano

Marcelo Burbano

Founding partner of INNCUBATED
Daniel Zajfman

Daniel Zajfman

President of the Weizmann Institute

Gila Ben-Har

CEO of the Center for Educational Technology

David Weinberger

Co-director, Harvard Library Innovation Lab

Renee Hobbs

Director at Harrington School of Communication
Bob Wise

Governor Bob Wise

President of the Alliance for Excellent Education

Look who is already in the competition

To-Be Education

To-Be lets teachers, students, and publishers turn their content into immersive role playing games, played inside the classroom, and just about everywhere else.
Contact Us

about us

The Global EdTech Awards competition is joint initiative of MindCET, The Open Education Challenge, Wayra UK, EdTech Incubator and Inncubated.



MindCET is an EdTech innovation center which brings together entrepreneurs, educators and researchers to develop innovative groundbreaking educational technology in Israel and beyond. MindCET is an independent body within the Center for Educational Technology (CET).


The Open Education Challenge

The Open Education Challenge, launched in 2014 in partnership with the European Commission, is an opportunity for cutting-edge education startups to receive mentoring and seed funding through the European Incubator for Innovation in Education, and get direct access to investors from day one.

Wayra UK


EdTech Incubator

The UK and Europe’s first education technology accelerator programme led by The Education Foundation, in partnership with the Tech City Investment Organisation.



InncubatED is the first incubator in Latin America that focuses on bringing innovation to the education industry by promoting and accelerating Startups in the Edtech space.