AT&T Consumer Blog By Beth Shiroishi It only takes 5 minutes of watching my kids play with tablets and mobile phones to quickly realize the lure the digital world has on young minds. These technologies are intuitive, hands-on, and engaging, but more often than not, I’m negotiating with my kids over how much time they “have to spend” on educational apps before they can get back to what they want to play. Enter GameDesk, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that’s proving you can marry high quality entertainment with learning by creating tools and technologies that have a measurable impact on student success. So how does it work? GameDesk creates game-based interactive learning tools that embed academic content and assessment into digital games and simulations. By doing this, GameDesk helps students of all skill levels and backgrounds understand difficult concepts and learn new skills, reaching students in the digital world in which they live, play and now study. An evaluation of a math-focused GameDesk program called “Mathmaker” found that 80 percent of the students in an inner city school in Los Angeles who used the game as part of a pilot program showed increases in math scores, and that these score increases averaged 22 percent. You don’t need to be a math expert to know that a score jump like that is no small feat. These proven results on students in a population at-risk for dropping out are one of the main reasons we’re collaborating with GameDesk through AT&T Aspire. Through a .8 million dollar Aspire contribution, we plan to vastly expand GameDesk’s reach so that these technologies are available to help all students achieve academic success. We look forward to replicating the GameDesk success stories we saw in Los Angeles across the nation through two new initiatives: First, we’re helping GameDesk create a learning laboratory that will serve as a classroom of the future” where students and teachers can gain hands-on experience using GameDesk technologies, and where these new tools can be tested and evaluated. Second, we’ll work with GameDesk to provide free access to an online portal filled with digital learning content. Through the portal, the technologies developed in the learning lab will be made available to parents, students and educators nationwide, equalizing access to these exciting new learning tools. Additionally, user feedback is crucial to the success of any new technology, so we’re working with GameDesk to ensure that the online portal allows users to not only access new learning tools, but to evaluate materials, consult other users, and even add their own resources to the site. This two-way conversation between users and developers will help to create the highest standards for digital education materials and practices, and set the bar for this crucial fledgling industry. We’ve witnessed and harnessed the positive power that disruptive technologies can have on the way we live and work. GameDesk brings that same disruptive philosophy to the way we learn. Through GameDesk and other Aspire initiatives, AT&T is continuing to drive innovation in education, seeking exponential change in educational outcomes that will lead to a stronger workforce for our future.
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