brainquake

Q&A w/ BrainQuake: Revealing the world’s true math potential

Why did you start BrainQuake?

We founded BrainQuake because math education hasn’t changed much in the last 10,000 years. Many people have a natural aptitude for math but are unable to experience their full potential due to the unnecessary constraints we’ve placed upon mathematics learning opportunities in the touch screen era. As a result, too many pursue educational and career paths that are not math-intensive, have reduced earning potential and may lead to a lower quality of life — all due to outdated practices that fail to reflect true math fitness. We think we can contribute to changing that.

How are your products helping students learn in new ways?

Our apps are designed to radically change the math user experience and user interface. Based upon research conducted by Jean Lave and others regarding the Symbol Barrier™, we firmly believe that, in the age of the touch screen, our combination of casual gaming and sophisticated mathematics conceptual thinking puzzles can unlock hidden math fitness in the mass market.

What do you hope to get out of the co.lab experience?

co.lab provides us with a unique opportunity to engage with experts and peers who truly understand the promise of combining great gaming experiences with important educational content and meaningful pedagogy. There is no question that we have learned an immense amount about how to optimize our go-to market strategy based upon our co.lab experiences.

What’s your long-term vision for the company?

We know that children and adults are far more capable mathematically than appears to be the case today when proficiency is measured via a limited set of tools. We are excited to work towards the day when BrainQuake’s apps can reveal the world’s true math fitness and unlock all of the individual and global benefits that will accrue to the world’s population as citizens in a mathematically literate world.

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Bean Bags Kids present Three Little Pigs

Bean Bag Kids present Three Little Pigs

Kid Bunch’s next 3D narrative adventure with the Bean Bag Kids will huff, puff, and blow you away!

Following Kid Bunch’s last Bean Bag Kids launch, which has been downloaded over 400,000 times, Three Little Pigs is the fifth application in the international reading and storytelling brand. In this edition, families reading in English and/or International Spanish help the three little piggies learn valuable lessons: listening to parents, being responsible and being kind to each other, to name a few.

“We’ve had so many parents asking for more Bean Bag Kids renditions of children’s fairy tales, so we decided to create our own version of the Three Little Pigs tale,” said Kid Bunch CEO Dan Escudero. “We’re excited to see how kids and parents engage with the story’s poetry narrative — we’ve found kids listening to their favorite scenes many times over. Building rhyme into the narrative has been proven to support phonemic awareness and language development.”

Bean Bag Kids present Three Little Pigs is a wonderful way to share an interactive story with children from ages 3 to 6. As kids help build the houses, and travel through the watercolor scenes, they’ll be sure to learn a thing or two from the little piggies!

For more information on Kid Bunch, visit www.kidbunch.com.

Bean Bags Kids present Three Little Pigs

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Timbuktu - Kids in the Kitchen

Timbuktu’s Pizza and Pasta apps featured in Apple’s “Kids in the Kitchen”

Timbuktu Pizza and Timbuktu Pasta have been featured as part of the new “Kids in the Kitchen” section in the Apple App Store. The apps are part of a new series of products Timbuktu is working on to engage children around healthy nutrition habits.

“When we launched Timbuktu Pizza, we immediately realized we were onto something good,” says Timbuktu co-founder and CEO Elena Favilli. “We reached over 500,000 downloads with no marketing whatsoever in a very short amount of time and we started to get ecstatic reviews from our users. Being Italian, we knew very well how engaging food preparation can be, but until that moment we hadn’t realized that it was something children and parents would love to explore together in a digital format.”

With Timbuktu Pizza, children are asked to choose among 10 different recipes for pizza and then to prepare it by combining the right ingredients. When they’re done cooking, they get to serve their creation to Eegor the monster: if the recipe was followed correctly, the monster will devour the pizza; if not, he will throw it at you.

eegor

“It’s a very primitive type of feedback, but it works extremely well with children!” says Favilli. “Most of the time the feedback that you get from games is simply ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but in this case Eegor establishes a very personal connection with you and kids love it. During our user testing sessions we discovered that many kids were doing the pizzas wrong on purpose just to see the reaction of the monster. Some would even prepare the pizza, go hiding somewhere, and wait for Eegor to throw it at them! It’s uncanny to see the type of emotional reactions you can create with a simple digital game.”

Timbuktu Pasta follows the same game mechanics, with 10 traditional Italian recipes for pasta sauces. “We really love designing digital products around food and we have a huge pipeline in mind. We grew up in a country where food plays a big role in everybody’s life, but living in the U.S. we realized that many children don’t even know that chicken wings come from chickens. In a country where one in three children is obese, it’s pretty clear that educating kids about healthy nutrition habits is as important as teaching them math or grammar.”

In addition to their food games, Timbuktu is working on a new series of products that will encourage children to stay more physically active. “Movement is a huge component of a a healthy lifestyle and it cannot be left aside when we talk about fighting children’s obesity. Plus, it’s one of the most powerful ways to leverage game play. Our biggest challenge right now is designing a new type of gaming experience, where our digital characters become children’s sports buddies and help them take full advantage of their bodies and energy, a.k.a super powers.”

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co.lab

Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month

In celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month, co.lab is highlighting the voices of entrepreneurs from a diverse range of backgrounds working to unlock new possibilities for children in the United States and beyond. We are continually inspired by the power of education to bring people together to solve our common challenges — and especially by the individuals behind startups working to develop innovative technologies that help empower children, parents and teachers across the globe.

We asked several members of co.lab’s second cohort how their immigrant heritage has inspired their work to improve education. Here are their inspiring answers.

How has your immigrant heritage affected your vision of the company you are building?

“Being a two-time immigrant has allowed me to appreciate the unique strengths of multiple cultures, and hence has shaped my vision to build a company with an open culture, fostering diverse teams to build products with global appeal and impact.”
- Grace Wardhana, co-founder and CEO of Kiko Labs

“Timbuktu Labs was founded in the United States by two Italian founders. Often, when people think of startups and of the things entrepreneurs need to learn, they think of business development, charts, analytics. The thing is, if you create stories for children in a different country than your own, you have to learn a ton more! Thanksgiving traditions, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, what a “prom” is! You see things from a different perspective and you need to use that as a competitive advantage rather than as a cultural barrier. We studied American traditions but – at the same time – we didn’t want to give up our origins. That is why we created stories that reflect our national identity (in apps like Timbuktu Pizza) and stories that speak about American traditions (like our “How to survive Thanksgiving” guide on Timbuktu Magazine). We did this out of a personal necessity: we wanted our work to reflect who we are and we didn’t want to lose our identity in the process of building a company in a place that’s so far from home. We discovered that this approach actually adds value for our users all over the world, allowing them to find content that reflects their experience but also that makes them discover the beauty (and fun) of diversity.”
- Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo, co-founders of Timbuktu

“Our team at Kid Bunch comes from a very diverse background – four countries spanning three continents, to be exact. From England and Bulgaria to Chile and the United States, our little team of five speaks a total of seven languages, and have only recently made San Francisco and the U.S. our operational base. Every aspect of our startup is strengthened by multiple globalized perspectives, an approach to developing children’s experiences and stories that will not only appeal to kids in the States, but to families all over the world. Localization is an important aspect of our stories, and we’re incredibly excited to begin developing our stories for children who speak Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, and more! From the inception of our internationally awarded brand, The Bean Bag Kids, we’ve always looked to creating characters, narratives, and exciting learning experiences for an international audience.”
- Dan Escudero, co-founder and CEO of Kid Bunch

“Pixowl’s four co-founders were born in France, but each one has diverse family roots and origins. We are of mixed ethnicities and have all grown up in a world where the Internet has broadened our perspectives and connected us globally. We’re leveraging every day our international team of 25 employees to shape our vision and the games we make from three different office locations: San Francisco, Paris and Buenos Aires! The creator of our main game The Sandbox, a 2D world-building game with realistic physics interactions and over 150 elements to play with, is from Argentina! We firmly believe that there are no real borders in technology. Talented people can be found anywhere in the world, so why would you only be keen to looking for them in your native country?”
- Sébastien Borget, co-founder and COO of Pixowl

What drives your passion in working to improve education?

“Growing up, I was extremely fortunate to be raised in a family that prioritized education as a means of realizing one’s potential. In fact, my immigration path was primarily driven by the pursuit of top quality education, which in turn has shaped the opportunities I have today. I believe education is the biggest lever we have to improving global outcomes and the more we can do to democratize it and make quality education available to all, the better off we all will be. To top it off, it’s an area that has seen little change in a long time, and where a little innovation has the potential for huge impact.”
- Grace Wardhana, co-founder and CEO of Kiko Labs

“We are driven by the necessity of creating a more meaningful and respectful dialogue between children and grown-ups. We believe education is still too much influenced by ideology. More often than not adopting technology doesn’t necessarily mean we are innovating on education, it just means we’re replicating the same old paradigms with different tools. We believe that it’s time to rethink the way education happens: if we want to promote a culture of innovation we need to stop pretending we have all the answers and we need to start looking for answers with kids, not for them. Technology can be a great tool to change the way we teach, only if it changes the way we – as teachers – learn from our students. Italy is the home of two of the greatest pedagogical methods of the 20th and 21st centuries: the Montessori method and the Reggio Emilia Method. These two experiences teach us that opening ourselves up to exploration (again with the kids, not for the kids) leads to more engaged students and more satisfied teachers, thus to a better world.”
- Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo, co-founders of Timbuktu

“Our approach to improving education is quite simple. Our little team is focused on creating beautiful experiences to get very young kids interested in stories, reading, while giving them tools to engage in developing empathy and narrative comprehension, while also having a great deal of fun. We’re not a startup looking to reduce children’s competencies into graphs and numbers, but to instead give them opportunities to have fun while playing with meaningful and entertaining content.”
- Dan Escudero, co-founder and CEO of Kid Bunch

“Pixowl is really excited to help today’s kids take a leap forward and become smarter than our previous generations, so they are better prepared for the amazing things to come in the 21st century. Our game The Sandbox EDU will be focused on helping students understand in a very intuitive way many STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) concepts, including gravity, electricity, heat, energy, climate and geology. They will learn by solving problems, responding to scenarios, constructing or deconstructing environments, creating art, designing machines, tinkering with elements, creating condensation & evaporation, and anything else they can imagine. It’s a hands-on, play-based approach to show students what STEAM looks like in the real-world.”
- Sébastien Borget, co-founder and COO of Pixowl

“Still in the 21st century, we have not realized the goal of providing an excellent education for all children. Today’s technology provides, perhaps for the first time in human history, the opportunity to create scalable, authentic, embedded assessments that can tear down critical biases against and barriers to success in a global economy. We must stop limiting our children’s potential and create the tools they need to do the things we think they can’t.”
- Randy Weiner, co-founder and CEO of Brainquake

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Photo: Karsten Lemm

Q&A w/ Timbuktu: Cultivating imagination as a tool to know the world

Why did you start Timbuktu?

We started Timbuktu to create a place where kids and grown-ups could use imagination as a tool to know the world. We have always focused on games, stories and activities that help people see reality for its potential rather than for its limits. Our products help grown-ups treat kids as their peers. For us the future of education lies in honest communication between children and grown-ups based on reciprocal respect and passion for discovery.

How are your products helping students learn in new ways?

By connecting with them on an emotional level, not just an intellectual one. Emotional intelligence is as important as math, physics or social studies to us. Cultivating empathy will make children more resilient and able to deal with a complex and dynamically changing environment.

What do you hope to get out of the co.lab experience?

co.lab has given us the opportunity to work closely with amazing game designers that are part of Zynga and with them we’re developing a new product, specifically designed to engage children around movement. We’re also looking forward to collaborating with other portfolio companies that are working with schools and need great content for their platforms. And we really hope to bring to life the first Timbuktu Playground in one of San Francisco’s public schools!

What’s your long-term vision for the company?

We imagine Timbuktu as the 21st century Disney. At the beginning of the 20th century, Walt Disney created a set of characters that would shape an industry and create a multi-billion dollar company. Today, we have a variety of tools that allow us to make a character interact, learn, and play with users: rapid iterations can be applied to content production as well as to software. Our mission is to create products that inspire and lead change, engaging children around the most powerful ideas of our time.

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Paint & Play with the Bean Bag Kids

Paint & Play with the Bean Bag Kids featured in Apple’s “Amazing Apps for Kids”

Kid Bunch’s latest application, Paint & Play with the Bean Bag Kids, has been selected as part of an exclusive “Amazing Apps For Kids” feature in the iOS App Store. Since Paint & Play’s launch, the application focusing on open-ended creativity has been downloaded over half a million times by families all over the world.

“We wanted to give an unstructured, creative play environment to kids,” says Kid Bunch CEO Dan Escudero. “So often kids are put in highly structured play and learning environments, and it’s our job as parents, teachers, and developers to make sure kids have a chance to explore their own imagination without rules and outlined objectives sometimes. It’s creating for the simple joy of creating!”

To learn more about the ideas behind Kid Bunch’s latest creation check out this ‘behind the scenes’ blog post.

Kid Bunch

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TinyTap

Q&A w/ TinyTap: Unlocking app development for teachers & students of all ages

Why did you start TinyTap?

Two years ago, a person with special needs who is close to me started using tablets very successfully. Immediately, we looked for apps he could use that would suit his specific needs, but nothing was quite right. Eventually, we came up with a way to turn any image into a personalized interactive activity in seconds. We used it to make apps based on his specific interests and needs, which he loved very much.

That simple tool became TinyTap, a platform that allows kids, families and teachers to unlock the power of touch devices by creating learning apps from photos and designs. It’s as simple as drawing on a piece of paper.

How are your products helping students learn in new ways?

Both educators and successful companies recognize the need for creativity and dynamic skills over discrete knowledge. TinyTap empowers students and teachers to become Tiny app makers by making their own apps about the things they love and know.

In order to make an app that teaches about a subject, you need to research and explain it – you have to become somewhat of an expert. Not only is this a proven way to really learn a new topic, it allows for a more active learning process where students are engaged rather than passively listening to a lecture. From the teacher’s point of view, TinyTap allows them to leverage the power of touch devices, narration and interactivity, creating entire digital lessons and assessments in real time. Educators can make personalized apps to help just one student or the entire world.

“Teachers are the new rock stars” is a common phrase nowadays – it implies that teachers, like rockstars, can reach beyond a classroom to connect with an audience of millions who share a common interest. TinyTap allows for exactly that – a teacher can create a profile and share the apps she makes with a growing community of educators and learners from across the world. The best teachers can also monetize their content as apps on TinyTap and the App Store.

What do you hope to get out of the co.lab experience?

We have several objectives in working with co.lab, including:

  1. Meeting teachers, schools and educational organizations. I’ve had a chance to meet with the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum and learn about their inspiring TinyTap profile, where kids are documenting and explaining the projects they’re working on at the museum. We want to meet more organizations that can benefit from offering these types of creative activities. There are also hundreds of U.S. schools registered on TinyTap. We want to meet the people behind these accounts and get their feedback on the product.
  2. Conducting pilots and field tests. We constantly see teachers posting their TinyTap apps and talking about class activities they’re doing with TinyTap, but we rarely get an opportunity to see classroom use firsthand. We’re hoping to see more of how TinyTap is used by teachers and students.
  3. Learning more about the U.S. education system. Being a Tel Aviv-based company, we have a lot to learn about the U.S. education system: What are the real needs, and how can TinyTap make an impact? How do U.S. educators perceive the current state of education and how do they see the future?
  4. Making new friends. Another goal is learning from other co.lab companies about their insights in the education world and meeting new friends from Zynga, NewSchools and other organizations working to inspire creativity and change how we learn and teach.

What’s your long-term vision for the company?

In the immediate future we are planning to launch a new version of TinyTap redesigned for all ages, as we’ve learned what a powerful tool TinyTap can be for teachers and learners of any age. We’re always adding new types of activities you can create – this week we’re launching an interactive video tool to help you turn any YouTube video into an interactive lesson!

In the long term, we see TinyTap becoming the biggest marketplace for learning apps: like an app Wikipedia for young learners, a place where they can learn about anything in any language in a fun interactive way – created by other students, families and teachers.

We believe that just like indie developers are making blockbuster apps that wow established commercial gaming companies, so can teachers make incredible learning apps that will leave the big publishers speechless. Who knows better how to teach than real teachers, who teach real students every day?

If you’re an experienced teacher who is interested in collaborating, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at rockstar@tinytap.it.

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Kid Bunch

Q&A w/ Kid Bunch: Inspiring creative imagination through play

Why did you start Kid Bunch?

Co-founder and CEO Dan Escudero became involved in the children’s application ecosystem through playing on the iPad with his then 3-year-old son, Niko. After realizing how few high-quality experiences existed for kids, he teamed up with his brother and co-founder, Matias, to create an exciting 3D children’s story. After releasing the application, becoming Apple’s App of the Week, and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from children, parents, and educators alike, Dan and Matias dove headfirst into creating artistic 3D narrative experiences and haven’t looked back since.

How are your products helping students learn in new ways?

Above all, Kid Bunch focuses on three things: innovative learning, the importance of play, and renewing a profound love for imagination, artistry, and storytelling. We believe today’s mobile and educational technology markets have a long way to go in providing stellar content for these qualitative themes. As artists and parents ourselves, our mission is to fill this gap by developing products that inspire youth development and creative literacy.

What do you hope to get out of the co.lab experience?

Kid Bunch is aiming for the stars, and co.lab is the perfect place to make it happen. We’re working on a brand new app combining our 3D narratives with Asimovian robotic tales and all sorts of mind-bending platforming. Working closely with our Zynga mentors, we’re hoping to blaze a new trail by bringing emotive narratives and addictive gameplay to kids 9 and up.

What’s your long-term vision for the company?

From children’s books 2.0 to TV pilots and e-toys merging with physical toys, we’re developing products and brands that will completely harmonize stories, games, and learning into a single play experience. We want to create products in all areas of children’s media that inspire a love for learning, creative imagination, and the importance of play!

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kiko

Q&A w/ Kiko Labs: Promoting school readiness through neuroscience and game design

Why did you start Kiko Labs?

Co-founders Grace Wardhana and Tim Lopez started Kiko Labs after careers in gaming and consumer technology. As parents, they wanted to apply their expertise to make a difference in children’s learning. Grace observed her 4-year-old daughter’s fascination with touch-based devices and recognized their power to teach and entertain, but it was difficult to find content that reflected the latest research in cognitive and developmental neuroscience. Grace and Tim realized that by combining evidence-based scientific research and intelligent game design, Kiko Labs could engage kids in training key cognitive skills while entertaining them at the same time. It would also help children prepare for school, as cognitive skills like executive function and reasoning have been proven to be critical for school readiness and success.

How are your products helping students learn in new ways?

Kiko Labs melds neuroscience and game design to create cognitive training programs that children love to play. Our first product, Thinking Time, engages children aged 3-6 with a series of mini-games set in Kiko the Fox’s village. Each game is based on a neuropsychological task used in scientific research and targets one or more cognitive skills. The game framework adapts in difficulty along multiple vectors based on each child’s performance, ensuring that he or she plays in the zone of proximal development. An engaging reward activity helps motivate children to keep playing. We also provide parents with data on their children’s progress, along with percentile comparisons among the relevant age group and useful tips on how to further support children on their learning journey.

What do you hope to get out of the co.lab experience?

By collaborating with fellow game creators, educators and marketers, we hope to improve our understanding of the best practices in product design, strategy, marketing and distribution in preparation for our major product launch this summer. With co.lab’s support, we are also studying the feasibility of our product for the institutional market for kindergarten and first grade through school pilots.

What’s your long-term vision for the company?

At Kiko Labs, we believe that every child deserves to fulfill his or her potential. We are creating a new learning experience to help them do just that. With an approach that combines cognitive research, game design and adaptive algorithms, we are building a premier educational company with a global mission to increase children’s learning capacity through scientific games.

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pixowl

Q&A w/ Pixowl: Developing a hands-on, play-based approach to STEAM education

Why did you start Pixowl?

In 2011, we founded Pixowl with a vision to build games blending exciting gameplay, comic book art and character-driven storylines. We strive to innovate by focusing on mobile phones and tablets, always trying to reach out to new audiences.

How are your products helping students learn in new ways?

Our game The Sandbox (TSB) is rooted in the learning theory of constructivism. Our idea is to make games that are used as learning tools, attach to them social features and allow players the freedom to build anything they want!

TSB’s originality resides in the fact that it is an advanced physics simulator disguised under a very creative, open-ended world building game. In comparison to Lego or Minecraft, TSB offers a more profound level of interaction between elements, allowing players to create actual systems and chain-reactions.

We help students understand in a very intuitive way many STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) concepts, including gravity, electricity, heat, energy, climate and geology. They learn by solving problems, responding to scenarios, constructing or deconstructing environments, creating art, designing machines, tinkering with elements, creating condensation & evaporation, and anything else they can imagine. It’s a hands-on, play-based approach to show students what STEAM looks like in the real-world.

What do you hope to get out of the co.lab experience?

We would like to release TSBedu, which will focus on teaching, targeting parents and teachers. co.lab will support us getting the game into K-12 classrooms as well as improving the product with the help of Zynga mentors. We will build a prototype for mobile phones and tablets to run classroom pilots, then iterate rapidly on the product design to adapt the topics and lessons and prepare for the launch of TSBedu as a standalone premium app for parents and teachers.

What’s your long-term vision for the company?

Our vision is to build a brand that appeals to kids, parents and teachers. We’d like to reach 30 million installs by the end of this year, 1 million daily active players and $100,000 in daily revenues. We aim to establish The Sandbox as a brand that could last 10 years (or more) with a clear approach: The Sandbox & The Sandbox EDU. We have the opportunity to become the best world building game in the market, estimated to be 200 million players and still growing.

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