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Gen Y & Edutainment

Posted on Sunday, Jun 17th 2007

I wrote a piece called Affluenza about 2 years back, discussing the spending habits of Generation Y, and the opportunity that might present for Edutainment products.

Generation Y has since evolved to become a very important marketing target, especially because they are hugely reachable. Gen Y is the largest generation in U.S. history. There are 76 Million of them. Gen Y is the first generation to grow up immersed in technology and Internet, especially with the advent of social media. They have spent endless hours in Second Life, Neopets, and such.

Ofcourse, there are subsegments within the 76 Million. The Affluenza segment is spoilt and dysfunctional. At the same time, huge numbers of non-college-educated parents are sending a child to a top school like MIT or Stanford. Kids from small rural towns in Washington and Alabama find themselves amidst incredible opportunities as a result. And then, there are the talented kids like Austin and Arianna who are growing up amidst tremendous wealth and opportunity, but instead of being misguided, they are mentored to succeed by parents who are themselves highly technology savvy.

Presumably, Generation Y will produce entrepreneurship of a scale unknown before, since the media has created such hype around entrepreneurship success and role models. These entrepreneurs, I hope, will put to use some of their social networking experience to invent a different mode of educating children – a mode far more creative, immersive, inspiring and engaging than what we grew up with.

A great example is Anshul Samar, the 13-year old Founder and CEO of Elementeo on whom Venture Beat did a nice article recently.

::

Anshul created a fantasy role playing game that combines the rapturous teenage joys of competition and carnage with the exciting properties of the periodic table of chemical elements.

Sulfur – Elementeo Card DeckHere’s how the game works: You command an army of chemical elements, compounds and catalysts — represented within a 66-card deck. Your opponent has his own deck with the same number of cards. Your goal is to battle your competitor and reduce his IQ down to zero. Pit your oxygen card against your opponent’s iron card, for example, and you learn that you create rust. Score one for oxygen. Kind of like rock-paper-scissors, but with chemicals, dice and 66 impressively illustrated cards featuring monster-themed caricatures of chemicals.

::

Indeed, this would have been my preferred mode of learning Chemistry, not the drudgery I went through.

There is so much more opportunity for creating Edutainment that borrow the concepts of social media and multi-player games, and really and truly change the world.

Young entrepreneurs and Venture Capital – I hope the twain shall meet!

Related Reading:
Segments & Lifestyles Research Reports on College Kids, Teenagers, Pre-Teens.

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Dear Ms. Mitra,

I could not agree with you more! Our public relations firm publicizes a client who utilizes tabletop role-playing social games to improve language skills by inducing a comprehensive world of shared storytelling involving spontaneous language interaction.

Writing, speaking and listening are strongly emphasized using a fun, collaborative learning tool.

You might think this would incite interest from the toy manufacturer, and synergize a cross promotion opportunity, rather than elicit the unsolicited interest we have received from a national television station willing to broadcast a show based upon the learning method. But the toy manufacturer, Hasbro, is unmoved even with the overtures from the media.

The ideas here are not new. Mr. Gary Gygax, a bonafide celebrity in the gaming industry, had a similar idea to link his games to education back in the 1980′s. He met with similar results from his Board of Directors.

So the ideas are old, Ms. Mitra, and yet to be accepted into a comprehensive understanding of strategic thinking. It is just more of the same old thinking that gets us the same old results, to paraphrase Einstein. The older I get, the more I realise the truth of Edward deBono’s assertion that creative strategy may actually be stiffled by so-called progressive business schools!

Richard Whipple Monday, June 18, 2007 at 11:42 PM PT

Not entirely true!

Always ask yourself, what has changed in the equation? What has changed is that social media and multi-player games have taken off in a very big way.

Your client should approach companies that are clued into these segments, not toy manufacturers. In other words, ask them to approach Internet companies, rather than Toy companies.

How about Facebook?

Sramana Mitra Monday, June 18, 2007 at 11:48 PM PT

This card game could be a very effective way of teaching kids, but there are a few things that I think should be changed.

-The art and characters of the cards should be remade to look more powerful and brilliant
-The atomic numbers and valency should look bigger and should also play a part in the game
-Names shouldn’t include the element but should have the abbreviation such as O and Au
-The card’s backgrounds should be tinted the elements color, it its a oxygen it would be clear, gold it would be gold, and so on and so forth
-For each of the cards there should be a figurine that represents the card and is placed on a board to give a more strategic effect
-IQ points should be elliminated so that the figurines on the board can be “defeated” instead
-Also the cards should be randomly placed in packets that you buy, so kids wish to collect them all

Everything else I didn’t mention should stay the same for I feel that kids wouldn’t learn anything without those features. It’s a cool idea!

Austin T. Tamaddon Monday, June 18, 2007 at 11:51 PM PT

Games connected to ‘education’ certainly help remembering the facts and numbers well like in the example given in the article.

However, there is a side effect which needs careful consideration, too much simplification of a concept may lead to missing the rigor one need to put in education and learning. At the same time capturing all the details of science and mapping that to a game can lead to a really complex game for the students. Through games I would rather try to address the education needs related to softskills or language skills and not science. For science it is always welcome to have games to remember data or information but that is just the surface of it.

Santanu Bhattacharya Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 12:32 AM PT

Santanu,

“Memorizing” is not education. Unfortunately, it has been the cornerstone of Indian education system, producing droid-like majority.

In my opinion, anything that can stir creative thought in a certain domain of eduation – Art or Science – is welcome.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 4:17 PM PT

As part of Generation Y, I have the entrepreneurial bug. And, education will be my space. As people who grew up with cool media start to control education content, it should evolve that way. I hope to be personally involved.

Michael Staton Friday, June 22, 2007 at 1:34 PM PT

Michael,

It is wonderful to see that you feel this way. Good luck. Keep me posted on what ideas you come up with, and how your efforts are progressing.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Friday, June 22, 2007 at 1:49 PM PT

I’m working with a company that is trying to help with the problems of Gen Y (ysn.com). We’ve created a social networking platform where young people can get answers to their questions, speak to like minded peers, and receive mentoring from experienced individuals.

It’s helped so far, and we want to expand to help as many young people figure themselves out as we can.

Chris Monday, July 23, 2007 at 2:09 PM PT

““Memorizing” is not education. ”

Not true. Knowledge of facts beats ignorance of facts by a mile in the real world.
Piffle like the above have been (ab)used by the educrats to advance mediocrity and hollow out US education, stripping it of rigor and content. Just because learning facts is not *sufficient* for full education, don’t assume it is not necessary. it is.

For all your bashing of the Indian education system, somehow the cream of their crop come here, get advanced engineering degrees and do the hard technical work that too few US citizens attempt. Why the imbalance, aside from H1Bs? Because the K-12 education system is so focussed on feel-good egaliatarianism and ‘esteem’ that simple, rigorous learning of science, math, history, and English is glossed over or watered down. I see it first hand as a parent of children in public schools. we are not preparing children properly in the US.

PJM Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 3:42 PM PT
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