The last 20 years has provided a technological revolution, but educational outcomes have remained largely unchanged. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Minnesota has some of the largest education gaps in the nation when it comes to race and socioeconomic status. This equity gap continues to widen. Racial and income gaps in standardized testing and college readiness have continued to increase over time. It was from the uneasiness of these facts that 7 Generation Games, an educational video game company merging social studies and math, was created.
At 7 Generation Games, based in the Lowry Hills East neighborhood, they make educational video games and the tools to create them. Through enabling the development of low-cost, highly accessible teaching apps, 7 Generation provides a way for all communities to have the tools and resources they need to foster strong connections to their culture and improve educational outcomes. Maria Burns Ortiz, cofounder and CEO of 7 Generation Games, believes that not enough educational technology is being developed to focus on serving the specific needs of students from Native American, Latino, and underserved or rural communities. The video game company has had a success rate of 300 percent improvement of math skills in the control group.
“For many kids from the communities reflected in our games, our games are the first time they have seen kids and communities like theirs in any kind of video game or even often in their curriculum,” said Ortiz. “There is something incredibly powerful and empowering about seeing yourself and your reality reflected in what you’re learning and for far too many children that doesn’t happen.”
To the employees of 7 Generation Games, math, and social studies “go together like peanut butter and jelly.” They use examples such as the Dakota knowing how many buffalo to hunt so they would have the food needed to get through the winter here in the plains. The Mayans are also an example being one of the first societies to develop a concept of zero in mathematics and Indigenous tribes - long predating colonization - traded. Their video games cover math concepts such as division, multiplication, fractions, and statistics.
“We are firm believers that math is best learned when it’s presented in context - and when you look at social studies through the lens of how math was used, you see that not only has there always been math, but math is everywhere,” Burns Ortiz said.
Burns Ortiz mentioned that one of the most powerful parts for kids of using games to learn is that it takes the fear out of failing. She believes that the education system does not do enough to encourage the approach that failing is not always bad in the classroom. 7 Generation Games designed the educational parts of their games to be modeled after effective teachers, with built in hints and additional explanation when kids need more help.
“We knew that that we could not fix everything when it comes to education, but that we could use our backgrounds in education, narrative and technology to create something that might help make a difference,” Burns Ortiz said.
7 Generation Games pays attention to historical accuracy so that everyone may learn about cultures including cultures that differ from their own. From game design workshops with community youth to developing curriculum with cultural experts, such as elders who are from and in those communities, every element of culture in the games has come from and been vetted by the communities depicted.
“Our company is 90% Black, Indigenous or Latino and we’re 55% women,” Burns Ortiz said. “We believe that not only is it important to create diverse curriculum, but that diversity and equity can’t just be something you talk and teach about, but it has to be something you embody.”
They are currently raising money to expand and grow 7 Generation Games, especially around their new product - 7 Gen Blocks - which is a game development platform they have created to make it easier to develop educational games. 7 Generation is raising that money via a community round, which allows anyone to invest for as little as $100. Anyone interested in investing in their community round or even just learning more about what they do can go to www.7generationgames/.
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