The startup scene is heating up in a place many readers may have given the cold shoulder, Poland. Poland's hospitable environment for startups has been established by large industry leaders creating initiatives for young talent to thrive with growing numbers of educated young people graduating each year, especially in engineering. Accordingly, Poland's startups have taken a liking to emerging technologies and often take on global subjects like alternative education and environmentalism.
In the field of education, a startup called Neurodio founded at Nicolaus Copernicus University is helping people with learning difficulties learn better. Their approach to learning is one that many, especially children would find engaging and exciting, games!
We research and create games that facilitate human cognitive development.
Neurodio promises that their methods of learning are scientifically proven to facilitate learning through gaming. It's an exciting prospect, but it's not new. After all, some of us will remember playing typing games in school to learn how to type accurately or similar computer programs and class games made to teach us about concepts like managing money, multiplication, respect for others and fractions.
So how correctly do they use games for better education? Neurodio blends in their game design with what we already know about the human mind and how we learn. In this way, they say that their games are engaging and compelling, in short, it doesn't feel like learning to those who may shy away from school or learning. Their team isn't just composed of talented programmers and techies; there are also a psychologist and cognitivist as well.
Games are important, especially if they feel like fun games and not obligatory assignments, cognitive training and therapeutic, educational opportunities improve the cognitive skills of the user, but the user also feels motivated to learn and satisfied and happy when they do meet achievements.
Their games are the result of the joint work of their team of psychologists, neurologists and computer scientists from the Neurocognitive Laboratory of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń as well as their game designers. It's based on what users like to play, basic game design principals, existing knowledge of the human brain and the skill acquisition process and academically tested and confirmed learning techniques.
Their end goal is to improve the quality of life for those with learning difficulties. This will be done through cognitive training and therapy applications, as they always were but a different approach, they feel would completely change the lives of those who are learning. Currently, cognitive skills training does exist; however, it can be tedious, monotonous and structured similarly to psychological tests.
So what products do they offer currently? They have two product provides called Numbala and ProKalkulia. Numbala is an educational game made for primary mathematics education for children. The focuses of the game are mathematics and basic arithmetic. The Numbala game mechanics use spatial-numerical association, spatial-sound frequency relation and "number sense" to teach the user. Spatial-numerical association also paves the way for users' future comprehension of number relations.
Numbala is more than an engaging adventure game in which you roam the galactic islands in search of your friend. It is cognitive training designed and tested by the highest scientific standards.
Research that Neurodio has collected on users shows that the game-based training enhances user response time when it comes to tasks that involve comparing two numbers. In the game, the user must decide which amount is more significant in various formats (two digits, dots and a mix of both).
Their second product, ProKalkulia is a test that all psychologists, pedagogues, and therapists can use when working with children who have difficulties with mathematical competence. The test collects information on number sense, spatial-numerical relation, distance effect, and size evaluation. This helps researchers and other mental health professionals collect behavioral data on the precision reached and length of time required for the user to come up with answers.
ProKalkulia is made to be intuitive to use and will convert data into visual results that are easy to read and clear to understand. As of now, it seems that their games are available only through the Google Play store, but it is possible for laptops, so Mac users will also be able to benefit.
As technology becomes a more powerful force in our daily lives, startups are taking notice. For Neurodio, they looked at the power of gaming for fun and saw opportunities to harness the unassuming lightheartedness of our favorite games to improve education. The idea sounds, and I'll be looking forward to seeing its expansion, perhaps into other areas that will benefit those with different learning difficulties, especially older people to whom less attention is often paid.