“We wanted to bring the joy of gaming to every classroom in the world,” said Mr Siddharth Jain (pictured above), Chief Creative Director, Playware Studios Asia.
Armed with this simple ambition, the company took on a host of challenges to develop 3DHive, a collaborative online game learning environment which allows teachers and students to create virtual worlds and populate them with rich features and different characters.
Playware Studios was one of 10 companies – five from Singapore and five international – which were shortlisted to pitch at the Bett Asia & IDA EdTech Excellence Award jointly organised by Bett Asia and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).
Companies were evaluated based on how well they address concerns and challenges educators face in teaching their students; the level of innovation and how they harness infocomm; the scalability of the solution; and how easily it can be adopted.
In his presentation, Mr Siddharth spoke about the magnitude of the challenges that confronted the team as it set about developing 3DHive. These included the massive amount of content it would have to cover, the time that would be required for lesson preparation and development, and the need for domain expertise and cultural insights in order to understand the students’ learning profiles.
The Eureka moment came with the realisation that the teachers would have the domain expertise and cultural insights into their learners. The team then focused on building a platform that would make it easy for teachers to translate their ideas into games.
3DHive comes with a point-and-click authoring tool and a library of themes and scenarios that teachers can use to create a myriad of lessons and activities in different subjects, without requiring them to have any prior knowledge of art, design or programming.
For Mr Siddharth, however, the most inspirational observation was that more and more teachers have been asking students to build games that other students can play. “We want to democratise education. We want people to author their own content, and share it.”
Besides Playware Studios, which went on to win the Singapore Category of the awards, other Singapore companies that were shortlisted to pitch at the EdTech Excellence Award included Amdon Consulting, Integral Solutions Asia, LDR, and ToKToL.
In the International Category, the winner was Literatu from Australia, whose cloud-delivered formative assessment platform allows teachers to easily transform static formative assessment content into interactive, online assessments that can test, score and analyse student response data.
Other companies shortlisted in the International Category included Data Science and Technology Corporation from the Philippines, Janison from Australia, Kiwa from New Zealand, Twig World from the United Kingdom.
The panel of expert judges included Mr Adrian Lim, Deputy Director, Education Sector, IDA; Ms Beth Watson, Education Director – Public Sector, Asia Pacific Region, Microsoft Singapore; Ms Mandy O’Mara, Principal, Truganina South Primary School, Australia; Ms Debbie French, Portfolio Director, Bett, United Kingdom; and Ms Kheomanivanh Phimmahasay, Deputy Director General of the Department of Secondary Education, Ministry of Education, Laos.
Summing up the judges’ observations, Mr Lim highlighted some of the common themes that emerged from the presentations. These included content creation and the digitisation of content; the aggregation of resources; and innovation in areas such as assessment and the use of analytics.
A former secondary school principal, Mr Lim said for the educational technology companies to succeed, it is important for them to engage with their most important constituents – the teachers – and know what they are able to do given the time and commitments that they have. “The challenge is to get teachers to believe in your product,” he said. ”You must have empathy for teachers as well as students. If they use it and use it widely, you will have a killer product.”
Singapore companies at the EdTech Excellence Award
Amdon Consulting: Amdon Consulting’s PageWerkz solution compresses rich content into an easily deliverable and portable digital workbook that can be synchronised across platforms with only a brief Internet connection. This allows it to deliver interactive and dynamic workbooks with all their content (including video, animations and simulations) for use offline.
Integral Solutions Asia: Integral’s AIM@iCS – intelligent Collaborative System is a web-based platform with structured collaborative learning lesson templates that leverage a semantic analysis engine to understand and assess students’ mastery of subject concepts in real time.
LDR: LDR’s Learning on the Move (LOTM) is an authoring tool that allows teachers to customise existing mobile trails or design new trails for their teaching and learning purposes using location-based technologies such as GPS, Image Recognition and Bluetooth.
Playware Studios: The company’s 3DHive is a collaborative online game learning environment, customisable by students and teachers, with a library of themes and scenarios that can create a myriad of lessons and activities in different subjects.
ToKToL: ToKToL (Tree of Knowledge Tree of Life) is an online adaptive learning platform that enables secondary school and junior college Science and Math students to learn by answering questions that are chosen by a psychometric algorithm to match their individual performance on a given topic.