West Hartford Man Creates Grading System Based On Video Game Concepts [The Hartford Courant]
(Hartford Courant (CT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 31--WEST HARTFORD -- The mention of video games is enough to spark fierce debate: Are they making kids lazy? Affecting players' mental health? Harmless activities that everybody can access through the phone in their pockets?
One thing that's certain is video games are everywhere, and people -- kids, especially -- love them. Rob Steller, a 26-year-old Cheshire native and program director at the Capitol Region Education Council, wants to use that truth to help transform the American education system.
Steller, who lives in West Hartford, is the founder of Stellar Learning Innovations, LLC, the maker of classroom software Class XP.
Entering the beta testing phase, Class XP is a customizable grading system that gives students points for each assignment, project and test completed. It presents achievements to students in a video game-type interface, complete with avatars, badges and levels, with the goal of getting to level 10 -- equivalent to earning an "A" -- in every subject.
"We have designed a new way for students to look at their grades in a dashboard that mirrors the mastery based progression and additive point systems of popular video games," Steller wrote in a blog post on the company's website, http://www.classXP.org. "The mission of ClassXP is to motivate and engage students by using some of the same tactics that games use to hook their players."
The software was created by Steller and Josiah Hills, a colleague at CREC and former classroom teacher, along with a developer from the Netherlands.
"I've worked in education for about seven years, but never as a full classroom teacher ... so it was important for me to make sure we had teachers involved from the beginning, just to make it the best possible experience," Steller said. "We collaborated with a lot of different teachers around the country and around the world to develop this as something that can meet their needs, and not just something we throw at them."
Steller -- who has an undergraduate degree in sociology and master's degrees in survey research and public administration from the University of Connecticut -- has worked for grassroots educational reform organization Achieve Hartford! He also founded nonprofit organization Little Eagles, which uses soccer to promote education in Mali in West Africa.
"Working in urban education reform for a while, it's frustrating to see how stagnant the current education system is. I've seen a lot of good ideas that kind of just get shot down right away; nothing really changes," Steller said.
"Soccer and video games are my two passions, and I realized that's always the way I've been able to connect with the youth in my classrooms ... to try to engage them with what they were learning," he said. "It's always worked."
Steller plans to expand his company's reach. He's developing a toolkit for educators to teach urban students how to program software and applications, giving them marketable skills, he said.
Video game technology is "a very, very universal way to connect with students now," he said.
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