Published: 08th March 2019
Why every Class IX student should check out the exclusive Math learning app MindZu
Launched in January 2019, it is a personalised Math learning app for class IX students. It is aligned to the CBSE curriculum
Talking about the classroom and the education system in general, Godfrey Parkin, CEO of tech company Angaza, says, "Classrooms have been protective laboratories for so long that they have become time capsules. After a decade or more, stepping out into the real world is scary and dissonant, like arriving in the future. Kids deserve better preparation for the rapidly changing world in which they will have to thrive." And their solution to this conundrum is MindZu. Launched in January 2019, it is a personalised Math learning app for class IX students. Not only is it aligned to the CBSE curriculum, but it also ensures that students are addicted to the app (for all the right reasons, of course!). In a rather informative conversation, Godfrey Parkin breaks down gamification and how it is game-changing. Excerpts:
Parkin believes that adding additional subjects is now an incremental task which will take less time to accomplish than the first subject did
Could you tell us a little about your mission?
MindZu is on a journey to profoundly shake up education. We have deep respect and admiration for teachers and the job they do, but we realise that, as in all other sectors of society, education is overdue for disruption. In any other field, slowness to adapt is existentially hazardous. In education, it’s disastrous. Given the accelerating growth of knowledge in every field, the explosion of new career options and the imminent implosion of many old ones, it is imperative that we rethink what we teach and how we teach it – if, in fact, we ‘teach’ it at all. We believe that so much more can be achieved than is even contemplated in the existing educational system and MindZu will play a significant learner-centric role in that revolution. So MindZu, currently manifested as an app, will rapidly evolve into an even more sophisticated yet affordable learning experience, harnessing emergent technologies and leveraging discoveries about how and why we learn.
What have you done to customise the experience and the app for Indian students?
The MindZu app was built from the ground up for Indian students in terms of curriculum, style and user experience – it is not adapted from some other app designed for other nationalities. We made sure that what Indian students learn through MindZu is perfectly aligned to the CBSE curriculum. We also studied, in depth, the other major educational standards in India and integrated their requirements, so MindZu is truly relevant to anyone learning Maths in India. Since the cost of mobile data is a concern, the app runs offline as well as online. We crafted lessons which are a fraction of the file size of normal videos and made them downloadable so that they can be played over and over again without incurring repeat streaming costs.
MindZu has rich layers of motivational experience woven into every second of learning. And learners have a dashboard of scores, achievements and performance trackers which keep them focused on maximising success
Godfrey Parkin, CEO of Angaza | (Pic: MindZu)
Talking about gamification, the moment parents (especially Indian ones) hear the word 'game', they tend to become apprehensive. How has the response been so far? Did it take a lot of convincing?
Many are still not convinced! It is an ongoing challenge. The idea of game-based learning is alien to many adults, who feel education has to be linear, fear-inducing, dry, black and white, and rote, or else it is not serious. This is why so many have wasted money on e-learning solutions which are simple online replicas of the classroom or the textbook – and they wonder why their children stop using them. Here’s what parents need to understand about gamification. Brain chemistry tells us that the anticipation of success is a strong motivator, providing more pleasure than the actual achievement of success. But an anticipated large achievement, a long time in the future, is a lot less interesting than the anticipation of a relatively small achievement right now.
When we play games, whether it is a physical sport, cards or video games, the positive immersion is total because good stuff can happen at any moment. In education, our big targets such as year-end exams are usually a long way off. So, the effort we have to put in to achieve them is not fueled by minute-to-minute positive anticipation. In fact, we tend to dread distant exams rather than look forward to them, so the work we do today is at best a chore. The adolescent brain is going through immense changes. Typical teen behaviour such as poor decision-making, anxiety and constant stress happen because the prefrontal cortex of the brain is still 'wiring itself' to deal with the complexities of reasoning, judgment and empathy. But this brain-building can be focused and enhanced by gamification.
Personalised learning in a gamified environment turns negative stress, which hampers learning, into positive motivation, which enhances it. Games can get teenagers to care about what they are learning. Stories, challenges and social engagement contextualise learning and provide an immediate reason to want to learn, rather than the distant prospect of an exam or the more distant view of 'how is this going to help me in life?'. The key to learning online is to stimulate active engagement in an experience rather than passive consumption of video content.
Gamification in education not only amplifies learning, but it also gets the brain optimising its wiring to solve future problems. Learning through game-play has always been a celebrated mechanism in early childhood education. But a profound presence of gamification in high school education is rare. The closer education gets to major national exams, the less engaging it becomes. However, gamification mechanisms built into the architecture of the learning process can significantly improve attention, motivation, understanding and memory – especially in mid-teens.
A glimpse: A screenshot from the app | (Pic: Mindzu)
Tell us a little about the gamification that went into creating this app.
Gamification is not ‘a game’ – it is a process of threading continuous motivational engagement throughout the learning experience. Gamified learning leverages the intense positive attention that we apply in anticipation of an almost immediate small psychological reward. So it covers a broad canvas of interpretations. Making a scoring mechanism interesting or amusing is gamification, as is adding reward mechanisms like badges or bragging rights. More sophisticated gamification mechanisms we use in MindZu include letting learners solve problems against a clock to beat their own time; designing the visuals of the lessons to be captivating; architecting the user experience to be compelling and intriguing; giving instant feedback; allowing learners to know exactly what their status is at any time; and infusing the whole learning experience with exotic virtual worlds, colourful characters and appealing stories. And, of course, creating a big adventurous mission, which breaks into hundreds of incremental micro-missions – which is what most people think of when they hear ‘game’. The big mission in MindZu is to find Castle Meh, break in, rescue your friends who are held captive there and escape. You have to master the whole year’s curriculum to achieve this. To advance, you have to solve problems using what you have just learnt in each lesson. For example, dodge the laser beams by calculating their angles, open the lock by solving the formula, plot the correct Cartesian coordinates to avoid the patrols, find the safe stepping stones by recognising shapes, or locate the midpoint of the base of the triangular dungeon.
Has the price point been a bottleneck? Because the moment one mentions that an app is not free, it could alienate the consumer.
We wanted MindZu to be affordable to the broadest population. Thinking of it as an app may make it appear expensive to people who have not investigated the educational products market. But when you think of it as an educational service and compare it with DVDs, textbooks, tutors or the current major players in e-learning (who charge at least `12,000 per year), you realise that MindZu’s fee of `1,101 for a whole 15 months of access is amazingly good value. We are at the early stages of entering the market, so our current prices are substantially reduced from this fee while we get some momentum going. This allows early adopters to get MindZu at hardly any cost at all.
What to expect: A screen grab from the game | (Pic: MindZu)
Because a sizeable number of students go to government schools, are efforts being made to make it accessible to those from low-income households as well?
Our goal is to make MindZu available to as many learners as possible. It is not an elite expensive educational solution. At `1,101, the MindZu fee is already very affordable. For deeper penetration of truly low-income households, we would like to partner with a business or organisation which has a corporate social investment arm that can provide MindZu for free. Of course, we will co-sponsor this so the corporate commitment per person will be a fraction of the consumer fee. But we have not yet started looking for partners to help in this.
You have some big plans to expand further in the next 18 months, including more grades, subjects and languages. How are you planning to scale up this much?
We have a plan to expand our STEAM subjects and grades, which we believe we can fund out of revenues from sales. But we are looking for investors or partners who can help us accelerate that growth. We have a talented core team who understand the MindZu ethos and approach. We have developed the app mechanisms, learning management system and user experience architecture. We have mastered the processes for curriculum adaptation and creation of animations, stories and games. We have also designed the content to be relatively easily translated.
Which countries are next on your list?
We will be releasing MindZu worldwide in the coming weeks, but our marketing efforts will focus on gaining growth in India. Once we have fully established MindZu here, we will start actively building the brand in the UK and the Commonwealth countries, before tackling other big Asian nations.