Several trends are combining to rapidly push educational publishers in new directions: The future of educational media is digital. The future of digital is mobile, and the future of mobile is gaming. Touch screens will be not only the dominant gaming platforms, they will be the dominant educational platform too. There’s money to be made—and children to be educated.
All this we know. But what does this mean for traditional educational publishers? What does this mean for game designers, and for makers of children’s digital content?
I have worked in educational software design for twenty years, and I have never seen the industry better funded or more befuddled. At Night & Day Studios we have pursued development of our own mobile content, but increasingly, we are licensing brands and making partnerships with large, traditional publishers to bring their content to mobile devices.
No one knows what the business deals should look like. No one knows what a branded educational game should be. In the great majority of cases, neither educators or really traditional publishers are really in control of the games that are being made or the revenues that are being generated.
The great majority of mobile software publishers are small companies without the reach, channels, or back catalog of the big publishers. But the developers are quick and cheap and experts in their brand-new fields. In short, the two companies need each other.
What do the children need? Are there lessons we can take away from the last twenty years of educational software publishing-
from CD-ROMs to A/R games-that can successfully guide the way we design, develop, and deliver fun and educational experiences to our children? Are there particular attributes of touchscreen mobile devices that can let us do something new?
It is more than just the technology that has changed: Can a heavily branded game from a major publisher still deliver innovative and effective educational experiences with lasting impact? Can we actually improve the lives and knowledge of our young people, while making money at the same time? How will we know if we have succeeded?
We will discuss our experiences in creating new business models around licensing and content partnerships; in designing our products on principles of cognitive development; in bringing mobile content to the global market; and in developing the analytics to measure actual improvement in the minds of users.
Nat Sims is the CEO and cofounder of Night & Day Studios. The company develops arts, education, and entertainment apps for Apple, Android, Nook, and the Kindle Fire.He has been a content developer and interface designer for over 20 years, creating educational software, interpretive plans and exhibits, curricula, graphics, music, and games.
Nat has designed over 50 iPhone and iPad applications in the last three years including the best-selling Peekaboo Barn, Eric Carle’s My Very First App, and Caillou’s World. Night & Day Studios has international licenses for many major children’s brands including The World of Eric Carle, Richard Scarry, and Yo Gabba Gabba!, and is currently collaborating on projects with publishers HarperCollins and Penguin Young Readers.
After completing a B.A. in interface design at Hampshire College, Nat earned his master’s degree in Communication at the University of California San Diego, studying educational software design and developmental psychology. Nat then worked for 10 years developing educational media for museums, including a multimillion-dollar visitor center for the City of Tucson and exhibits such as The Life & Times of Woody Guthrie for the Smithsonian Institution. Nat has presented at over a dozen conferences on education and technology, including the White House Internet Summit, Mobile Portland, and the Institute for the Future.
Björn Jeffery is the founder of Toca Boca, a play studio that makes digital toys for touchscreen devices. In 2011, they released ten products that was sold in over 115 countries worldwide and reached downloads of over 5 million – all in their first year. Toca Boca is a part of The Bonnier Group, one of Europe’s largest media groups with interests in books, newspapers, magazines, television, internet and film. In 2010, Bonnier had sales of approximately 4.4 billion USD.
Previously, Björn was the Director of Future Media & Technology at Bonnier Research & Development, where he was responsible for global research and analysis regarding consumer behavior and strategic shifts in technology. Other projects include founding and being the CEO of the strategic web agency Good Old, founding Manolo.se – the first blog to be sold in Northern Europe, and Discobelle.net – one of the most influential music blogs in the club music scene. Previous employers include the Swedish dailies Göteborgs-Posten and Sydsvenskan, and SVT – Swedish National Television.
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