"Professor S."

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"Professor S.": The first real-world game for primary school.

Berlin, GermanyBerlin, Germany
Year Founded:
2009
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

"Professor S." is a new and innovative learning game. It combines a gripping story with real world experiences. A website and intelligent hardware enable a dialogue with the story characters. Children engage in quests that lead away from the computer - learning becomes an exciting adventure.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

every day you go to school is a new exciting adventure?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There is a global, growing need to teach our children media literacy. Most schools have access to the internet, smart boards, tablets and computers but few teachers can teach children the responsible use of these new technologies. Kids lack vital skills required to navigate the techno jungle. Teacher's often can't cover the curriculum in the allotted time let alone take on another subject. A concept is urgently needed to fill this gap.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

“Professor S.” is a completely new kind of learning game that is focused on media literacy but also fits seamlessly into all other subjects of the fourth grade. Playing the game does not take time away from “normal” lessons but compliments and enhances teaching in all subjects."Professor S." is fun and instructive for children and teachers alike. Teachers slip into the role of Professor S. and experience exciting adventures together with their pupils – not only virtually but also in real life. Many tasks lead away from the computer and require the kids to complete quests in the real world. The computer is only used where it really makes sense. Educational content is contextualized through an exciting story. Learning is engaging and fun!
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

For children, "Professor S." is a magical experience that begins with the delivery of a mysterious machine: the time portal. Through the device, they start talking to Professor S. and Jeanette who are stranded in the past and ask the kids to help them return to the present. This dialogue continues at home and consists of text, pictures, video messages and even real objects that they can send through the time portal. During this conversation, the kids are challenged to complete quests and produce media and objects. All quests are in sync with the curriculum. When they have finished a quest, they explain what they have learned and present the results to Professor S. They learn by doing and reflecting on their experience through storytelling.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

"Professor S." started with just one schools in 2009. Very quickly, three more schools wanted to help develop the project and contributed teachers and space to help grow the idea. During the trial period, 400 kids and 10 teachers played "Professor S.". All of them had a memorable experience and many kids surprised their teachers by demonstrating skills, the teachers had never before noticed in them. Today, there are seven schools involved in the trials for the new platform and time portal with twenty more schools waiting to play "Professor S." during the coming public beta phase. All this engagement developed only through word of mouth. Teachers recommend "Professor S." to other teachers because it is a useful, fun, engaging and unique enhancement to their teaching practice. But don't take our word for it - see what teachers say about "Professor S." here: https://vimeo.com/77477863

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

The next stage of development will see the production and distribution of documentary and entertainment films along with mini games. We also plan to adapt the “Professor S.” platform for the use at home. Once sufficient penetration of the German market has been achieved, we plan to offer "Professor S." in other European countries. At the same time, we are developing similar products for other age groups. It is conceivable that in five years time, we will cover the school years 1-4 in several European countries, and be poised to launch similar products overseas in the coming years.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

"Professor S." is financed by a subscription model. A clear pricing structure and low entry costs in relation to the customer benefit should yield a relatively high turnover rate. With an entry price of just 1,99 EUR/month for the Home version and 89,99 EUR/year for the School version, the inhibition level for a purchase is relatively low. The market potential in close proximity is relatively high at 1050 schools and 200,000 private homes.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There is to our knowledge, no product that is fully comparable to “Professor S.” who's feature set can only partially be found in other products. Microsoft Xbox, Sofatutor, Apple iTunes U, Khan Academy, Quest To Learn and Goodbeans to name but a few, all operate in a similar space. However, whilst most of these products deliver media, education and gaming content, none of them offer the fully immersive, mixed reality experience of "Professor S." Also, "Professor S." has already established a unique credibility and access through developing the game from within the school system.
Team

Founding Story

The idea for “Professor S.” was born in May 2009. At the time, Jan von Meppen was asked by a friend to install a server at a primary school in Berlin. While he worked there, he saw that learning games used in the class room were not fundamentally different from printed school books – the only difference was the medium. Because of Jan's experience with new media, gaming and technology, he knew that using the same means, a fully immersive learning environment could be created. After a draft of the concept was approved by the school’s administration, first trial runs of “Professor S.” began in the classroom. Schools received the project was with such enthusiasm, that it was decided to develop it further and state funding was granted.

Team

The "Professor S." team joins a wide range of skills and nationalities. Programmers, designers, engineers, film makers, educators and business people all work to help "Professor S." succeed. We currently have 12 full-time and 5 part-time staff members as well as 15 consultants, advisors and freelancers supporting us with their skills and expertise. People contribute with great enthusiasm and many great ideas already were and will be conceived.
About You
Organization:
LudInc GmbH
About You
First Name

Jan

Last Name

von Meppen

About Your Project
Organization Name

LudInc GmbH

How long has your organization been operating?

Please select

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Project
Organization Country

, BE, Berlin

Country where this project is creating social impact

, BE, Berlin

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, National government, Other.

Supplemental
Awards

Projektfonds Kulturelle Bildung
Innovative Audiovisuelle Inhalte (Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg)
ProFit (Investitionsbank Berlin)

Primary Target Age Group

6 - 12.

Your role in Education

Other.

Please specify which of the following best applies:

I am applying on behalf of a particular program or initiative.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with (if applicable)

Public (tuition-free).

Intervention Focus

Curricular.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Creating Peer Support Networks for All Stakeholders in Education: Creating peer-to-peer learning and support for teachers, parents, expecting mothers and more that enables them to transform learning.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Trapped Between Competing Pressures: Educators face a lack of capacity to re-imagine and restructure educational settings.

Need

Educational Film and Game content aimed at children aged 8-12.

Offer

Revenue share in media content distributed through the "Professor S." platform.

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

Media Literacy
Media Competency
Storytelling Skills
Presentation Skills
Social Skills

Secondary Form
PROGRAM DESIGN CLARITY: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Please succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

In “Professor S.”, a young physicist and his assistant Jeanette are trapped in a journey through time and space. The game’s chapters link an exciting story and the learning content of all subjects in 4th grade. Children and teachers explore different places in time and solve quests together with the story characters.
They use two features that are integral parts of the game and link the story to the real world: a secure website and a mysterious suitcase with a built-in tablet. On these interfaces the pupils follow the story line. They watch videos, read messages with tasks and receive little objects. As fellow explorers, they help the story characters to solve problems: like sending traffic rules for cyclists or helping with information on sea creatures. In the background, the teacher slips into the role of Professor S., chooses and edits tasks, and may also create, upload and share own tasks. We provide story material (audio, video, texts) and teaching material (background information, lesson plans, worksheets).
“Professor S.” is designed to accompany pupils and teachers for a year, throughout the entire 4th grade. The game’s modular and interdisciplinary structure allows for a very flexible use in class: from 45-minutes sections to several hours with indoor/outdoor activities. Currently, the game is being played an average of 90 -180 minutes per class & week.
It is easy to play the game but if required, trained media specialists support teachers in the classroom.

INSPIRATION: What do you consider the most important trends or evidence that inspire you to believe the world is ready to Re-imagine Learning? Please elaborate.

Re-imagining learning means re-thinking education in our global and digital world. Recent political discussion and pedagogical studies stress three important dimensions of education: media literacy, personal learning concepts and interaction in the real world. Against this backdrop, the concept, design and implementation of “Professor S.” focus on three main questions: How can we link analogue didactic models to digital space? In which ways can we support individual needs and talents in differentiating ways? Where and how can we move on beyond the frontiers set by classroom, income, belief?

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: What does “learning through play” mean to you and why it is a must-have, instead of a nice to have?

Playing is important for a child’s development. Playing means interactivity with the environment, immersion into an exciting world and fun. “Learning through play” adopts these principles and qualities. An adventurous story allows a playful and activity-oriented access to a curriculum. It also helps, by way of its storyline to remember the information acquired. Thus, learning is put into a context and not abstract anymore.
For us, “learning through play” affects the pupils’ motivation to learn, their ability to remember and therefore improves their learning results.

SUSTAINABILITY: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating the percentage that comes from each source.

Total: 1.357.000€ (100%)
Projektfonds Kulturelle Bildung, fund for pioneering projects for cultural education: 17.000€ (1,25%)
Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, regional film fund: 50.000€ (3,68%)
Investitionsbank Berlin: 900.000€ (66,32%)
Own capital: 350.000€ (25,79%)
Investor: 40.000€ (2,95%)

MODEL: How does your mission relate to your business model (i.e. Non-profit, for-profit or hybrid)?

We want to provide a fun learning tool beyond borders & obstacles. The game architecture is adaptable to other countries and languages. Therefore we are able to calculate for our commercial services (annual licenses for the game, hardware, a media library with films & mini-games on a pay-per-view/pay-per-use basis) an affordable fee. Nonetheless, we also offer an assessment-based grant to those schools/households with limited resources.

FUNDING PRIORITIES: If your organization were given $20K in unrestricted funding today, how would you use it? Why?

We would hire an additional story editor and a pedagogical expert to accelerate the development of the home version of “Professor S.”. Part of that being the selection of content for the Media Library (films and games). Furthermore, we would like to start to adapt "Professor S." to the 3rd grade.

PARTNERSHIPS: Tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

Westermann Publishing: promotion/distribution - known for having developed the most successful learning tool for kids in primary schools and are one of the biggest school book publishers in Germany..
Academy for Children’s Media: story development - they are THE training organisation for media content (film, games, books) for children in Germany.
Flying Moon: video production - they are a multi-award-winning international film production.

COLLABORATIONS: Have you considered or initiated partnerships with any of the other Challenge Pacesetters? If so, please share.

The modular structure of “Professor S.” can be associated to any learning content (age 8-12). Thus we would like to partner with various Challenge Pacesetters: e.g. G.Hosford's "codeSpark", E.Tulbert’s “Planet Lab”, B. Palmer-Scott’s “Shakespeare at Play”, A.Lacey's "now, press, play".

VISION: If you had unlimited funding, and you could fast forward 15 years to when your program has been able to achieve wild success - what will it have achieved?

“Professor S.” will have set the international standard in education for children. Children will love to learn. Parents will know that their kids can navigate modern media safely. Teachers will use multiple media to link interactive storytelling and the reality of the individual child. A media library provides suitable content for children at any place in the world, edited by a professional network that continues to advance this way of learning.

IMPACT - KEY METRICS: Please list the key data points that you would cite as evidence that you are able to achieve lasting learning outcomes. Please also share one data point for which you most hope to see better results over time

In the past two years “Professor S.” received great resonance: from funders, school book publishers, research institutions – and 19 teachers and more than 400 pupils who tested the game: for teachers, the material fits “excellently” with lessons, the “motivation effect is very high”; for pupils “class turns into an adventure”, they want to “discover new tasks”. We want to influence teachers in integrating multi media tools into their classes.

IMPACT - REPORTING SAMPLE: Please attach any examples of your impact reporting. [optional]:
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE: Please link or attach any research or evidence resource you are open to sharing more widely [optional]. Building research and evidence is a key aim of this initiative, and the resources you share may be chosen for listing in the Center for Education Innovations library:
SOURCE: If applicable - who created the research or evidence you are choosing to share? :
IMPACT - REACH: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

0 to 500

STUDY: Has an external evaluation or study been conducted of your organization?

In progress

Other (please specify)
Number of Employees:

10-100

Number of Volunteers:

Fewer than 10

APPROACHES: Given the complexity of play, it is not surprising that there have been numerous research attempts to categorize the different types and approaches! Please indicate which of the following your project focuses on.

Physical Play, Play with Objects, Symbolic Play, Games with Rules, Creating a Supportive Socio-Emotional Environment, Providing a Range of Opportunities (providing the equipment and materials needed for various types of play), Educational Structuring (developing playful projects within educational contexts), Adults Participating (Ensuring adults are able to play alongside children), Challenging Play (play that disrupts - where rules are disregarded and levels of imagination are high), Other (please specify).

Other (please specify)

Media Literacy

AFFILIATION: Please specify if your organization has any existing affiliations with the LEGO Group.

No

Comments

Bernhard Hofer's picture

Really cool idea, would love to experience the game in person sometimes. It would be interesting to know more about your scaling plans and how you measure your impact. All the best and greetings from Vienna!

It´s touching me to see your videos how the children talk about their project. Also it´s great to see the teachers realising that their pupils have much more potential than they ever thought. It´s a beautiful and powerful program and I wish you all the best! Hope to meet you soon :) Alex

Grant Hosford's picture

What a fun idea! So creative and clever. I really like the combination of imagination, movement, exploration and learning.

I have closely followed Jan and his team over the last few years, I have watched this idea grow into truly innovative project. Gaining real world knowledge from extensive testing of the concept on its end user helping them develop the project further. I personally think the Idea of engaging children to interact with 'Professor S and his assistant Jeanette, through the time portal to complete tasks and solve real world problems in a fun and exciting way encouraging learning and exploration as a team and as individuals is inspiring and the truly marvellous.

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