Broomington

My team and I wanted to design an educational technology that would help high school students learn about entrepreneurship in a fun and interesting way. We developed the idea and concept for the game and then presented that to the class in order to obtain feedback upon our ideas.

Click here to view our presentation
The critique we received on our original concept helped us to determine the best method to implement our idea. The critique we recieved after the presentation was:
Liked:
  • The idea generally
  • The understanding debt and capital part.
  • Start-up's usually fail because people don't understand the market. Therefore teaching them to read the market and analysing it is very important.
  • Good that it is starting from the basics.
  • The audience is targeted.

  • Things we can think about:
  • Hiring team mates to help with the start up.
  • Using the medals to get better workers.

  • Concerns:
  • Felt like Diner Dash, similar stock trading game.
  • What makes it unique.
  • Can players modify the product? How can they do that?
  • Is there a list of options to pick from? (concerning the product they are selling)
  • Is there something you can use the medals for?
  • Broomington? Is it only cause it is guided towards coming up with the broom? Only being used for giving the first hint useless after that or if product that is being sold is modified in any way.
  • It might help with transfer of knowledge or helping them with understanding the really abstract economic concepts they learn (in class) into a contextual example. It could also encourage discussion within the class about their choices, how/why they think their business was successful/or not, and how they could think about this w.r.t. their abstract concepts learned in class.

  • After analyzing the critique we receieved we designed the final game plan as detailed below.

    There are things that can be accepted as anecdotal, common knowledge. For example, in today’s society, money is important, so people and businesses want money. Though, the details around earning money, making smart decisions with money, and the consequences of poorly handling money aren’t as commonly known. How, then, can we prepare the next generation to understand the business of economy, entrepreneurship, and money? Economic issues affect our lives in a variety of ways and it is imperative that students become acquainted with this material at an early age. Cultivating economic literacy can transform the way that students view and manage their money, finances, and their future. Traditional entrepreneurship games, like Lemonade Stand, encouraged a linear approach to entrepreneurship: generate an idea, execute the idea, perform the accounting. What about evaluating the market to identify supply and demand? Where does successful product marketing fit into this simplistic model? Instead of packaging entrepreneurship as a series of sequential steps, games should teach entrepreneurship as it stands: a variable, dynamic, and evolving entity. To do this, we have identified two major facets of a new or start-up business: ideation and customer development. In this game, Broomington, players will navigate the entrepreneurship world by proposing a business idea, understanding the market, and confidently evaluating offers and business decisions.

    Audience
    Broomington is a business simulation game that is designed for high school students in the Metro-Atlanta area. Research shows that high school students are more likely to begin considering entrepreneurship as potential career path [1], a major motivating factor in the Broomington demographic focus. It is very possible, however, that individuals of any age and background could benefit from this educational technology. The in-game content parallels many of the concepts covered in high school economics courses [2] and encourages discussion within the classroom about their decisions and reasonings throughout the game. This will encourage players to be more engaged and eager to share what they have learned in the game, and further build knowledge by analyzing it in a classroom setting. Students will understand basic economics concepts like marketing and supply and demand, even if they do not have experience-based knowledge of business or economics. Broomington provides the perfect opportunity to supplement their coursework, help them more thoroughly comprehend the concepts, and provide them with challenging scenarios that have real world implications.

    Content
    The gameplay mechanics are paramount to the success of this educational technology. If the game overemphasizes the importance of learning the subject matter rather than the actual gameplay, we can quickly overwhelm the player and drive them away. The content must be gently embedded throughout the game, such that the player is always learning without feeling lectured. Broomington tasks the player with identifying a problem, developing a solution, and marketing that product within and outside of a community. The game requires no prior knowledge of business and presents many of the fundamentals to the player in fun and captivating ways. Players progress through the game (for better or worse) by completing meaningful activities that require them to use their creativity and the skills that they have acquired along the way [3]. For example, Player A has the opportunity to market her brand new product at the local Town Hall event this coming Friday. The player has the opportunity to do several different things in order to prepare:
    1. Post flyers around Broomington
    2. Promote the event via Social Media
    3. Improve the product before the event
    4. Invest in stock before the event
    5. Do nothing at all
    The actions listed above are mostly those that will advance the player in a positive direction. However, they can just as easily do things that would have negative effects on their progress. The player’s performance is evaluated at the end of each level and they are given a report card that highlights their good, bad, and risky decisions [4]. At this point, the player has the option to continue to the next level or start the level over from the beginning, making improvements along the way. Much of the content in these activities - or missions - introduces players to fundamental economics concepts such as:
    1. Cost-benefit analysis
    2. Supply and Demand
    3. Budgeting
    4. Capital
    5. Market research
    6. Property rights
    The Georgia Standard of Education for Economy courses requires students to show proficiency (at least a ‘D’ grade) in these and other areas in order to pass the course [5]. This aligns perfectly with the audience as they will already be familiar with the material once they take these courses in the coming years. Our goal is not to replace the traditional economics and entrepreneurship courses that high school students must complete. Instead, we wish to provide students with a fresh, creative and transferable way to look at business and entrepreneurship. Games such as Lemonade Stand [6] and Monopoly [7] have had an indelible impact on children and adults and have stood the test of time. Though these games, as joyful as they are, fail at fostering the knowledge presented and encouraging creativity. Games such as Sims 2: Open for Business [8] are unique in that they give the player dominion over the open-world environment and allow them sit and watch as their businesses succeed or as they crash and burn. Again, emphasis must be placed on the gameplay if we wish to succeed with this educational technology. The content discussed is utilized in a unique approach that allows the user to be creative while also developing their business acumen.

    Learning Goals
    Broomington focuses on teaching players various aspects of entrepreneurship. There are seven learning goals to frame the entrepreneurship discussion and unpack the ways in which to communicate and teach important principles.
    1. Understand the differences between capital, revenue, and debt
    2. Evaluate offers and identify the terms of a good negotiation and counter offer
    3. Recognize real life examples of supply and demand
    4. Identify successful business marketing tactics
    5. Use market and population information to assess business needs in a specific environment
    6. Evaluate the strength and potential of an idea
    7. Realize that brief rises and falls in the market are common
    Broomington is set in an alternate reality where there is a distinct need for a specific product, so players can recognize examples of supply and demand and then address evaluate the relative strength and potential of their idea. These actions also contribute to understanding how a market and population inform business needs in a specific environment. Students will practice basic economic principles as they sell inventory, negotiate business offers, and expand their business, effectively developing their knowledge of capital, revenue, and debt. There will be benefits and drawbacks to each decision they make, a fact that is used to help players realize that rises and falls in the market are common. Seeing these highs and lows is intended to provide players with the confidence that is traditionally learned through experience. Throughout the course of the game, players will be able to identify successful business marketing tactics, while avoiding investments which could lead to bankruptcy. Players will be approached with varied offers, investment opportunities, and deals throughout the game, to encourage them to consider what constitutes an advancement to their business and where they could negotiate a better offer.

    Learning Approach
    Broomington employs several learning approaches throughout the game, to accommodate various learning styles and preferences. The game will make use of the cognitive tutor approach to tailor the game to the learners’ strengths and needs so players can strengthen their weaker areas with directed guidance. For instance, if a player is having trouble making decisions about an investment offer, the game will provide hints about the best course of action. This allows the player to retain full control of the game with light, corrective direction. Conversely, if a player is performing well and making quick, accurate decisions, the game will remove layers of scaffolding and make the game more challenging. For instance, the scaffolding around assessing an offer would be unpacked so instead of being offered all of the information to make a good decision, players will have to draw certain conclusions themselves. Broomington also utilizes various aspects of behaviorism. The game is largely reward-based, as the user will receive a medal at the end of each level based on the amount of money acquired. Gold medals unlock more upgrades in the next level, allowing users that have done well an encouraging benefit in future levels. On the other hand, when a player makes a poor decision, they will be punished with a loss of funds. This consequence teaches the user to be more careful with every decision made in the game. The game also uses certain aspects of constructivist approach to teaching. The learners are expected to build on their foundational knowledge of business. The students are actively involved in the game and make all of their own decisions, as would a start-up business. The game encourages the player to be responsible and govern their own decisions. Broomington focuses primarily on learner-centered design. As mentioned, the game is highly-interactive, and allows the player to explore what expansions they would like to pursue. This allows the player to fail or succeed according to her own actions, and subsequently the user will begin to learn from these mistakes or successes. Players are also encouraged to reflect on their decisions at the end of each chapter to analyze which areas they can improve the most in for the next section.

    Design
    The videogame will take place in a fictional town, the game’s namesake, Broomington. It will be accessible on desktop computers and mobile devices to accommodate diverse technical preferences for the teenage audience. The game opens on the last day of the school year for a recently graduated high school senior. The player will have the opportunity to name the main character, but for simplicity the main character will be referred to as Sam. Having recently graduated, Sam is determined to earn and save as much money as possible before starting college at the end of the summer. The player will understand this as the game’s primary purpose. Sam determines what his neighborhood needs as a way to make money through the summer. Students hear various townspeople complain about the hassles of cleaning and dusting and eventually realize that in this fictional town, there are no brooms with which to sweep the house. At this point, students will have assessed the market, identified the need, and hypothesized a solution that will lead to a successful business. From here, the game is about manufacturing and marketing the product, scaling the business, and evaluating external offers. Players will pick manufacturers based on their reputation, price, and the production quality. There will be opportunities to market the product and seek feedback at town halls, regularly scheduled gatherings of town people. Players will have several opportunities to hire employees, purchase higher quality materials, or improve marketing efforts to scale the business. Finally, players will receive regular investor offers in which they will evaluate the proposal and determine if it is a good idea. Successful entrepreneurs have a healthy obsession with their business’ metrics, ratings, and value. These things are effective signals for business success and failure. To instill a similar relationship between players and their Broomington business, there will be an omnipresent navigation bar with business statistics (see Image 1). This navigation bar will feature the business’ available cash, inventory on hand, debt, market rating, and timeline.


    Image 1: Navigation bar with business statistics

    Entrepreneurship finances are more complex than having negative or positive money. For example, a business can be simultaneously in debt to a lender and have accessible funds to pursue investments. To help students understand the difference between debt and capital, both of these values will be displayed in the navigation bar and frequently referred to throughout gameplay. Players can use this information to make quick decisions throughout the game. For example, if a cleaning services company places a large order of brooms, players should consult their inventory amounts to determine if they have enough inventory to make a large sale and market the product at the next town hall. Alternatively, players can use the market rating indication to understand the popular opinion about their product. If there is a negative market rating, they can navigate to the Market Analysis view (see Image 2) to further understand.

    Image 2: Market analysis

    Players can see customer quotes, choosing to publicize positive quotes and personally address negative ones. They can also see graphs depicting their revenue over time, building materials, and the number of attendees projected to attend the next town hall. Equipped with this information, players can make informed decisions about the success of their product.

    Image 3: Investment offer with market analysis

    Throughout the game, players will be asked to make decisions, pursue opportunities, and evaluate their business. At the end of each level, indicated by a predetermined amount of time passed in the game, players will be approached by Investor Ivan (see Image 3). He will have considered the business value and recent events to propose an amount of money in exchange for services. For example, Investor Ivan can offer to purchase all of the available inventory at 50% reduced value if recent sales have been low, at which point, the player can choose to accept, counter, or reject the offer. If recent sales have been low because of limited marketing resources, but the public opinion of the company is strongly positive, the player can argue that Investor Ivan is lowballing, and reject the offer. Each of these decisions will be supported with business evidence to help players develop a strong and confident business sense. The overall aesthetic of the game should appeal to wide audience, relying on good design to communicate timelessness.

    Assessment
    To perform successfully, entrepreneurs should possess a wide knowledge and a number of skills. Some of these skills will be related to the general business knowledge, including traditional functional areas [9]. Because entrepreneurship, either entirely or partially, is about doing something new, performing “new combinations” [9], or creating future goods or services [9], it involves the future, which is by definition unknown [9], even unknowable. It is therefore quite logical to assume that entrepreneurs usually act under moderate-to-high degrees of uncertainty. It is then understandable that opportunity creation and opportunity discovery, both inherently more uncertain, involve solving ill-structured problems. Thus, the quality of decision-making in such settings would likely vary between experts and novices, since experts are better able to recognize the cognitive nature of the task and behave accordingly, whereas novices are not [9]. According to recent results [9] expert entrepreneurs, while engaging in an opportunity identification task, are able to recognize the cognitive nature of the opportunity they confront and adapt their cognitive behavior to the cognitive nature of the task. This would suggest that entrepreneurial expertise is not an inborn aptitude but a skill, which can be acquired by potential entrepreneurs. This, in turn, would suggest that appropriate expert behavior in entrepreneurial situations could be taught and learned [9]. The term metacognition refers to thinking about thinking or cognition about cognition. The student is forced to reflect upon each of his/her decisions at the end of every chapter. Metacognition will facilitate the self-reflection, understanding and control of one’s own entrepreneurial cognitions. Metacognition is the first tool to perform and assessment. The second assessment tool is the medal system and in some instances the amount of capital you have overall. There are three medals that players can receive after completion of a level: gold, silver, and bronze. Each medal permits progression to the next level but affords the user different rewards. The gold medal (highest achievement) is the hardest to obtain and requires the player to make exceptional business decisions and take risks that have the potential yield big gains. The silver acknowledges comprehension of the skills required to complete the level, though not the extent of the gold, as the player made a few poor decisions. Bronze is awarded to players who do the bare minimum to complete the level. If you are not awarded a medal, you must replay the level. In all cases, the player is provided a report of their performance and highlights areas where they can improve. This provides the player with useful and frequent evaluations that can help them improve their performance on the next level. The higher the medal receive, the more you are rewarded. By achieving multiple golds and silver medals, different resources become available and the player is able to ultimately access more capital. They can market their idea to venture capitalists, people in public office, or receive offers from potential buyers. The amount of money the players “sees” in the game is indicative of their level of skill of the game. If the player receives multiple bronze medal, certain resources are not made available and therefore they cannot capitalize on the investment. These two systems provide the player with tools that can help them retain the material and reinforce material that they will require to advance.

    Conclusion
    Broomington is a marriage between common high-school-aged student interest [1] and required financial, entrepreneurship, and decision-making skills. In the world of capitalism, misunderstanding or failing to understand money doesn’t bode well for achieving financial success. Previous generations of entrepreneurship games set the foundation. They offered cookie-cutter paths to success, linear relationships between decisions and consequences, and were entertaining for audiences. Broomington aims to build on this foundation by offering realistic, complex paths to success and multi-layered relationships between decisions and their consequences, both positive and negative. All while providing an entertaining experience. The overarching goal of this educational technology is to empower students to generate ideas, evaluate them against the market needs, and market them to successfully scale a business. Students should understand that there is no such thing as a bad idea, only poorly thought through or executed ideas. Some businesses fail due to poor marketing or customer identification, both of which can be avoided by understanding the basic concepts taught through Broomington. With the use of this educational technology, we can confidently prepare the next generation for financial literacy, solid entrepreneurship knowledge, and money savvy.

    References
    [1] Carrier, Camille. "Strategies for teaching entrepreneurship: What else beyond lectures, case studies and business plans." Handbook of research in entrepreneurship education 1 (2007): 143-159.
    [2] Liberty Fund, Inc. "High School Economics Topics." Library of Economics and Liberty. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2014
    [3] Solomon, George T., K. Mark Weaver, and Lloyd W. Fernald. "A historical examination of small business management and entrepreneurship pedagogy." Simulation & Gaming 25.3 (1994): 338-352.
    [4] Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). “Learning and Transfer.” In How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (Expanded edition). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
    [5] Georgia Standards for Education.
    [6] Lemonade Stand. Bob Jamison. Video Game.
    [7] Monopoly. Parker Brothers. Board Game.
    [8] The Sims 2: Open for Business. EA Games. Video Game.
    [9] Mitchell, J. Robert, et al. "Thinking about thinking about thinking: Exploring how entrepreneurial metacognition affects entrepreneurial expertise." presented June. Vol. 10. 2005.