Games for a Digital Age, Part 2

In January 2013 the Joan Ganz Cooney Center released the report Games for a Digital Age: K-12 Market Map and Investment Analysis by John Richards, Leslie Stebbins and Kurt Moellering. The report features a sector analysis and market map of game‐based learning initiatives with an analysis of relevant trends in education and digital technology that are likely to impact development of a robust game-based learning market segment.

With permission from the Cooney Center, AEP is republishing key excerpts from the report. Our goal is to create a common language surrounding discussions of educational technology and to help ensure that digital learning providers develop an understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities in the K-12 market. In the section on the K-12 Institutional Market, the report discusses important factors—demographics, funding, policy, grants, district size, and infrastructure—impacting the sales and use of educational technology in the classroom. Below are highlights from the discussion surrounding infrastructure as well as overall recommendations.

Selling to Schools: The K-12 Institutional Market


In the past, schools were not receptive to technological innovation because many lacked the basic technology infrastructure. This lack of resources blocked any attempt to base curriculum on digital resources, including games or simulations. In our judgment, this picture is changing dramatically. Together, these changes comprise a technology-driven disruption. This is a time of change in the classroom. As noted by Vic Vuchic, Associate Program Officer at the Hewlett Foundation,

“The buzz driving the VC community may be because the infrastructure is possibly maturing to a level where you can do distribution and reach at a reasonable cost. There may be enough districts and enough infrastructure that it takes a lot less capital to have a fair impact. But the majority of schools they visit still have horrific infrastructures (CS4Ed interview, April 2012).”

Several notable developments affecting education include:

  • Cloud-based services: The growth and expansion of storage and resources, virtualization tools, and improved Internet access have made it easier for companies to offer key software products and services online. In turn, this trend has lowered costs for implementation and training on new software for schools and educators (Anderson & Rainie, 2010).
  • Mobile technologies: A flourishing ecosystem of third-party developers who supply useful applications has sparked interest in educational applications for mobile devices. Although mobile technology was not a main focus of institutional spending in 2009-2010, a new pool of entrepreneurs and established companies (e.g., Apple and Nokia) have been paying increased attention to potential K-12 institutional markets for their products and apps (Adkins, 2011).
  • Cheap data storage: Whether they are tied to cloud-based services or on-site servers, data storage and management systems have continued to become more scalable and cost-effective, both of which are key elements for schools. Available data storage is also important for vendors, as educational products become increasingly sophisticated in tracking incredibly fine-grained student-, educator-, school-, and district-level information (Johnson, Smith, Levine & Haywood, 2010).
  • Social networks and community websites: The increasing acceptance, use, and consumer understanding of collaboration technologies and platforms for educators and students to share ideas, resources, reviews, and information on an up-to-the-second basis has led to these resources being co-opted for educational purposes.


With this overview of the current realities of the demographics, funding, and technological possibilities in the K-12 market, our recommendations for learning game investors, publishers, and developers are that they should:

  • target the 3,500 districts with between 2,500 and 25,000 students;
  • assist districts in navigating, sourcing, and writing state, federal, and foundation grants;
  • target education service agencies. These are consortia formed by smaller districts in order to consolidate their buying power;
  • support learning games that can be used on interactive white boards, as these are becoming ubiquitous in classrooms; and
  • anticipating BYOD, support learning games on inexpensive computing devices andmobile devices.

Read the complete report for a more detailed discussion of the composition of the K-12 school market and the issues that influence instructional materials purchases.

Richards, J., Stebbins, L., & Moellering, K. (2013). Games for a Digital Age: K-12 Market Map and Investment Analysis. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

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