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Building Career Connections through Game-Based Learning: A Q&A with Classroom, Inc.’s Lisa Holton

Classroom, Inc., an MIT Solve Member, is a nonprofit that creates immersive career readiness games for middle school students. In this Q&A, President Lisa Holton shares how the organization is preparing middle schoolers for successful futures.

What problem is Classroom, Inc. solving?

We all know that the future of work is uncertain, but what is certain is the need for strong problem-solving, critical thinking, and leadership skills. Right now, over one-half of entrants into the US workforce lack the skills to excel in the workplace.

Students from low-income communities face a host of systematic barriers, which make it even more challenging. We believe middle school is the right time to start preparing students for a successful future.

Through Classroom, Inc.’s career readiness games, students direct their learning by being the boss of a professional world. In this process, they read closely, think critically, and solve real-world problems—all while balancing the hectic demands of an exciting career.

Why join the MIT Solve community?

We are inspired by the diverse community that Solve fosters across industries and its passion for taking on real-world challenges. We’ve enjoyed connecting with the wide array of organizations and people finding solutions to systemic issues. It’s helpful to see different models in other sectors to challenge your own internal assumptions about your work. Most of all, it’s been great to meet so many interesting folks.

How are you creating inclusive technology?

Our game-based learning is designed to be culturally responsive. Through our learning games, students are placed in a position of leadership—often for the first time—in a community that looks like their own. We intentionally chose characters that share backgrounds, identity, and color with our students. All of this is powered by technology that makes our resources free and accessible to all.

What do you wish everyone understood about the academic achievement gap?

The achievement gap continues to expand as students move through their education. Middle school is a critical opportunity to re-engage students by making real-world workplace connections in both the classroom and in out-of-school time (OST) programs. But we know that when it comes to career pathways, creating “equal opportunities” and achieving equity are not the same thing.

To create equity, we need to help middle school youth connect the dots between school and their futures, starting the career exploration and preparation process sooner.

What's next for Classroom, Inc.?

Right now, we’re excited to be in the middle of our first Million Words Read challenge. Literacy skills are the gateway to opportunity, and keeping middle school students interested in literacy is critical to their success. Our game-based learning platform provides an alternate way to engage with reading and comprehension by exposing students to 5,000 words in every episode.

We have already awarded over 17,000 achievement badges to 6,500 students. Our Million Words Read challenge is a testament to the hard work of our students, and the efforts of the educators who lead their classrooms and OST programs.

Connect with Classroom Inc. and like-minded organizations by joining Solve as a Member.

Image courtesy of Classroom, Inc.

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