Love them or hate them, standardized tests play a critical role in the American educational system, and consequently, in the life of each student. Tests often determine funding, which in turn has an impact on every student. Of course, exam scores always play a huge factor in grades. Coupling those grades with ACT or SAT scores can determine whether or not a person gets into a college. So, test performance is obviously critical, yet sometimes even the best students struggle. What if there was an app that could change that? Now there is.
What is the app?
The app isn’t just some boring traditional educational tool. It’s a fun game. UPgrade is the new mobile game app from Sterling Heights-based Diggs Learning, LLC. It is the brainchild of a high school teacher who got inspired through his own students. As a result, he set out to create a revolutionary new game that is designed to help students improve their test-taking capability, while doing something they enjoy.
“UPgrade is a game that students can play on their phones when done with their work in class. It is designed for 7th through 11th grade students to prepare them for the SAT, but also to prepare them to take any test in any class, even in college,” said Diggs. “Kids can be motivated to play the game for fun, to compete for highest score, or even for possible points in class, if the teacher approves.”
Where did the idea come from?
It was a simple brainstorming session with his students that led marketing and entrepreneurship teacher, Greg Diggs, to come up with the interesting idea. During class Diggs was guiding his students toward ideas for a business plan project. He jotted numerous industries on the board with corresponding trends. He eventually wrote “Education” as an industry and immediately cited “testing” as an example of a trend. Based on that, Diggs made the assertion that a product or service that would improve students’ test-taking abilities would be highly valued.
The concept didn’t just illustrate a point to his students, it sparked an idea. After class, he walked down the hallway to the cafeteria and mentioned it to a colleague, Annette Christiansen. He piqued the interest of the National Life Changer Award winner, and the pair soon began a partnership based on their respective areas of expertise. Diggs had the business know-how, while Christiansen was known for teaching her students test-taking techniques that resulted in higher SAT scores.
How does the game work?
As any teacher, or parent for that matter, can tell you, digital games are all the rage with teens and tweens. Therefore, it only made sense to choose that as a painless method to reach the kids. Diggs started observing which electronic games appealed to his students. He noticed that games with a scary component were very popular. Then he focused the aesthetics of his game in that direction.
UPgrade revolves around getting clues and solving problems. Players do this while virtually roaming through a haunted school. They have to avoid monsters and rescue classmates. Once the content and creative direction were solidified, Diggs hired programmers to bring his idea to life.
At last, parents can allow more screen time for something that may actually help their kids with school. The preliminary signs of its impact are positive. Based on a study conducted by Professor Dr. Chakraborti-Ghosh of Tennessee State University, approximately 48% of the players were reported to have their test-taking abilities improved by the game. Additionally, because the game is fun and engaging, 43% of student participants reported that they would play this game daily or multiple times a week.
How can you get the game?
The initial version of the game teaches 10 different testing technique concepts. Plans for future versions may include as many as 28. It is available to download for both Apple and Android devices at www.upgradegame.org. The app can be sampled by downloading a free version that includes some advertising. There is also a longer ad-free version for a small fee. School districts interested in acquiring a license to make the app available to all of their students are encouraged to contact Greg Diggs at 586-698-8766 or DiggsLearning@gmail.com.