Potential Kickstarter for Textfyre

I would strongly, strongly advise against this. Especially the flex funding option.

David, can you articulate why you don’t want to make a prototype game yourself? I’ve read your responses to this question time and time again, and it all seems to boil down to a lot of hemming and hawing about how you really want someone else to do it.

I don’t ask this to be mean, mind; I just honestly don’t get why you don’t make a game yourself. It wouldn’t even have to be good, just a display of what qualities you’re looking for in a game like this. Earlier you said something about assessments being a problem; could you say why that is?

First of all, where criticism is concerned, I am a bit more sensitive when it comes from the IF community. Don’t ask me why, I just am.

The simplest answer is that although I understand IF very well, I am not a confident writer. I am writing more these days from a hobby perspective to try to “re-hone” whatever writing talent I have and this may lead to being more confident in writing my own stories. But it’s my belief that the stories we put in classrooms for testing actually need to be great, not just samples. We need humor and drama and really strong writing to capture people’s attention. I strongly believe that writing is a skill and talent and that you can’t just throw down words and make it all work well. Someone needs to do that thoughtfully and purposefully. My preference is to find someone who is already highly confident in their writing capability (especially where IF is concerned).

David C.

Well, hey, it’s nice to know that you care so much about the quality of your games, but sentiment can only take you so far. Personally I think you need to be a lot clearer about what you’re looking for in the games you want to market, and like it or not, making a short prototype will help a lot in that regard. I know writing a game can be pretty hard at first, and your first result may not be as good as you want it to be, but you never know what you’re capable of unless you try, man.

Also, you didn’t answer my second question:

I have written IF games. Nothing recently, but I have written games. And I have half a dozen works in progress. Nothing I’ve written meets the standard I want for the piloting I intend to do. This is almost or exactly like a usability issue to me. I want the site mechanics to be well done and with that, the story and the writing.

I’m working with an assessment expert. This is a guy that’s worked on the ISATs. There is a very well-know set of metrics involved in developing test questions (and answers). IF presents a problem in that instead of a list of well-known multiple choice answers, we have a seemingly infinite set of responses at any given point. So we need to figure out how we can identify responses with accurate metrics so that as a student plays through a story, they get credit for success, but also for missing what we may consider the “obvious” choice. I’m really into this process and think this is really where IF can become something much more than it is today.

David C.

That assessment stuff looks very complicated. I doubt that, as a child, I could ever have gotten all the “obvious” choices, as you describe it. Can you go into a little more detail about how it works, or is this something you haven’t worked out all the bugs with yet?

I’ve followed this thread and others about TextFyre. I think the notion of Kickstarter for this project has been beaten to death, so I won’t add to that. But I do think there’s a related perspective to consider, at least as far as building a business that is seeking investors as opposed to donors. There needs to be a reachable market with a problem that you can solve and they are willing to pay for.

But asking investors to fund a “proof of concept” so that you can show there’s demand in the market for educational games is a stretch. The cost of building software startups is so low these days because of open source, AWS, web tools etc that most investors want to see that a company has traction (e.g. paying customers) before they fund it.

You obviously have passion and a vision about what you want to do, so I wish you the best of luck.

I know how it works for the ISATs, but we have not yet ported that logic to an IF game.

For ISATs, each question and response is measured. So they don’t really rate responses as right or wrong. They rate them with what’s called a P-Value. This is the value says they should pick that answer. So if you have multiple choice A, B, C, and D, A may have a P-Value of .75, B .26, C .10, and D .10. So the question expects A, but can also judge you based on your incorrect answer.

So for IF, there isn’t really a clear set of valid responses. It’s not infinite, but it kind of is infinite in general terms. We’ll have to integrate the P-Value metrics into default values and determine the Point Bi-Serial values for each response as well.

I’m still unclear on how P-Values are calculated. I believe that’s where the Psychomatrician comes in…

David C.

Well this is has a funny story behind it…it depends on what year it is and where you’ve started your business. For instance. If it’s 1999 through 2005 and you’re in Silicon Valley, real customers aren’t so important. If an investor likes you and your idea, bingo! You’re funded. If you’re in the mid-west, you need clean books and customers. If you’re on the east coast, a hint of customers and nascent books are generally good enough. You are correct though…in today’s world you need customers. Not necessarily paying customers…just customers. A 100,000 visitors to your website can get you a lot of attention.

You are also correct about investors putting money into pre-proven concepts. They generally don’t do that as a rule, which is why we’re chasing grant money from the Federal government and from Gates.

Even if we’re able to prove that IF works as a classroom tool, there’s no guarantee that anyone will offer us funding. We may need to prove the concept works and sell it to a few hundred teachers before we can get funding.

My goals are pretty simple. First build it, then get it in classrooms, get feedback, get assessment results, review outcome, then either continue or stop. If we continue, we keep looking for funding and people to pitch in until we get funded.

David C.

Ah, okay. Can you give an example of a question and its answers with the P-Value attached?

Look at this…

eiu.edu/~edadmin/dively/docu … ofISAT.pdf

David C.

You must be sick of my advice by now, :wink: but have you considered doing this type of assessment with choice-based IF instead of parser-based IF?

Sick of your advice? No…but I think I’ve more accurately drawn the boundaries, which helps.

I don’t really think about choice-based IF too much, no. I can see how it would map to the same methods used today. But that’s exactly why I believe parser-based IF could be (no evidence yet) more fluid and adaptable than having a static list of responses.

It’s not a terrible idea though. It’s possible that we develop choice based IF for earlier grades, like 1st through 3rd.

David C.

That is over thirty pages long, and contains scads of irrelevant material. Also I tried searching for “P-Value”, but didn’t find anything. Are you sure that’s the right paper?

It shows P-Biserial values and that’s one of the metrics used. I just did a Google search. The metrics are well-know…to assessment experts. I’m still learning.

David C.

Ah, okay. I think I understand the concept a little better. Next time you link to a large document like that tell where you can find the information.

It sounds like your target educational IF reader/learner is a late-elementary-school child, and the subject matter is a history or literature curriculum. The mom-of-a-4th-grader in me says: this sounds like a fun, novel way to learn history.

But the business owner in me says: you could not pick a more cash-strapped target audience. Public school budgets are incredibly lean, and the current state budget crises in 3/4 of our country do not bode well for state and LEAs in terms of discretionary budget for nonessentials.

Have you considered a different market? The US health care industry is still a growing economy, and one that by its nature can’t be easily outsourced overseas. It is desperately trying to train new professionals to keep pace with an increasingly grey, ill population. I teach medical students and the occasional postgraduate nursing student, not because I am so awesome at it, but because there’s a shortage of preceptors; any automated training/assessment tool that didn’t require a preceptor hovering over a student would be a bonus. There is a huge market for decision support algorithms and simulated patients, e.g. can you make the correct diagnosis of Mrs. Smith’s headaches while spending < $1000 in tests? The Next Big Thing (according to the Prophecies of Kate) is going to be simulated patient self-management: “Your blood sugar is 382. You had 18 grams of carbs at lunch. How much insulin should you give yourself?” (see appsforhealthykids.com/)

You just touted a primary selling point of the opportunity. Schools are cash strapped. So if I were to offer something that managed to equal or do better than other existing publishing materials at a significantly lower cost with a higher level of engagement, it would seem to me that schools would leap at the chance to purchase this product.

School books are mostly unused these days and yet state education boards require every student have one for every class at the cost of $75 to $100 per book per student per year. Pearson, McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin, Follett, and Britannica all are doing our education system an enormous disservice by not getting off of their asses and producing better material using twenty-first century tools. I’ve had discussions with product development people within some of these corporations and you get a very bleak picture of what they’re up to. It’s not that they don’t want to change…they don’t know how. The idea of setting aside existing material and rewriting it or re-imagining it is simply not possible in these organizations. When you have guaranteed state contracts worth billions of dollars, are you going to change or try to keep the hose connected for as long as possible?

I’m well aware of the difficulty of getting into schools. I took a long hard look at this last summer and the results of that review were pretty shocking. The driving force of new curriculum is no longer the big publishing firms. It is teachers. They’re using discretionary budgets and PTO/PTA money, spending $10,000/year or more per school to fill in the gaps that their existing materials don’t cover. iPad apps are gaining momentum and very seriously and quickly eroding the financial structure of education curriculum development.

Think of what your school could do if they could reduce their expenses by 10% or maybe even 25%? Put art, music, civics, and other vanishing education classes back into their curriculum…or maybe just have teachers be able to have some breathing room and one on one student time with things like flipped-classrooms.

You can’t look at the education as it exists today. The model is dying very quickly. There’s a lot of cynicism on who and what will have the opportunity to replace the existing infrastructure, but it will be replaced.

David C.

Have you considered also marketing to homeschool families and private schools? Growing up, I was educated in both. My high school experience was particularly non-traditional, because the course material was self-paced. Course work and course text came in booklets, and every subject for every grade would contain a total of either 10 or 12 booklets. Students had a small amount of freedom to set their own goals by deciding how far to go forward in the booklets for each subject each day. Students received the next booklet in the course when they turned in the previous one and passed a test. I know that one of the companies my school used, Alpha Omega Publications, also has an online learning platform. I wonder how interactive it is.

I’m just saying that some homeschooling families and private schools are open to innovative, digital-age teaching methods. I imagine that it would be easier to negotiate deals with private schools than with the state or state contractors.

I’ve been in touch with a number of home school organizations even back when I was pushing Secret Letter and Shadow. Back then, it just never seemed a good fit. But the new Textfyre’s interests definitely align with homeschooling. I haven’t reached out to them yet, but it’s on our list.

David C.