Game Time - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Photo by Rayon Richards

African American youth spend about 50% more time with media than whites, but they make up 2% of people working as developers, engineers, or designers in the gaming industry.

“These kids are wired from the day they are born,” says Ntiedo Etuk, the founder of Tabula Digita, an educational video game company that helps increase engagement in third- through 12th-grade classrooms. “They are doing social networking, e-mail, instant messaging, and video games,” so education needs to be tailored to that.

Blacks make up single digit percentages in most industries requiring a high level of proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and the mathematics achievement gap between blacks and whites is 26 points among fourth-graders and 31 points among eighth-graders–roughly equivalent to three years of learning. Etuk’s solution: In 2003, he launched his company to help increase math engagement in elementary school classrooms.

Tabula Digita’s most popular video game, the multiplayer DimensionU, has elicited 20% to 30% improvement in math scores in 50 school districts across the country, says Etuk, a 2007 nominee for black enterprise’s Business Innovator of the Year Award. In the game students compete to be the first across a timed obstacle course. When they solve a problem correctly they win the tools they need to advance to the next level. When they don’t, a help center window pops up to help them determine what they did wrong and coach them through the problem.

Some educational video games help kids learn science and math because they encourage problem solving, says Leshell Hatley, who through her nonprofit runs an out-of-school program, YouthLab, to teach robotics, computer programming, and mobile-app building to students from third to 12th grades. She agrees with Etuk that if black children are playing video games, then educators should use games to “start where the students are and bring them to where [they] want them to be in terms of education.”

Etuk realized how important engagement was after the parent of a child he tutored in math fired him. “I made the mistake of focusing completely on education,” says Etuk, an engineer who knew six programming languages by the time he was 11. “As well-meaning as I was and as much math as I knew, I wasn’t able to make this interesting to him.  I realized this was an indication of how we were losing a whole generation of kids.”

The game, which costs school districts $5 to $20 per student per year, has a reporting system that allows teachers to see how long students played the game, what answers they got right or wrong, and then coordinate follow-up lessons accordingly. The company generated $3 million in school-based revenues in 2009. A home version of DimesionU, which offers only math games at present, became available in November 2010 and can be downloaded at www.dimensionu.com. It features the U Games National Scholarship Tournament, a competition in which elementary- and middle-school students play math games to win prizes and scholarships.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.


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