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IES Contract

Title: A Game-Based Intervention to Promote Executive Function and Reasoning in Early Learning
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Wardhana, Grace Awardee: Kiko Labs, Inc.
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (5/7/2015 - 5/6/2017) Award Amount: $899,998
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: EDIES15C0022

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Purpose: This project will develop and test Kiko's Thinking Time, a series of game apps designed to strengthen children's cognitive skills related to executive functioning and reasoning. A principle objective of preschool is to prepare children for later success in school. Most programs focus on activities to support children's social and emotional development, and to strengthen pre-reading and mathematics competencies. Fewer programs explicitly focus on fostering children's executive function and reasoning skills—even though research in the cognitive sciences demonstrates these skills also provide a foundation for school-readiness.

Project Activities: During Phase I (completed in 2014), the team developed six prototype games and a teacher portal to track student progress. At the end of Phase I, results from a pilot study with 55 kindergarten students and 5 teachers demonstrated that the games operated as intended. Results indicated that students were engaged based on duration of game play, and that teachers were able to review game data for each child. In Phase II, the team will develop 15 more games and will further refine and enhance the functionality of the teacher portal. After development is complete, a pilot study will assess the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the games for promoting students' executive functioning and reasoning. The researchers will collect data from 200 students in 10 preschool classrooms over 2 months. Half of the students in each class will be randomly assigned to use Kiko's Thinking Time while the other half will play an art-focused gaming app. Analyses will compare pre-and-post scores on measures of student's executive functioning and reasoning.

Product: Kiko's Thinking Time will be an app with 25 games, each based on tasks shown to have cognitive benefits in lab research. Each game will be designed to isolate and train skills related to executive functioning, such as: working memory, reasoning, inhibition, selective attention, cognitive flexibility, and spatial skills. Game play will be self-guided and adaptive, as the software will adjust in difficulty based on student responses. The app will work on tablets, smartphones, as well desktops. In addition, a companion website will allow teachers to track student performance and to obtain educational material around executive function and cognitive development.