ClassRealm: A Role-Playing Game That Improved Education

Drawing on his own gaming background, Ben Bertoli invented a role playing game while trying to keep his first-graders interested in the lesson he was teaching.

ClassRealm, a new tool created by a teacher, seeks to bring elements of wildly popular role playing games to the classroom. Ben Bertoli, the company’s CEO and himself a sixth-grade teacher said he drew on his own background as a devoted gamer when he designed ClassRealm — a teaching tool disguised as a game that can be used by teachers in a myriad of ways to get their students more engaged in the learning process.

ClassRealm puts the power into the hands of the teachers, providing a ton of customization options, to better address specific issues facing each class. Be it the difficulty in getting homework assignments returned on time, or failure to pay attention during lessons, the various reward structures, like points and character levels, are determined strictly by the instructor.

“It’s based on role-playing video games like Pokemon or Final Fantasy,” Bertoli said. “The students can gain achievements for doing things around the classroom or . . . can earn experience points for doing different things during the day, like participating in class or leading the class discussion.”

Bertoli’s own classroom provided an ideal beta testing environment, and after he saw the positive impact of the new approach on his own kids, he founded ClassRealm and partnered with Courtny Cotten, who signed on as the chief creative officer, to develop the concept further. He hopes to eventually bring it to market.

Cotten is a graphic designer at Software Engineering Professionals in Carmel and a fellow graduate of the University of Indianapolis. Dave Mathew, chief technology officer and UIndy instructor, also is part of the effort. Team members have spent much of their free time during the past four months working on the background coding and layout.

Australian illustrator Alice Carrol has been hired to bring the game’s avatars to life. ClassRealm is one of the projects that has turned to a innovative fund-raising tool, Kickstarter, which allows creators to pitch their ideas directly to individuals, via the Kickstarter website, bypassing the perilous process of canvassing venture capital firms. So far, ClassRealm has received positive notice from technology media outlets like Wired and Kotaku. ClassRealm is seeking to raise $65,000 they need to get the project off the ground.

Bertoli, who, at 23, might seem as a little young to head a company, explained that having to continuously act as a public relations person for ClassRealm, also made him see that this type of tool is in great demand among educators in the country. So far, the Kickstarter appeal has raised $20,000, but the next hurdle will be to meet the total fundraising goal by a cut-off date, or the initial $20,000 will be forfeit. To drum up additional interest, Bertoli, and other company representatives are pitching a tent at E3 this month.


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