‘Oregon Trail’ Pioneer Developing Tablet Education Apps

One of the men responsible for the ever-popular educational computer game “Oregon Trail” is back.

In the early 1970s, Dale LaFrenz helped start the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), with the goal of getting Apple computers into each and every school district in the state.

In 1978, the team met “a couple of guys from California,” LaFrenz said — Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who had bid to supply MECC with Apple II computers. “We had the same vision,” LaFrenz said. “They announced they were going to save the world by putting a computer in the hands of every kid in the United States … That’s our vision. In fact, we’ve already got that started in Minnesota.”

Now LaFrenz is back with his Twin Cities startup, Re@L (Real Experiences At Life), which “creates highly effective iPad apps that help kids learn more efficiently”.  LaFrenz is once again trying to get his product into schools, writes David Fondler of Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

“RE@L is focused on kids, parents and teachers,” LaFrenz said in a recent interview. Through the app-based curriculum, “We’re focused on bringing kids all the way through, to be productive adults in the world of work.”

The company currently offers three sets of apps that help children develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, with the hope of inspiring a love of learning that will continue throughout their lives.

Re@L Basics includes a suite of apps to promote learning in the areas of math, language arts, science and social studies.  The most popular app set is Raceway Math, a program that helps students’ development fundamental math skills through fun NASCAR-related math games that promote continued study by keeping track of how fast the child answers the math questions.

The company has also created Re@L Practical Life Skills, which help tweens learn how to create and run their own babysitting companies.

Re@L STEM Investigations was created to accompany the national priority of teaching science, technology, engineering and math through Common Core standards.  The apps use technological tools to answer current real-world problems through a three-step process that combines classroom learning with field experience and leads to reporting their findings online, sometimes resulting in real-world change.

Re@L is a virtual company with very few employees and no sales staff.  It runs completely off social media and established contacts.  The apps can be purchased through Apple’s app store.

“Steve Jobs is quoted often saying it’s because of MECC that we (Apple) got started,” LaFrenz said. “We became the largest dealer of Apple computers. We bought the Apple computers from them and resold them to the schools with our software.”

Re@L programs will give Apple a 30% cut of its projected $183 million in annual revenue.

To date, The Oregon Trail has been released in 13 different versions over a span of 1985 – 2012.

06 25, 2014
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