Peek inside edtech company Amplify's tablet game youth user testing - Brooklyn


Peek inside edtech company Amplify’s tablet game youth user testing

Student collaborators are becoming a critical aspect of Amplify's development of educational technology.

Amplify tested its tablets with students in Dumbo in November 2013. Here, middle school students give their first round of feedback.

(Photo by Brady Dale)

Early user feedback is so important to edtech gaming business Amplify that the News Corp. backed classroom tablet maker is developing a new space in their current Dumbo headquarters just for play testing.

“We are working to build partnerships with kids who come in regularly because they learn to give feedback,” Jeanette Begany, associate director of UX and useability, said, “And not tell us what they think we want to hear.” The company employs about 600 people in Dumbo, and 1,200 people overall.

Technically Brooklyn got to drop in on two evaluation sessions, which happen nightly at the company, often over food, so, in other words, now is the right time to invest in the Dumbo pizza sector.

The first play testing session we sat in on was around a game that was referred to that night as “Math Trap.” It doesn’t sound like it’s going to be called “Math Trap” in the end, though. The students were not very excited about a title that included the word “math.” As one of them, Amari, said, “Every time you hear ‘math’ you’re: ‘Oh, here we go.'”

The group went through a brief brainstorming session of new titles as the staff wrote the ideas down.

Amplify playtesting

Craig, taking a break between edtech games, midway through the session.

The students and the staff have a good rapport, as little groups that have come to know each other. We enjoyed this exchange, between Joe Mauriello, Games Research Manager, and one of the students, during the feedback round, which should be read with a strong dose of sarcasm:

Mauriello: So “Math Trap” is a pretty unique game?
Craig: Nope.
Mauriello: Thank you, Craig.

We came in around the time of the students’ mid-session break, then watched as the researchers introduced the students to a new game around words. It was a sort of reading puzzle on Asus tablets. It was interesting to see that as the students first started playing, the team recorded their finger work on the screens and worked hard to get their very first reactions.


Amplify playtesting session

Mauriello records Amari’s first impression of the word puzzle.

Watching this made us wonder if textbook makers ever worked this closely with their school age audience?

Amplify Playtesting session

Cameras on the table are set up to record initial interactions with the game.

We also observed another session led primarily by Jim Liu, Product Owner of Physics, who showed the students a video and then explained time dilation to the middle school age students (who seemed to get it). After that, the groups were divided into two teams, to debate about whether or not humans would be able to travel in time back to the age of the dinosaurs in the next 90 years or so.

Students were asked to come up with at least two arguments for each side, and two students would serve as judges.

There was no tablet application for this exercise yet. At this point in the process, the company is just testing out the theory of the activity, and the development work will follow.

Amplify edtech testing session

One team listens to instructions for the debate, while judges look on in the background.

Amplify office

Amplify’s first floor offices on Washington Street. They have more space upstairs.

Companies: Amplify
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