We talk to Alistair, one of our lead Games Developers, to find out what makes Sparx games so unique, why they differ from commercial games and the benefits they can bring to education.
Intern Insights: Content Science
Topic: Life at Sparx
One of our Summer Interns, Xavier Jameson, tells us about his time in the Content Science team, from ‘skeletoning’ to sports.
This summer I joined Sparx’s Content Science team for an eight-week internship. I was motivated by the challenge of improving learning outcomes for maths students, especially given the impact education has on future generations. I think Sir Ken Robinson neatly identifies what is wrong with our outdated, 'industrialised' education system; whilst it might be too late to change its structural foundations, it is not too late to improve its substance, or the methods by which it operates. My initial impression of Sparx was that it could lead the way in igniting the technological revolution in education, so I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
From day one I was assigned a line manager (a sort of mentor) who had recently graduated from the same university as me and even studied the same course. We had a lot to talk about and I felt comfortable sending any questions or concerns his way. This made it very easy to settle into, what was for me, a very new environment. I worked alongside the small but impactful Content Science team, performing tasks a Content Scientist would typically do on a day-to-day basis, like writing and reviewing new content.
After a couple of weeks of inductions, meetings and generally getting used to everything, I began a second project on ‘Skeletoning’. My task was to design a number of objectives to help Year-8 students understand a topic by implementing a coherent flow of questions with incrementally increasing difficulty. This included introducing new and sometimes creative concepts. I was responsible for project managing the task, so I organised meetings to discuss progress, created my own report of ideas and decided how far I wanted to take it. It’s hard to find an internship where the level of responsibility you’re given mirrors that of its permanent staff.
I was pleased to discover this was true of my third and final project too, which involved exploring trends in data that would help Sparx understand more about the direct impact they are having on students’ learning. The added challenge was to learn coding in R and apply these new skills to a real-life task that would really benefit the company. Again, I was given appropriate training and direction, but was ultimately allowed to design the project and run with it. I presented my findings to various members of staff who were all keen to hear what I had to contribute.
When the working day was over it was great to explore Exeter city with the other summer interns, or relax in the accommodation provided by Sparx. There were also a couple of social events each week to get involved in, on top of a great range of sports activities on-site, from Pilates to volleyball. I was hard-pushed to find myself with nothing to do!
The skills I picked up during the eight weeks will help me enormously. It was great to get exposure to Sparx’s methods, as well as an insight into why those methods are in place. With Sparx, everything is used because of a process paralleled to natural selection. Whilst the overall vision is clear, the software, hardware and methods by which that vision is realised are malleable enough to evolve.
It was fantastic to experience working for a company focused on fulfilling an ultimate purpose. I’m hopeful that Sparx can realise its vision for education and surpass current expectations of what future generations can achieve.
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