Kuato Studios teaches JavaScript through gaming

How Kuato Studios is inspiring children to code through gaming

Kuato Studios is using “learnification” techniques to teach children to code through gaming.

The Shoreditch-based startup has created a virtual gaming world for children and teens to explore through code. 

Founded in 2012 by the investors behind iPhone's Siri, Kuato Studios focuses on the “21st century skills” of problem solving, critical thinking and collaborative learning, as opposed to the “19th century model” of learning which involves content followed by tests.

Kuato Studios is backed by Horizon Ventures, a Hong-Kong based investment company focused on telecommunications, media and technology.

Mark Horneff, the managing director of Kuato Studios, has 20 years’ experience at major games studios, including Ideaworks and Sony where he worked on Call of Duty and Playstation Home. 

“Instead of 'gamification', which is having the syllabus and adding a game, we are about 'learnification', which is applying a game to learning skills," said Horneff. "It is about picking up those 21st century skills, such as exploration and storytelling, and illustrating them with the subject matter on top.”

Kuato’s games range from dinosaur adventures to monster-crushing girls and robot battles. In its main game, Hakitzu, which features giant robots, players learn to write JavaScript to choose weapons of choice. 

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All games are powered by Kai, which is a conversational agent to interact with students during their game play. This can include questions about how to make a character do something or even questions about the weather around the world.

“There is also a dashboard behind it for teachers to use to personalise the learning experience and see who is doing well or who is behind," said Horneff.

“Game play is about igniting creativity. Bad games should not be part of the curriculum, just as any other bad learning experience should not be part of it. The boys will blow things up without question. The girls will blow things up too, but they need a purpose first.”

David Miller, director of learning at Kuato Studios, said skills learnt during the games can easily be shared via social media. 

"It’s important to share these skills with communities, almost as a life CV which you can share on social media and future employees will be able to see what you have learnt and what you are capable of,” he said.

In January 2014, Kuato Studios pledged 100 hours of coding sessions to schools across the UK. Since then it has been introducing schools to the basics of JavaScript. The most recent school visited was Holme Valley Primary School in Scunthorpe, where it ran a coding session with some year five students (pictured).

“In the next five years, there will be a shift in the understanding of code, even if you do not code yourself. It will be about understanding the terms at least, and appreciating that,” said Horneff.

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