Playing to WinBy Aaron Lazenby
Oracle grant helps Junior Achievement expand business simulation to global classrooms.
Used in the same sentence, the words teenager and video game might conjure images of a snack-littered basement, lit only by a tumultuous swirl of images flickering on the TV screen. But Junior Achievement (JA Worldwide)the world's largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programshopes to get more than sleepless nights and sore thumbs out of high school gamers.
The organization created JA Titan, a clever simulation of a modern manufacturing business, as a powerful tool for preparing high school students for the complexities of the business world. Launched in 2000, the game transforms JA's existing economics curriculum into a fun and engaging online game. Currently, JA Titan reaches approximately 40,000 students in 1,500 classrooms around the United States. Based on the success of JA Titan in U.S. classrooms, Oracle has awarded JA a US$1 million Oracle Commitment Grant to expand the program around the world.
JA Titan players take on the role of CEOs who compete against computer or human opponents to get the best bottom-line results from their virtual businesses. Using a dashboard interface similar to those commonly found in real-world enterprises, players review data about the business, manage budgets and production, and even solicit advice from a group of business managers. By allocating funds to different parts of the business, players gain advantages over their opponentsinvest heavily in R&D and they'll get a leg up on product features, but underspend on marketing and they'll have a warehouse full of forgotten widgets.
The game is in line with an emerging trend of using video games as educational tools, in both the classroom and the workplace. And teachers say student response has been great. "The JA Titan program has been one of the most engaging tools I have ever used in my eight years of teaching," says Ryan Hollingshead, a social studies teacher at Castle View High School in Denver, Colorado. "The [process] for students to plan, make decisions, and interpret data is incredibly easy and forces students to really consider what it takes to run a business."
With Oracle's support, JA Titan will be able to reach thousands of additional students around the world. Oracle's grant will help fund JA's global rollout of JA Titan, translating the game into 10 new languages and launching it in 10 new countries. The goal is to bring JA Titan to an additional 100,000 students around the world.
Sean C. Rush, president and chief executive officer of JA Worldwide, notes that this global rollout benefits new populations of students as well as existing users in the U.S. "American high school students will be able to work with, learn from, and interact with their peers from Europe, Asia, and Latin America," he says. "JA Titan shows students what it's like to be 'CEO for a day,' helps bring the global economy to life for young people in an exciting and powerful way, and gives students a taste of success in a corporate environment."
While hundreds of Oracle employees volunteer every year in K-12 classrooms around the world to teach the JA curriculum, the company's investment in JA Titan marks an important new approach to preparing students for the workforce. Clare Dolan, vice president of Oracle's Corporate Citizenship programs, believes that the game's mixture of broad business principles and playful competition makes JA Titan a powerful addition to the JA curriculum. "Twenty-first-century workers must know how different lines of business contribute to the success of a company," says Dolan. "JA has a proven track record for preparing students to meet this challenge, and JA Titan is another example. Oracle is happy to support JA Titan's global expansion."
Aaron Lazenby is a director with Oracle Publishing.