Master’s of Education EDM, African-American

May 7, 2014

I am most interested in professional exploration of the achievement gap between black and white boys and the way that this is related to the social-economic challenges of each child’s background and social environment. I am distressed by the fact that even those black males raised above the poverty line still lag behind many white males raised in poverty. I want to dedicate my life to this issue because I was one of those black boys surrounded by the pressures that distract, even alienate black male children from the quest for academic success. In my case, I was able to fend off temptations for instant gratification and the negativity and destructiveness of racial stereotypes. I focused on positive role models and was thus able to develop a consistent work ethic that laid the foundation for my education and professional success. I was able to close the gap, and now I want to labor so that this achievement gap is closed by future generations.

 For most of my adult life, I have been a part of the consumer electronics industry, with the last twelve years focused on the video game industry. I spent years understanding what makes a good game and how to design distribution systems to get these games to millions of people. My career has sent me throughout both the United States and the European Union having lived on both coasts and internationally in Iceland and the United Kingdom. During this time, I have mentored young men and volunteered for various programs. While my career to this point has been lucrative and I have especially enjoyed the travel and multicultural experiences, I need new challenges that would be more fulfilling on a human level. I want to devote myself to research in education.

I have also been motivated to respect and take advantage of educational opportunities by the fact that several members of my immediate family are accomplished school teachers. Over the past couple of years, I have increasingly come to feel the calling as well. All around me I see the need to improve the consistency of how children learn and the importance of developing increasingly innovative tools and methods that will enable them to learn more effectively so as to be successful in today's increasingly competitive academic and professional environments. In fact, I am concerned not only with the achievement gap that continues to widen between black vs. white boys, but also the gap that is widening between America and the rest of the world.

 Frankly, I feel guilty because I have personally both perpetuated and profited from this gap in my work designing and selling video games. I am painfully aware of the fact that young men and boys of all ethnic groups spend too much time playing video games, learning how to kill their opponents or win a sporting event in virtual space—while they learn little to nothing about how to survive in the real world. Yet, I see an excellent opportunity for me to redeem myself in the future through a search for ways that the passion for interactivity responsible for the success of video games might be harnessed to educational purposes that result in a new generation of effective learning experiences. If properly used as a tool by teachers and parents this technology has enormous potential.

 I look forward to doing research in the future on the ways in which game mechanics might be developed as a pedagogical tool, especially in grades K-6, for use in the US educational system. Most specifically, I would like to develop a series of longitudinal studies that might shed light on the effectiveness of this methodology for narrowing the achievement gap between African-American vs, white boys. In this way, I will have the opportunity to put all that I have learned about video games to good use: video-game culture and my well-developed understanding of current policies, trends, and research initiatives in this area.

 ‘Gamification’ is a newly created buzzword in the industry which refers to the possibility of adapting the mechanics, interactivity, and emotional commitment associated with video games to other aspects of society. My objective is to learn more about the process of learning and the current efforts to improve and innovate the educational system so that I can combine my game industry knowledge to "gamify" education, to the extent that this might be possible, especially for the African-American male. I want to harness the passion for interactive experience and put it to use in the design of constructive pedagogical goals. I am convinced that this would be the greatest contribution I could personally make to society.

 While my central concern will always be African-American males, I sincerely hope that the contributions that I hope to make in curriculum development might advance the cause of enhancing education for all children, at least those in my own country. I want very much to be part of the movement dedicated to better equipping future generations of our society to re-train, re-skill and adapt to changes in labor needs so as to ensure a more flexible and capable workforce on a national level, and one that is more competitive on an international level.

 I started my own company, Plyngo, incorporated in Washington State, dedicated to building new and engaging interactive experiences targeting African-Americans. Unfortunately, I have not enjoyed the right combination of time and financial support that would be necessary to build software and online services that teach users rather than simply entertaining them. In addition, I lack exposure to the most current research directions in this area; I need to learn what has been tried before, what has worked and what has not. It has been suggested that I hire experts in pedagogy and educational policy, but I would prefer to develop my own first-hand knowledge of the education ecosystem and how technology is being used to innovate learning.

 Once I decided to pursue the Ed.M. Degree I began to study the research work taking place at various institutions and I am convinced that the XXXX is where I belong. The Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) and Dr. XXXX work on addressing the achievement gap, specifically as it pertains to African-American males, are especially important factors in this decision. I am also most impressed by Dr. XXXX's work and real world experience as Vice-President and Chief Academic Officer at XXXX Production. The ability to interact with and take classes from a professor who is working on the front lines of educational software development is not something easily found at another institution. Only XXXX is distinguished in both of my areas of special interest, the achievement gap and software development. Thus, I sincerely thank you for considering my application to your program.

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