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Bhavneet Singh is a man on a mission: to develop digital learning games that equip children for the challenges of the future

"7 percent of children under the age of XNUMX will do jobs in the future that no longer exist today," says YPO member Bhavneet Singh, founder and CEO of the education company Sandkasten. "That's an amazingly scary statistic when you have children." It is also a fact that led Singh and his partners to start a company that helps children prepare for an unknown future through learning and play.

Singh insists that he is not trying to replace what schools do. Rather, he would like to add an extra layer to the upbringing of children. "Teaching transferable skills is becoming increasingly important," he says. "Things like dealing with creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, ambiguity and conflict will be key." Singh also believes the education industry is not personalized enough. Millennial parents expect "everything to be super personalized, they even expect commodity industries like transportation, water and electricity to be as personalized as their Facebook." They want bespoke digital products that are tailored to their children's special needs and that allow them to learn through their natural curiosity.

To that end, Sandbox, which launched just three years ago, has acquired and compiled a range of educational products. There is Hopster where “Your 3 year old can watch a TV show like 'Peppa Pig' or 'Thomas & Friends' or whatever, but after that they are led to a contextual game to teach them colors or the alphabet teach or share. You as the parent will then receive a notification on your dashboard that says, “This is what your child did today. Why not talk to them about sharing or how not to fight with their siblings or whatever it may be. '“

Then there is Poptropica, which Sandbox bought from Pearson. "Poptropica has already been a hugely popular destination for children ages 8-11 because of its strong creative storytelling foundation built by Jeff Kinney [author of the Wimpy Kid's Diary]," says Singh. “Our goal here was to really drive success with the Engage, Entertain and Educate sandbox ethos and to help bring out some of the edutainment aspects without compromising the children's experience. For example, the game has an island about Greek mythology where kids can get to know Zeus while enjoying an adventure and learning about problem solving along the way. "

Or how about Sandbox's newest product, Tinybop, which offers a range of interactive experiences including "The Human Body" that lets you immerse yourself in the skeletal, muscular, nervous, circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems. “It's one of the most downloaded apps on the children's app store worldwide,” says Singh. “A child learns a lot because they find it funny. You feed the body junk food versus fresh food and see the difference it makes. All of a sudden a 6 year old is learning about healthy eating and biology and how to think things through logically, but as for them, they just play a great game. "

Count screen time

Personalization and learning through digital gaming are all very good, but what does Singh say to parents who already believe their kids are spending too much time in front of screens? "I agree with them!" he says with a laugh. “As a parent, I don't allow my children to play on a screen for more than half an hour a day. But for me, that half an hour has to be something interesting, interesting and move the dial for it. And I always tell them that I don't want them to just play with sandbox apps. I think playing a little Minecraft is very interesting, it's very additive, it teaches kids a lot of things. There's nothing wrong with that. The problem occurs when using an iPad or iPhone as a replacement for a nanny or a pacifier. "


Start learning

Sandbox's 360 degree approach to learning involves acquiring and operating products that empower parents and teachers. The parenting advice portal 'Family Upbringing' is one of the world's largest resources for everyday parenting. The TeacherVision product includes activities, worksheets and games designed to help educators keep a classroom energized. Sandbox's newly introduced FutureFit framework is designed to enable teachers to combine 21st century skills and socio-emotional learning with a traditional academic curriculum.

With a team between Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York, New York, USA; London, England, Great Britain; and India sandbox is growing fast. "We have 10 products," says Singh. “We're reaching 20 million children, parents and teachers every month, and now it's a matter of building on that scale. We're really trying to build a superstore, sort of Macy's for learning products and services, if you will. We built the first floor, and now we need to build the first and second floors. In the years to come, you will see more reading and comprehension, coding, language learning and spatial skills products, as well as new products for parents and teachers to help them with their daily tasks. We hope to reach more than 100 million children per month. I think that's critical mass for us. "

The focus is on putting together, modifying and expanding existing digital products rather than starting new ones from scratch. “All of us who started this startup are intrapreneurs in corporate environments,” says Singh, whose résumé includes positions as CEO of Pearson English and Informal Learning as well as managing director for emerging markets at media giant Viacom. “I've been fortunate to have a wealth of experience building on a number of fundamental businesses and scaling them across regions and product lines into meaningful, cohesive portfolios. While it is very different in the sense that my partners and I do this on our own, in many ways it is not that very different! It's still about bringing together a strong team that believes in the vision and putting together a portfolio of products and services that will resonate with their audiences. "

Singh believes there are great opportunities in the digital learning space. “We work in the place where media meets learning and personalized, engaged learning,” he says. "It's a wide open space." His company's products are already finding their way into general education. Apps like Tinybop are used in some schools as a complementary method for teaching science to children. But what is the real endgame for Singh? “I want our products to become more and more relevant and convincing for the demographic target group,” he says. "If in 10 years the next generation of 3-year-olds will of course receive Hopster subscriptions from their grandparents, this will be the success for me."