My name is Julia Rivard Dexter and I am the co-founder and CEO of Squiggle Park and Dreamscape. Both are digital literacy games designed to deliver the English Language Arts literacy curriculum through video games kids love, increasing kids motivation and skill in reading.
On April 9th, 2020 we were informed by a parent of one of our players, there was an inappropriate question published in our game. I immediately reviewed the question and completely agreed, the question was inappropriate and it was a serious error that it was created and published. Although I responded as soon as I could through my own personal social media account and our company account, I promised to share a more thoughtful response once there was time to review how this happened and how we plan to move forward in providing a resource that supports students while increasing their reading skills, without content that could bring harm to them.
I am very sorry for this error and disappointed for not having had the proper process in place to ensure our content is considerate of the implications of multi-cultural bias and portrayal of different perspectives.
This post led to a significant amount of discussion online. There was understandably a lot of anger, disbelief, frustration, and hate. There was also a lot of advice. We appreciate everyone who took the time to respond online with both critical and supportive feedback to help us be better. I personally read every notification I was able to find, and documented much of the feedback.
What has been done as an immediate response:
- The question was immediately removed.
- We removed all other passages and questions relating to dialect (Common Core Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.5.3.B) and other passages in the areas of historical content and social studies. These passages and questions, along with all of our content, are being reviewed internally followed by a review by an expert consultant.
- We met with the person who created the content and the person who approved the content to understand and document why this content was created and approved.
- We stopped the publication of any new content until our review process has improved.
- We have met with a Speech-Language Pathologist and Researcher of African American English Dialect and multicultural issues in education. The goal is to determine a plan of action for training our team and establishing a framework from which we will approve future content.
- We continue to meet with other experts to evolve our understanding.
Last week we met as a full team to talk about our error and the response. We have determined additional steps to improve which we will undertake in the days and weeks ahead. These steps include;
- Commiting to invest in all-team training to understand unconscious bias, multicultural issues in curriculum, and the implications of bias and portrayal of different perspectives.
- Commiting to invest in training to establish frameworks to improve our process of creating and evaluating content.
- Completing a full internal and external evaluation of our current content.
- Committing to invest in the hiring of an expert in a relevant area of expertise (linguistics, educational speech pathologists) to join our education team.
Our team at Squiggle Park and Dreamscape will move forward with a promise to do everything we can to ensure inclusive and diverse content is an ongoing focus for our team. We are disappointed that this error had to happen in order to make this commitment, but we hope these steps show how education technology companies, and the education system itself, can improve for the better.
Finally, I want to commend the player who recognized the question and shared it with his mom. Although I wish he had never been presented the content, I do think that his response shows hope that the younger generation is growing up with a much more inclusive worldview of humanity than generations of the past. I am heartened by the fact that individuals like him will take action and speak up when they see injustice. I hope our response shows him that positive action, even when it is just one voice, has a significant impact.
Julia Rivard Dexter
Co-Founder and CEO, Squiggle Park & Dreamscape