Edtech tool of the month: SmileUrbo

SmileUrbo is an award-winning, interactive role-playing game with a difference. 

Imagine this scenario in your town: unemployment is rising, young people are leaving, and infant mortality is increasing. The situation is critical, and then an investor from a developed country shows up with a proposition to buy a piece of land and build a hotel.

By Cinnamon Nippard 

Now it’s up to your community and you to decide on your future. The choices you make will affect both your individual prosperity and the development of your village. What will you decide?

Often in society, we see verbal sparring matches, conflict, or oppression between people or organisations with opposing views or interests. SmileUrbo aims to create “healthy and thought-provoking debates and encourages empathy throughout the group as it opens minds to new perspectives and solutions.” At the same time, as players are required to think about their individual prosperity, the main objective is to succeed as a team, which means facilitating a climate of mutual respect and genuinely valuing each individual’s contribution to the group.

Through different kinds of examples, participants learn important communication, problem-solving, cooperation, time-management, and negotiation skills.

Smilemundo founder, Aleksandra Zemke, was conducting field research on sustainable development in Kociewie in Poland, and found that progress was blocked due to the community members’ lack of cooperation and conflict resolution skills. She came up with the idea of SmileUrbo to meet the need of teaching these so-called ‘soft skills’ in a fun and engaging way.

Zemke says that what makes SmileUrbo unique is that it teaches skills that aren’t usually taught in formal education. These skills include “the capacity for collaboration, dialogue, the management of groups, and negotiation, which will, in the long term, shape a society’s aptitude for cooperating and reaching consensus.”

“SmileUrbo players learn how to put into practice the difficult art of public debate, and to understand the interests of all the stakeholders,” says Zemke, “and thanks to the online tracking of the process, the players get immediate feedback on their performance.”

To play the game, you need seven to ten players over the age of sixteen, plus a fast wifi connection, a laptop, a projector so that all the players can see a shared screen, two mobile devices (can be a smartphone, tablet, etc.), and a fast printer.

The game is designed as a workshop and team-building tool for businesses and as an awareness-building tool for education institutions and non-profits. SmileUrbo has a free model available to non-profits – you can contact the company to see if you qualify for a free license.

SmileUrbo is still in BETA phase and will reach the market at the beginning of 2016. Initially it was created in Catalan, and is now available in Spanish, English and Polish. The plan is to make it available in more languages in the future.

The SmileUrbo team will be part of the exciting hands-on Discovery Demos at OEB 2015, a session that allows participants to try and test new e-learning tools. Find out what else you can discover here.