The Smithsonian Magazine Article On MECC'S Oregon Trail: "Mining For More Nuggets?" Look To RE@L To Find And Build On Those Nuggets!

Last week, we proudly announced that the Smithsonian Online Magazine published an article on Oregon Trail™, one more in a series of announcements about OT’s growing popularity on the internet, and all points of the compass. Just in case you didn’t read their fine article by freelance writer Matt Jancer, here’s the link to it.

DaleRE@L002RE@L Chairman and fellow RE@L Blogmeister Dale LaFrenz thinks that the Smithsonion article on MECC’s Oregon Trail needs more a little more “Nugget-Mining.” We agree!

It’s not a big stretch for most of us to imagine an Oregon-bound covered wagon pulled off the main trail near some tributary of the Colorado River. You’d see folks with their pie-pans sluicing the water, looking for gold. Well, wouldn’t you?


Well, we thought there might be some more golden nuggets to look for, too. When there’s more treasure to be found in the world of powerful K12 learning games such as OT, RE@L is still actively looking to mine it for all it’s worth. And it’s worth a lot to K12 kids and teachers.
RE@L is committed to the search for the highest excellence in K12 learning software. This is often called “6-Sigma” betterment.

Just click on the graphic to the right for more information on 6-Sigma and why it’s so critically important in achieving better results no matter what the goal is. So, it’s not only that our RE@L software is better, it’s also that it helps the teachers and learners to be better at what they do: teach and learn.

We know how to do this because MECC started it 40 years ago and several of RE@L’s key leaders were also there at MECC to publish  quality software and make needed resources happen. RE@L is the heir to MECC’s successful strategies.

Here’s the way Dale LaFrenz saw it: “MECC’s focus on integrating technology into the teaching and learning process was the only way to promote systemic change,” says LaFrenz. “Remember, the K-12 system is far-flung across a huge continent with millions of individuals involved. All the usage was under ‘local control.’” MECC found a way to make it work with consistent, high level success for K12.”

What did MECC know that others did not? According to article author, Matt Jancer, here’s what Don Rawitsch, RE@L’s Executive VP of Product Development, who years ago created the original OT computer game, had to say about MECC’s successful K12 software learning games:

DonRawitsch“All MECC games had to do four things,” says Rawitsch:

  • First, the information based on real events had to be historically accurate.
  • Second, learning couldn’t be spread out in patches; it had to be woven throughout the game start to finish.
  • Third, it had to include thorough documentation for the teachers to use it as a teaching aid.
  • And fourth, the games had to be fun!”

That, in a nutshell, is why Oregon Trail was the leader of the K12 software pack!

Don’s quote about what constitutes a “good” game is The Rule as far as MECC was concerned back then, and at RE@L, it still is.

article-2045852-0D8F6DE900000578-929_634x857Here’s another observation from author Matt Jancer that few know about. Steve Jobs was keenly aware of the key role MECC played in K12 computer learning. The Apple II micrcomputer was the EdTech tool of the future. Without MECC’s brilliant learning software and games, and the visionaries who created them, the Apple II would have been just another dust-gathering classroom tech-gizmo. It was a great computer for its time. But it needed great K12 software to build a market for it. And that’s where the MECC and Apple coalition was born.

MECClogoYes, Apple’s “little beige box” was indeed a giant step forward for getting the computer into the classroom where kids and teachers were in charge, but without MECC’s “Secret Sauce” software, and revolutionary distribution system, it would have been a giant “Now What?” for all those kids and teachers.

The “Now What?” never happened. “What’s Next?” is what happened. More and more of MECC’s 300 highly effective computer learning games and supplementary teaching aids were released and flooded the classrooms across the country and beyond. Classrooms and labs not only had Apple and other computers, they had the MECC software to assist teachers, engage kids in learning that was also great fun! 

It’s important to remember this: Nobody else but MECC had the right vision on how to make the bells and whistles of a great learning games happen.

Not surprisingly, that vision now resides with RE@L!

As Paul Harvey would have said, “And that’s the rest of the story….”


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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.