Online Learning

Spongelab Interactive is a Canadian, educational-based gaming company, launched in 2006. The interactive gaming website for high school and university students and teachers is dedicated to extending knowledge in the sciences.
Access is available to anyone and making an account is free. By browsing the content users gain credits to access more content. Soon it will be possible to exchange those credits for actual scientific products.

Spongelab has already been recognized with awards from the United Nations, the National Science Foundation and it has been published twice in the Journal of Science.

Jeremy Friedberg the founder of Spongelab, received his doctorate in molecular genetics and biotechnology from the University of Guelph. He also has a Laurier connection, having taught intro to cell biology and advanced cell biology at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Friedberg first became interested in game-based learning as a graduate student when he found his second-year genetics students disconnected from the content. As a solution, Friedberg brought in plasticine, “The tactile and physical interaction with the content was very powerful.”

Although Spongelab is a business, it is fundamentally dedicated to furthering education. The innovative business model functions so that the website is self funding while the content is still freely accessible to users. “There is no shortage of content out there,” said Friedberg. “But there is no system to stitch it together… Spongelab is the game, the textbook, the fieldtrip and it is free and open to everybody worldwide.”

“We spent a lot of time understanding what was actually taking place in the classroom, teachers are working in a tiny window of time and a lot of things that need to be accomplished,” Friedberg continued. “Spongelab is designed to deal with these issues.”

For example, each game simulation references textbooks that teachers can apply. Furthermore, Spongelab allows teachers to group together multiple simulations into a lesson and assign these lessons to students.

Currently there are contributors from over 75 countries, including the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. Associate professor Jaideep Mathur from the department of molecular cellular biology at the University of Guelph contributed a video on the movement of Cellular Organelles. Mathur explained that while many of Spongelabs visuals were animations he was able to offer footage from real plant cells.

“We subscribe to the same idea of spreading knowledge and they [Spongelab Interactive] were doing it in a more appealing way for the student,” said Mathur. “I think the idea is how to make learning fun.”

Friedberg acknowledges that game-based learning may have a negative connotation to it within the educational community. “The word game means so many different things to different people, but I think the perception is changing,” said Friedberg. “Every game inherently has learning in it, it just depends on what meaning you take from it.”

When asked about the name for Spongelab, Friedberg explained it come from, “The idea that minds are sponges they are continually soaking in more knowledge.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original publishing date.

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