Marquina Marie Iliev-Piselli

Graduate and Professional Work

Archive for Columbia University

Press – Columbia University MST Times



Bank-It: A Gamified Financial Literacy Mobile App – Accepted to GLS and TCETC!

Bank-It: A Gamified Financial Literacy Mobile App

Marquina M. Iliev-Piselli (
Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York, NY 10027 USA

Cameron L. Fadjo (
Institute for Learning Technologies; Department of Human Development
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York, NY 10027 USA


Mobile devices are quickly becoming the predominant platform for entertainment and communication between young adults in the US. While mobile gaming is a prominent activity among 12 to 17 year-olds (as 48% use a cell phone to play games, Lenhart, et al., 2008) and urban minority girls in this age group are likely to play games on these devices (Purcell et al., 2010), girls in this population are most likely to use mobile devices for maintaining social communications (Lenhart et al., 2008). The app Bank-It is designed to incorporate the social communications aspect of mobile computing that are successful among the target population with gamified mechanisms (challenges, goals, feedback, and safe play space (Deterding, 2011)) that will make instruction of Financial Literacy an engaging, motivating, and fun experience (Deterding, 2011).

Can an engaging gamified mobile app be used to both teach the fundamental Financial Literacy concept of income & debt management, and change Financial Behavior (Hung et al., 2009) among the teenage demographic (young urban females) who are, according to the PACFL (2008), ‘at risk’ of economic hardship due to inadequate Financial Education? Bank-It, a gamified mobile app for providing informal Financial Literacy instruction to young urban minority girls, is currently being developed to provide a gamified social experience for engaging in and learning about fundamental banking skills. Specifically, the mobile app is being designed to provide instruction on such critical basic financial topics as judgment and decision-making based on income and expenses and debt literacy (Lusardi & Tufano, 2008). Using the Conceptual Model of Financial Literacy (see Hung et al., 2009), Bank-It is being designed to develop Financial Knowledge through active money management and Financial Skills in a gamified social experience. Challenges are explicitly stated during interactive sessions and participation is reinforced through sharing goal attainment. As socialization is a fundamental component of app usage among the target population, we expect the use of explicit feedback and dissemination mechanisms (such as Facebook sharing) to positively impact trends in Financial Behavior. In the Financial Literacy literature it is often stated that the goal of financial literacy is to improve Financial Knowledge such that the individual will change her or his Financial Behavior (PACFL, 2008; Hung et al., 2009). We are currently collecting pilot data on how an ‘off-the-shelf’ gamified app (YummyBurger) solution can be used to inform our design considerations and gamification implementation for Bank-It, and quantify Financial Behavioral trends among users.

In our presentation you will be introduced to the basics of Financial Literacy instruction within the context of mobile gaming and receive a comprehensive introduction to Bank-It, our gamified mobile app for informal Financial Literacy instruction. We will review the landscape of web-based financial tools and calculators aimed at helping young adults handle finances (of which there are many) and put these tools in context of our current app. In addition to the review of Financial Literacy, we will discuss the impact of gamification (both the virtues and pitfalls commonly associated with this topic; e.g., Reeves & Read, 2009; Deterding, 2011) and provide context to our current implementation. In examining the problem of poor perceived and actual financial knowledge among young urban women (Hung et al., 2009), we will also present as part of our discussion the initial results of our pilot study examining the differences between gamified and non-gamified mobile gaming conditions and their effects on measuring Financial Literacy and Financial Knowledge outcomes.

We expect this talk to be of interest to designers, educators, and researchers alike. We trust that our presentation will also provide a unique entry point into the ongoing discussion of gamification.
Keywords: Financial Literacy, Financial Education, Gamification, Gamified Education, Mobile App, Web 2.0, Race & Gender, Game Mechanics


Deterding, Sebastian (2011). Meaningful Play. Getting «Gamification« Right. Google Tech Talk, January 24, 2011. Retrieved from: on April 4, 2011.

Hung, A.A., Parker, A.M., Yoong, J.K. (2009). Defining and Measuring Financial Literacy: Working Paper. Rand Labor and Population, Rand Corporation.

Lenhart, A., Kahn, J., Middaugh, E., Macgill, A., Evans, C., & Vitak, J. (2008) Teens, Video Games, and Civics. Pew Internet & American Life.

Lusardi, A. & Tufano, P. (2008). Debt literacy, financial experiences, and overindebtedness. Dartmouth Working Paper.

President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy (PACFL) (2008). 2008 Annual Report to the President. Accessed March 11, 2011 at

Purcell, K., Entner, R., Henderson, N. (2010). The Rise of Apps Culture: 35% of U.S. adults have cell phones with apps, but only 24% of adults actually use them. Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Reeves, B., Read, J.L. (2009). Total engagement: using games and virtual worlds to change the way people work and businesses compete. Harvard Business Press. ISBN 97814221465

Shuler, C. (2007) D is for Digital: An Analysis of the Children’s Interactive Media Environment With a Focus on Mass Marketed Products that Promote Learning, p. 6-31

Some very positive feedback from a classmate:

I want to start by saying how impressed I am with your project. It is incredibly creative. Instead of cramming as much information as possible into a powerpoint, your group decided to do something radically different. In fact, I have never seen students utilize facebook for a school project. However, in addition to being creative, it was simply an intelligent move. To use facebook is to use a media format which our generation relies on, if not obsessed with! The discussion thread was a way to convey information by means of dialogue – a method Freire himself advocated. In reading through the posts, I felt that you had modernized Freire’s approach through using contemporary social media, yet staying true to his core message of opening dialogue.

Your project simplified the approach and made it easy to understand. I found myself getting frustrated throughout the course having the make meaning out of Freire’s rhetoric, however you had done a terrific job in simplifying his points without all the ornamentation which his writing comes with. Because of this I have a much better idea of social action learning. Thank you.

Mike Keller

Social Action Group Project: C

Welcome to our “Fakebook” Project. Throughout this interactive site, you will be introduced to some of the leading theorists/advocates in postmodern social action academia. In order to get the best experience from this project, please follow the below navigation recommendations.

Paulo Freire – Marquina M. lliev-Piselli
Bell Hooks – Lynn S. Sullivan
Myles Horon – Matthew Wallace
Max Weber – Samara Wallace-Noyola

I. Log on to the Social Action Discussion (located on the left menu margin below friends):
*Of course, the Social Action Group does not “assume” that “all” students have “access” to Facebook or the internet. If this is the case, please access the link below for the transcript equivalent:

II. Click through Social Action Group Members’ Profile Pages (located on the top right menu margin) Familiarize yourselves with the theorists’ educational backgrounds, notable works, brief biographies, relevant video clips/lectures, photos, friends et. al.

III. Re-Enter the Social Group Forum and Follow the Posting Threads beginning with Oppression Forum Moderator, Paulo Freire. Freire begins the discussion by welcoming forum participants (Weber, Horton &Hooks) and asks each to define “social action.”

IV. Continue Following the thread of conversation:
Definition of social action
Transition to critical pedagogy
Application of theory for pedagogical practice
Power analysis within the “status quo”
Examples of the cyclical nature of dominant groups
“Who” and “How” people are treated differently
How might one affect change

V. Assessment: Please access the Social Action Quiz ( and test your knowledge acquisition!

Thank you for visiting the Social Action Fakebook. Always remember….

“Feminism is for everybody”
— Bell hooks

“Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.”
— Paulo Freire

If people have a position on something and you try to argue them into changing it, you’re going to strengthen that position. If you want to change people’s ideas, you shouldn’t try to convince them intellectually. What you need to do is get them into a situation where they’ll have to act on ideas, not argue about them.
– Myles Horton

“The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the ”disenchantment of the world.” Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental.”
– Max Weber

Was quoted in this article: Making Sure They’ve Got the Touch

Making Sure They’ve Got the Touch
Published: 3/29/2011
By Siddhartha Mitter

On a wintry Saturday afternoon, Cameron Fadjo, a TC doctoral student in Cognitive Studies in Education, was teaching 19 TC students and staff members how to park a Ferrari. If they failed to steer it into the right spot, the car collided with a wall, and they lost points.

The Ferrari was virtual, of course—part of a two-day intensive workshop on how to write iPad and iPhone applications for education. Young children today are using these new touch-based tools from a very early age, but Fadjo, a former middle school teacher who spent two years at Apple before earning TC Master’s degrees in Instructional Media and Technology and in Educational Psychology, is part of a group of TC researchers who worries that the new technology isn’t being utilized to its maximum potential.

“When the tool gets into the classroom and it’s just meant to supplement a previous technology, that’s the concern,” Fadjo says.

The real promise of touch-based tools is the opportunity they create to enhance grounded embodied cognition—anchoring understanding of often abstract-seeming concepts in direct sensory experience. Studies by many researchers, including Fadjo and his advisor, John Black—TC’s Cleveland Dodge Professor of Technology and Education—have shown that grounded embodied cognitive experiences with technology dramatically improve learning and academic performance.

“The research on touch-based devices is as important as computer education literature was 20 years ago,” Fadjo says. “But unfortunately, there aren’t yet a lot of people doing work on cognition and gestural interfaces in education.”

Beyond covering the basics of how to program apps, Fadjo’s workshop—now in its second year—simply seeks to get participants thinking about the breadth of possibilities for using the new technology. At one point, Fadjo gave the group just 45 minutes to come up with app ideas to pitch to the class. An educational purpose was preferred, but not necessary.

Deborah Wraight, a TC Master’s student in Instructional Media and Technology, proposed an iPad-based classroom assessment tool that would be more convenient to use than traditional rubric charts and also allow teachers to gather more personalized information about students to more easily store and transfer that information.
Three employees from the TC Web office cooked up a plan for a handheld app that would give TC students access to everything from tuition billing data to campus events. Still other workshop participants suggested creating prep tools for the GRE exams.

The jump from brainstorming to making a “real” app can be rapid. Wraight said she intended to create her assessment tool as her master’s project, while Marquina Iliev-Piselli, a master’s degree student in Instructional Media and Technology, said that since taking Fadjo’s workshop last year, she had project-managed an app for Hollaback, a non-profit group that focuses on creating awareness of gender-based violence, that enables users to report and help crowd-source data on instances of street harassment.

Iliev-Piselli said she thought designing apps for education would be harder because the technology can be “such a quick fix. I play a game, I close it and it’s over. I’m not learning anything. As an educational device, it needs to be incorporated in a broader curriculum. You have to think about why you’re using this tool.”

To Fadjo, that comment was evidence that his listeners were thinking like marketers as well as educators—a critical requirement for bringing ideas to reality. “The market penetration for these devices is huge,” he said. “And the marketplace is open enough that entry is not prohibitive. It makes sense from the perspective of the TC student to be a part of this revolution in creating learning opportunities through touch-based mobile devices. These devices have the potential to be more than just fun and this workshop helps to guide students toward constructing this future.”