Marquina Marie Iliev-Piselli

Graduate and Professional Work

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GLS 7.0 – ETC Press

Bank-It: A Mobile Financial Literacy Game

Marquina M. Iliev-Piselli, Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology

Cameron L. Fadjo, Institute for Learning Technologies; Department of Human Development

Joey J. Lee, Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology

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 game 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 mobile game 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 mobile game for providing informal Financial Literacy instruction to young urban minority girls, is being developed to provide a mobile experience for engaging in and learning about fundamental banking skills.  Specifically, the 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 designed to develop Financial Knowledge through active money management and Financial Skills in a mobile game. Challenges are explicitly stated during interactive sessions and participation is reinforced through goal attainment. 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’ finance-related mobile game can be used to inform our design considerations for Bank-It, and quantify Financial Behavioral trends among users.

Citation: Iliev-Piselli, Marquina M., Fadjo, Cameron L. & Lee, Joey J. (2011, July). Bank-It: A Gamified Financial Literacy Mobile App. Poster session presented at the Games, Learning and Society Conference 7.0, Madison, WI.


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


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.”