April 1 2016 edition

Thanks to Daniel Laughlin, Ed Metz, and Russ Shilling for sending contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

Oculus Rift ShippingThe Oculus Rift is shipping! Since their Kickstarter campaign in August 2012 we’ve been talking about the next wave of virtual reality. Last week the consumer version of the Rift began shipping. So what do people think? Start with this WIRED review (positive), then the Wall Street Journal (“Isn’t Ready”). Then check out the reviews on Ars Technica and The Verge. Curious about the other head-mounted displays coming later this year? The Washington Post summarizes those. Whew!

The 2016 White House Science Fair was announced, the last science fair of the Obama Administration. Typically this annual event has highlighted a few great STEM ed games from students, so we hope you’ll submit your (or your class’s) amazing games at the website!

The New York Times talked with Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor about the importance of teaching students about government, marking the relaunch of iCivics’ game Win the White House.

The National Videogame Museum (NVM) opened for business in Frisco, Texas, just outside of Dallas! You might have seen some of the museum’s artifacts over the years at the Game Developers Conference or E3 Expo. Check out the museum’s website for info, and some of the great local coverage from CBS and from the Dallas Morning News. Congratulations to the NVM team!

Foo CampThe first Education Foo Camp was held about a month ago at Google, sponsored by O’Reilly Media, Google, the US Department of Education, Macmillan Publishing, Sesame Street, and Scientific American. (Wow!) It brought together an impressive group of people interested in education and innovation. Russ Shilling from the US Department of Education discussed the event in a recent blog post.

CNET produced a special report on using Minecraft for learning! The dynamic web page itself is worth a click. You may recognize some of the friendly faces in the article from previous news here… lots of great links and videos included.

Did you miss New York Toy Fair? Yeah me too! Matthew Farber tries to help us out by highlighting six of his favorite playful learning games from the show.

Each year we jump up and down excitedly about the Global Game Jam, which happens in mid-January. This past year nearly 7000 games were created over the single weekend, in 500 locations in 93 countries. Learn more about why the Global Game Jam is an important phenomenon in this ReadWrite piece.

Nintendo teamed up with the San Francisco Public Library to teach kids about game design using Super Mario Maker. That sounds like so much fun! You can check out some of the levels created using this game code: E02B-0000-020F-B9DA. I hope they’ll scale this up to more libraries!

Creators of the Serious Play conference have launched a new website to cover the news of the day. Check out Serious Games Industry for daily news on serious games!

Coding and Making

STEM Jobs ChartWhen we talk of a STEM jobs gap, what exactly does that mean? The University of Washington Computer Science & Engineering department took a look at the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Science Foundation. While there were nearly twice as many available computer science jobs as graduates last year, the opposite is true for the social sciences!

Sheena Vaidyanathan teaches computer science in Los Altos schools and is the K-8 teacher representative on the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) board of directors. In this interesting short interview she points to many useful resources for teachers, and describes the work she’s doing in her district and with the CSTA board.

Karlie Kloss caught the programming bug two years ago through a course at Flatiron School. This summer she is launching her own “Kode with Klossy” coding camps for young women. The camps uses Ruby on Rails and teach students how to make their own web pages.

Ucodemy is launching a series of online coding boot camps for K-12 teachers this summer. They will use a version of Scratch and feature Google Hangout sessions to encourage interaction.

Dremel’s new update to its 3D printer line includes a bundle focused on education. The education edition will include curriculum, professional development, and customer support.


MiitomoMiitomo (iOS, Android) – Nintendo’s first smartphone app has launched and seeks to spark conversations between you and your friends. Video.

Win the White House (Web) – iCivics’ popular and free learning game has been updated for the current presidential election season! It utilizes the latest web standards to present a more engaging and interactive experience. Video.

Science Kombat (Web) – Play this free web game where famous scientists attack each other, with special moves based on their expertise! Video.


Scratch CatWhere in the world is Scratch Cat? – Oh no! Apparently Scratch Cat has gone on vacation. Well, it’s a vacation that is well deserved, to be sure! But where did Scratch Cat go? Check here!

Zombies and Calculus – We’ve seen zombies and geography, but zombies also like math! Check out this innovative approach to teaching calculus.

White House CTO Visits Adafruit – Last Manufacturing Day (October 2), the White House’s Megan Smith and Megan Brewster visited Lady Ada for a tour of the Adafruit factory. Follow along with them in this video!

Computer Science is Changing Everything – Another excellent video from Code.org, highlighting the many areas where computer science is having an impact.

Flappy Bird in Super Mario World – Lastly, just for fun, check out this amazing exploit of Super Mario World glitches, injecting Flappy Bird code into the game through a series of creative and clever hacks.


NSTA National Conference – Annual conference for the National Science Teachers Association. Nashville, TN. March 31-April 3.
Sandbox@MIT – Leaders in media, toys, education, and nonprofits come together to explore play. Cambridge, MA. April 17-19.
Games and Media Summit – A day-long event at the Tribeca Film Festival, from Games for Change! New York, NY. April 18.
Scratch Day – Global network of events celebrating the Scratch programming environment. Worldwide. May 14.
XTech 2016 – The Experiential Technology & NeuroGaming Conference and Expo. San Francisco, CA. May 17-18.
National Week of Making – A US-wide celebration of all things Maker, June 17-23, with the National Maker Faire in Washington DC, June 18-19.
Games for Change – The 13th annual conference for using games for change. New York, NY. June 23-24.
Computer Science Teachers Association conference – CSTA’s annual conference for teachers. San Diego, CA. July 10-12.


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