August 12 2016 edition

Thanks to Lucien Parsons, Russ Shilling, Meghan Ventura, and John Williamson for sending contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

VR Public SpeakingVirtual reality is becoming more available and affordable, inspiring increasingly interesting work to be done with it. Startup Cerevrum is using VR to help people get over their fear of public speaking. A new study highlights the use of VR to treat paraplegics, helping some of them regain some control over paralyzed limbs. (Wow!) Of course, how can we use VR for education? In Fuzhou, China, NetDragon is field-testing VR lessons in classrooms, encouraging teachers to try out tailored curricula.

A study from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology declares that children who play online video games do better in science, math, and reading tests. The study used data from 12,000 Australian high school students who had taken the 2012 PISA assessment. However, it’s unclear from the study whether game play is resulting in improved performance, or students who score higher are more drawn to games.

What if you could capture the engaging gameplay of Pokemon Go — and do SCIENCE? NPR highlights iNaturalist, a site where amateur naturalists upload photos of birds, insects, and plants to help scientists understand global biodiversity. KQED highlights four other interesting apps for STEM outdoor adventures, in this piece from Common Sense Education.

EdSurge explores the use of game-based learning in higher education, highlighting the learning games of Toolwire and Muzzy Lane. They also talk with Andy Phelps, director of RIT’s MAGIC, who notes that not all games need to have overt educational content — sometimes the learning comes through the experience of the game.

Wired explored the future of virtual schools through a piece about New Hampshire’s Virtual Learning Academy Charter School. What makes VLACS stand out as an online success story? It may come down to student-teacher relationships.

Want to be sure you are staying on top of all the K12 edtech conferences? We highlight some of them in our newsletter, but for a thorough list, check out this excellent page on EdSurge.

Coding and Making

Adafruit AdaBoxAdafruit announced the launch of AdaBox, a new quarterly Adafruit subscription service designed to educate and inspire you. Each box contains Adafruit products curated around a theme, with tutorials and videos to help you get the most from the experience. So happy to see this from Adafruit! (Unfortunately it’s currently backordered, but keep an eye on the site.) Video.

Matthew Farber writes about teaching coding for self-expression. Who wants to learn code just for the sake of learning code…? Get students excited about coding by teaching them tools such as Twine or Scratch so they can share their own stories and experiences.

If you’re curious to learn programming to benefit your career opportunities, how do you get started? Willow Solem shares her experience finding her own path from jobs she didn’t care about to a role as associate software engineer at MuleSoft.

The Washington Post covered Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program, an opportunity for high school girls around the country to spend seven weeks working at top tech companies. Learn more at the Girls Who Code site!

AP Computer Science continued its impressive growth in 2016, growing from 48,994 test takers to 57,934. The College Board noted that there was an overall 4% increase in the number of students taking STEM-related tests this year. That 18% Computer Science growth is great to see.

Facebook, Microsoft, and Google all provide summer internship opportunities for high schoolers, but it can be competitive to land a position! US News highlights the Facebook Summer Academy, a partnership with Foundation for a College Education.


Pixel Art AcademyPixel Art Academy (Web) – Learn to draw pixel art by enrolling in this virtual academy with a game-like storyline. Grow your skills as your character progresses through the adventure! Video.

CoSpaces (Web, iOS, Android) – Quickly build 3D spaces online to explore with your Google Cardboard using the CoSpaces mobile app. Video.

Blendoku 2 (iOS, Android) – A challenging puzzle game that simply asks you to blend colors together in the proper order. If only it were so easy. Video.

Spaceplan (Web) – Readers of this newsletter know of my fondness for clicker games… Spaceplan combines the fun of a clicker with a story of planets, potatoes, and… relativity? Video.


Michelle Lee IDEOInvolving Kids in the Design of Kids Apps – Michelle Lee, Digital Kids Lead at IDEO, recently shared her best practices for user-centered design when building apps for kids. From Casual Connect USA 2016.

Codebender and CircuitPlayground – Lady Ada shows off the new Codebender website support for Circuit Playground, an Arduino device designed for education. Enables Circuit Playground development on Chromebooks!

Using Technology to Support Early STEM – The US Department of Education held a Google Hangout on tech for early STEM learning as a followup to the White House’s Early STEM Learning Symposium. Learn from the Dept of ED, Nickelodeon, the Jim Henson Company, and others!

Fox, Bird, Bear: A Story About SpryFox – In this pilot episode for a series of game development documentaries, learn how developer SpryFox (Alphabear) works together while living apart around the globe.

Andy on Games – Andy Jefferson is excited about games for education, and he recently started a YouTube channel to talk about it! Check out Andy’s dissertation on education games from Cornell.


GLS 12 – The annual Games+Learning+Society conference brings together game developers, researchers, and educators! Madison, WI. August 17-19.
Revolutionary Learning – Conference on inspiration and collaboration through games. New York, NY. August 17-19.
GameSoundCon – The leading conference on the art, technology, and business of game audio. Los Angeles, CA. September 27-28.
Digital Media and Learning – Linking scholars and practitioners together for a discussion of theory, study, policy, and practice. Irvine, CA. October 5-7.
Intentional Play Summit – A full-day event on using games for learning and motivation, at the Computer History Museum. Mountain View, CA. October 7.


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