August 19 2016 edition

In this week’s newsletter: the White House’s call to action for active STEM learning, collaborations to build educational games, Arkansas’ focus on computer science education, the growth of coding camps, Minecraft on the Oculus Rift, and the CSTA’s new video series on computational thinking!

The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge is now open for submissions. This annual competition highlights the best in serious games each year at I/ITSEC in Orlando, Florida.

Deadline for the Games for Change Student Challenge has been extended to September 2. If you’re an educator in New York City, Dallas, or Pittsburgh, check it out and apply to receive professional development to run a game design course!

Thanks to Susan Cummings, Chris Kauza, Ed Metz, Russ Shilling, Steven Slosser, and Meghan Ventura for sending contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

White House Active STEMThe White House has issued a call to action to improve STEM education through active learning. Learn more about this STEM for All effort, and what you can do to get involved, on the White House blog.

Lauri Jarvilehto is focused on emphasizing fun and embedding meaningful learning at his new company, Lightneer. The Rovio alum spoke with The Atlantic about his new company and upcoming particle physics game, Big Bang Legends.

Middle school science teachers and game developers came together in Wisconsin to produce nine educational video games that focus on systems, in an intriguing project by the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and Field Day lab.

Stanford students are collaborating with several local schools to explore Social-Emotional Learning in Virtual Reality, using Oculus Rift headsets. Interesting program! In a separate piece, KQED talked about ethical considerations for using VR with children, speaking with Mark Suter and Lisa Castaneda about transformative work underway and also highlighting some potential concerns. I found this piece too strongly wary of the new technology for my tastes, but it is still worth a read and YMMV.

Digital Promise is looking for feedback on how you use research to inform your ed-tech product development! Share your hard-earned wisdom and help them to scale and share best practices by submitting your experiences now.

This upcoming graphic novel about the creation of the game Tetris dives into the deep history of games and the role they play in art, culture, and commerce.

Students at the Borough of Manhattan Community College collaborated with game designers this summer in a pilot program to build out a game-based remedial math curriculum. The games were designed to reinforce algebra skills and prepare students for a pre-calculus course.

What are the essential ingredients for bridging the digital use divide and enabling educators to effectively use education technology in the classroom? Karen Johnson points to examples of visionary leaders, high-quality professional development, and strong product support.

The third volume of the ETC Press research series on gender, race, and sexuality in gaming has launched. Diversifying Barbie and Mortal Kombat covers the experiences of diverse players and ways to promote inclusive designs for broadening access and participation. The digital version is free, so pull it down and have a look!

Coding and Making

Arkansas Computer ScienceThe state of Arkansas is doing amazing work toward improving computer science education. Over the next few weeks, Governor Asa Hutchinson will visit 9 high schools as part of his 2016 Coding Tour to promote the benefits of taking computer science courses. The Arkansas Department of Education is holding a computer science enrollment contest that will award technology prize packages to schools that enroll the most students or hire the most teachers with computer science endorsements. Great job, Arkansas! #ARKidsCanCode

Nonprofit Change the Equation analyzed data from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress to identify how the U.S. is doing in making computer science available to all K12 students. While nearly 59% of 12th graders report that their schools offer a computer science class, the numbers are quite different for minorities (for example, 34% for African American, 22% for Native American) and students outside of cities (30% in rural areas). Even these numbers seem a bit higher than what we’ve seen in other surveys, so “computer science class” and “computer class” may have gotten conflated here.

GeekWire talks to attendees of Girls Who Code camps in Washington State this summer, highlighting the tech gender disparity and some of the great work being done to solve it.

Flatiron School costs $15,000 for 12 weeks of rapid coding skills training — and it pays off, as most graduates from the program land lucrative programming jobs afterward due to the strong demand for these technical skills. The Wall Street Journal looks at the rise of coding camps, and the EQUIP program that will enable a broader variety of educational institutions to begin receiving student federal financial aid dollars.

Speaking of coding camps, 42 US is an innovative take on the concept, providing free coding training to 1024 students each year. Based off a model developed at 42’s original Paris location, the school’s intensive peer-to-peer learning environment encourages students to dive deeply into programming projects using the C language.

Covering two of the things we love, eSchoolNews talks about CodeCombat, a game that helps students learn coding skills. Schools are exploring use of the game as an engaging way to excite middle school students about technology and encourage them to learn programming together.

EdSurge covers the close ties between Making and the arts in an opinion piece from Cynthia Day, educator at Barre Town Middle and Elementary School in Vermont.

Facebook has boldly published its employment diversity statistics for three summers now, and this year called out some of the challenges it was having in improving them. The Wall Street Journal examined one of their diversification strategies, incentivizing recruiters.

Here’s a reward for reading this far: Maker Shed is offering 50% off books through August 31 as part of a back-to-school program. Check it out, and go Make something awesome!


Minecraft VRMinecraft on Oculus Rift (PC) – Minecraft is now officially available for VR! Try it out on the Oculus Rift, using the Windows 10 Edition Beta. Video.

Merica Match (iOS, Android) – A game that combines match-three gameplay with the US Presidential election. Choose your favorite candidate and start campaigning!

Outfolded (iOS) – A minimalist, relaxing, endless puzzle game about unfolding shapes. Video.

MS-DOS Free Game Archive (Web) – The Internet Archive has a massive archive of free-to-play MS-DOS games. Go play! Not sure where to start? How about Oregon Trail?


CSTA Computational Thinking VideosCSTA’s What is Computational Thinking? – The Computer Science Teachers Association is conducting a series of video interviews with members of the computer science education community on the topic of computational thinking. In this first video, they speak with Chris Stephenson, Computer Science Education Program Manager at Google.

Happy Atoms Song – Enjoy this catchy tune while learning about Schell Games’ upcoming Happy Atoms magnetic molecular modeling set and app.

McDonald’s McTrax: Play the Placemat – McDonald’s in the Netherlands created musical placemats with conductive ink that interact with your smartphone to enable you to create music. What? I know, it sounds kind of crazy. Check it out.

Implementing the Tamagotchi Singularity – Jeroen Domburg loves Tamagotchi. He loves them so much that he wants to create a Matrix-like array of them, all living their lives and communicating with each other. Check out his impressive path through Tamagotchi technology. Then go visit the online Tama-hive!

Hidden Figures, Official Trailer – Hollywood will tell the story of three brilliant African-American women who worked as “computers” at NASA during the Space Race.

Hot Wheels Road Trip – Just an incredibly long camera shot from the viewpoint of a Hot Wheels car cruising down the orange track! NBD! (Okay, actually a number of shots cut together. Still pretty fun!)


Smart Parks Game Jam – Join Games for Change and American Express for a hands-on game jam to celebrate the National Park Service’s Centennial! Brooklyn, NY. August 22.
PAX West – The big Penny Arcade Expo, West-coast edition. A huge consumer event for the love of games. Seattle, WA. September 2-5.
Digital Kids Summit – Discussing trends, products, and innovation in the kids digital space. San Francisco, CA. September 13-14.
Austin Game Conference – The return of AGC! Highlighting the development of live, participatory games with real-time engagement. Austin, TX. September 21-22.
MINECON 2016 – The huge annual Minecraft event! Anaheim, CA. September 24-25.
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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