December 11 2015 edition

Thanks to Steve Isaacs for contributing to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

It looks like time for another late and short version of the Level Up Report, as we are still in recovery following last week’s amazing Computer Science Education Week. We spent the week in Washington DC helping with events and had a fantastic time! We hope you had time to do the Hour of Code — or introduce it to your friends!


Last week President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to No Child Left Behind, the United States’ national education law. Technology and innovation play a prominent role in the bill, check out this piece to learn more details. The National Education Technology Plan was also released last week, and it is well worth your time to read. The NETP is the flagship educational technology policy document for the United States. Yes, it talks about games!

Sande Chen’s second piece in the Big Picture series on was published, focusing on funding for learning games. The article walks through responses to her survey of developers, analyzing varying funding methodologies and games that have utilized them.

Google Chromebooks took up 51% of sales to U.S. K-12 schools in the third quarter of this year, according to market research firm Futuresource. The device’s low cost and easy-to-use management tools likely contributed to its popularity for the classroom, said the firm.

Learning toy maker VTech had a serious data breach recently, leaking the data of 4.8 million customers, many of whom were children. The data included pictures and chat histories. Yikes. I suspect this isn’t the last we’ll hear of this event.

Lego Education builds curriculum packs and teacher training tools that integrate Lego Mindstorms robotics kits into classroom activities. The company claims that Lego Mindstorms are used in one-third of middle school classrooms in the United States. Wow!

The Cooney Center and New America Foundation published a study entitled Getting a Read on the App Stores: A Market Scan and Analysis of Literacy Apps. The analysis was conducted in 2014 and analyzed descriptions and content of the most popular literacy- and language-focused apps.

Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that playing 3D video games over a period of a few weeks can boost your memory by up to 12 percent. The UK’s Daily Telegraph talks with the authors of the study in this piece.

Pittsburgh’s amazing Remake Learning group published an article about a cluster of edtech toy and game producers in the region. Digital Dream Labs’ Puzzlets teaches logic and sequencing using games, puzzle pieces, sensors – and fun!

Looking for fun tech toys for your kids this holiday season? The Globe and Mail looked at STEM toys for girls, such as GoldieBlox. CoolMomTech looks at a bunch of “really cool STEM toys” like the Sphero SPRK edition and Roominate Townhouse + rPower. Can I be a kid again? The New York Times also got into the act, showcasing Mattel’s Google Cardboard-inspired View-Master, along with other toys.

Coding and Making

It was an epic week of computer science events at the White House last week, and the week kicked off with its first ever CS Tech Jam, bringing together educators, students, and developers to build new tools for teaching computer science in the classroom. Check out the Administration’s post about the week of CS events, then read Steve Isaacs excellent wrap-up post about the Tech Jam!

We mentioned the passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act above… what’s the ramification on computer science education? says that computer science is now part of a “well-rounded education”. The bill also allows computer science educators to access professional development programs.

Last fall, the state of Arkansas began teaching computer science in every public high school in the state. Now they’re aiming at kindergarten through eighth grade too. Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the development of the nation’s first K-8 computer science standards, targeted at the 2017-18 school year, and invites feedback. Great work, Arkansas!

Apple used its 468 stores to host the Hour of Code last week, and Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the New York Upper East Side location to see how a class of kids from Harlem was faring.

I just love this article title: “A Kids’ Coding Expert Says We’re Making Computer Class Way Too Boring”. The expert is Mitch Resnick from MIT, head of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group, and he definitely knows what he is talking about!

Are hardware toys the future of kids’ coding? I don’t know, but Blake Montgomery at EdSurge does a great job of surveying the landscape, highlighting an array of fun kits. Pardon me while I go play.

Neil Plotnick from Massachusetts’ Everett High School shares seven tips for getting kids interested in computer science, including robot demonstrations, doing the Hour of Code, building computers, and inviting in guest speakers, among other things. This piece is on EdWeek, pardon the paywall!

Google and Pixar teamed up on a new Made With Code coding lesson, featuring scenes and characters from Pixar’s movie Inside Out. The lesson uses the popular block-style snap coding, similar to lessons on’s site.

Stratford Schools in the San Francisco area ran coding events in all its elementary and middle school grades last week, from pre-K to 8. This article is an interesting read due to the outline of what each grade worked on: there were unplugged activities, quests for candy, graph paper programming, and even Java!


Global Game Jam – The world’s largest simultaneous weekend game jam. Everywhere. January 29-31.
Kidscreen Summit – The kids entertainment industry’s most important annual event. Miami, FL. February 8-11.
DICE Summit – The game industry’s annual executive leadership summit. Las Vegas, NV. February 16-18.


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