December 16 2016 edition

In this week’s newsletter: The 4th annual Ed Games Expo in DC, state and local efforts drive CS Ed, Super Mario Run comes to mobile, and Ruthe Farmer speaks CSforAll at TEDxBeaconStreet.

Thanks to Dan Bridge, Erik Martin, Ed Metz, and Russ Shilling for contributions to this issue! You can send us your news and favorites by replying back to this newsletter or using the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

Ed Games Expo 2016Last week the U.S. Department of Education held its 4th annual Ed Games Expo in Washington DC, highlighting educational games and learning apps. Many of the tools highlighted received funding from the Department’s SBIR small business grant program. The article linked above contains a long list of the products shown at the event; we’ll highlight some of these in the newsletter over the coming weeks.

A new report from Technavio suggests that the global market for education gamification will grow from $93 million in 2015 to $1.2 billion in 2020. They use the term “gamification” to refer to game-based learning as opposed to adding game mechanics to typical classroom elements. The introduction to the report cites the availability of game engines, plus new opportunities through virtual reality and augmented reality. Color me cautious.

Congratulations to Owen Gottlieb at RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media, winner of an NSF grant to design a capacity-building program that connects early-career scholars with senior games and learning scholars!

The Teen Science Cafe Network operates more than 50 informal learning programs around the U.S., offering informal science learning opportunities to students in a casual atmosphere that encourages engagement. Check their network map to find one near you!

The Education Business Forum was held in New York City recently, with 200 company leaders gathering to discuss the ed-tech sector and its growth. Over the past two years, about $6 billion in venture and growth investments have been made in education technologies, yet analysts expect fragmentation in the U.S. market to continue for quite some time.

Coding and Making

Dorn Signs WA CS StandardsWhat happened to the $4 billion allocation for computer science education in the federal budget? The Verge explores, and finds that while funding at the national level never passed, a lot of work is happening at the state and local level. For example, Washington State recently adopted K-12 computer science standards, and middle school math teachers in the 23rd Congressional District of Texas can now apply for CS training using Bootstrap. Reliance on local funding can perpetuate equity challenges, as rural and low-income urban areas have a harder time raising funding for equipment and teacher PD than higher-income areas.

The White House hosted a special Girls Make Games workshop recently, with 20 girls from eight states visiting our nation’s capital to build games together and learn about careers as game makers. So cool!

Curious how to integrate computational thinking into courses, independent of coding? This KQED MindShift article examines school STEAM labs in South Fayette, Pennsylvania, where they work to integrate computational thinking into every grade.

The San Francisco 49ers football team launched the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute in 2014, and it has grown to 180 students. The program started out focused on students in grades seven through nine, but this year it expanded and opened a Fab Lab in Santa Clara High School. The team’s new stadium also features a museum and learning space with its own STEM program that 60,000 grade school students visit each year.

Looking for just the right coding toy for your child for Christmas? Jenn Choi gives us a few tips on how to choose, and how to make sure it stays fun, in this article for Forbes.

Girls Teaching Girls to Code is a mentorship program led by Stanford women in CS who aim to inspire Bay Area high school girls to learn programming skills. Each spring, the organization hosts Code Camp to bring together CS students as mentors for high school girls. Learn more in this video.

The Afterschool Alliance has published a report on the opportunities and challenges to growing computer science education in afterschool programs. Takeaways include the need to educate afterschool programs about computing (as opposed to technology literacy), increasing professional development opportunities for afterschool educators, and developing engaging curricula for use in an afterschool environment.


Super Mario RunSuper Mario Run (iOS) – Mario goes mobile! Nintendo’s first Super Mario game for iOS has launched, combining the 2D platforming gameplay you love with a simple one-handed interface scheme. It’s great fun. But you’ll need to pay for the premium version once you’re hooked on the first four levels! Video.

We Wait (Oculus Rift) – BBC News worked with Aardman Digital to create an immersive experience highlighting the experience of Syrian refugees struggling to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe. Video.

Maze by Seedling (Google Cardboard) – Create a labyrinth on the game board using wall pieces that you can place, then capture an image of the maze with your phone and step into it in first person using your Google Cardboard! Video.

Beasts of Balance (iOS, Android) – Take turns stacking cute little animal pieces on the physical platform, balancing them delicately! Build as high as you can and watch as the Bluetooth-connected app creates, enhances, and evolves the animals in a digitally-created world alongside the game. Video.


Ruthe Farmer TEDxRuthe Farmer: Computer Science for All – White House Senior Policy Advisor for Tech Inclusion Ruthe Farmer recently spoke at TEDxBeaconStreet on the importance of making computer science available to ALL students.

TuneTable Teaches Computer Programming Concepts through Music – This interactive tabletop and set of coasters is an interesting physical device to help you explore programming concepts. Adjust the connections between coasters to adjust the audio produced by the device. Fun!

Linkki – This kinetic construction toy built from a peg board, Lego-style linkages, and servos encourages you to explore motors and movement through play.

Lego Computer: Digicomp – Inspired by those computers built in Minecraft? Check out this impressive Lego replica of the 1963 Digicomp, a three-bit mechanical computer.

SpaceX Launches in 4K – Enjoy a lovely short video of SpaceX launches and landings, filmed in Ultra HD 4K.


NY EdTech Week – Education innovation festival focused on using edtech to drive learning advancements. New York, NY. December 19-21.
Global Game Jam – The world’s largest weekend game jam, at hundreds of sites around the world! January 20-22.
Bett – Massive annual trade show showcasing the use of technology in education. London, UK. January 25-28.
Kidscreen Summit – Exploring new horizons in kids entertainment. Miami, FL. February 13-16.
DICE Summit – The game industry’s annual executive leadership summit. Las Vegas, NV. February 21-23.


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