December 9 2016 edition

In this week’s newsletter: The White House hosts an eSports event and ships an augmented reality app, Osmo raises $24 million in funding, Oracle pledges $1.4 billion for CS education in the EU, and Feminist Frequency covers the brilliant Ada Lovelace.

I’m honored to have been invited to join the Board of Directors for Games for Change! Learn more in their press release.

Thanks to Erik Martin, Steven Place, 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

White House Game-A-ThonThe White House is hosting an eSports event on December 12 (wait, what? awesome!) to highlight to young adults the importance of signing up for health care during this ACA open enrollment period. Young adults had the highest uninsured rate before the Affordable Care Act was passed, and have seen great gains, but there are still many who are uninsured! Catch the event on Twitch this Monday, and while you’re at it, make sure you are covered!

Recently, Tom Bennett, a school behavior official working with the UK government, told the Sunday Times that he is not a fan of using Minecraft in the classroom. “This smacks to me of another gimmick…” said Bennett, suggesting that we should “drain the swamp” and stick to something that we know works, like books. It won’t come as a surprise to you how fervently we disagree. Teachers should have MORE ability to experiment with new learning tools in the classroom, not less. To not take advantage of the potential for new tools to make learning more engaging and efficient is the height of folly. We should absolutely conduct research to identify what works, and share best practices. But let’s not put on blinders and stick purely with lectures and books because we’re scared that new tools might not work as well – they might actually work better!

Congratulations to winners of the 2016 Serious Games Showcase & Challenge! The winners include a chemistry game from Army Game Studio (link below), a training game for amputees, and more.

OsmoWow, Osmo raised $24 million in funding from a variety of investors to expand its impressive augmented reality iPad game system! Partners include Mattel, Sesame, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The Osmo app uses your iPad’s camera to identify real-world objects and create bridged physical/virtual learning games. Check out this video of Osmo Pizza Co., for a good example.

It seems like each week we find more and more exciting work happening with virtual reality and education. In a recent Beijing study, students learned astrophysics through either a VR simulation or more traditional methods, and the VR learners achieved dramatically higher results. Dan White of Filament Games highlighted five ways that VR changes learning in a recent blog post. Seattle education company Foundry10 produced a nice infographic detailing five things that teachers using VR want you to know.

We like to talk about technology-driven education innovation in this newsletter, and it is frustrating that frequently the cost of these technologies make them unavailable to lower-income areas and schools. Molly Zielezinski at Stanford discusses findings that edtech is frequently used purely for remediation in low-income classrooms, not innovation, and has five suggestions for breaking that cycle. Jessie Woolley-Wilson of DreamBox Learning writes for the Hechinger Report on why it is more critical than ever to focus on equity in education, and offers six ways to level the playing field.

I enjoyed this piece in The Guardian on utilizing games and biofeedback to increase players’ resilience to mental health problems. The game Champions of the Shengha teaches players to remain calm under pressure by training the player in diaphragmatic breathing.

Coding and Making

Oracle AcademyOracle announced a three-year $1.4 billion pledge to boost computer science education in the EU. As part of the effort, Oracle Academy will train 1000 educators in CS, in Java and databases; the program currently reaches 1000 educational institutions in 110 countries.

A few weeks ago, President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Grace Hopper and Margaret Hamilton (among others). Rear Admiral Grace Hopper is of course the inventor of the first compiler as well as the term “bug”, and Margaret Hamilton led the team that created the Apollo on-board flight software. It’s wonderful to see these computer science luminaries honored!

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did the Hour of Code and created his first game, in honor of Computer Science Education Week. Why don’t you go try his hockey-themed game?

Each year, Barbara Ericson of Georgia Tech analyzes the AP Computer Science test numbers to discover the trends for computer science education in the United States. Overall, test takers are up 17.3% this past year! Mark Guzdial covers Hai Hong’s summary on his blog. Change the Equation has done an interesting related analysis, examining the diversity of computer science and engineering degree recipients.

Tinker KidsDo you want to encourage a tinkering mindset in your young students or children? Alice Baggett discusses ways to turn taking risks and making mistakes into normal and desirable aspects of learning and playing.

We frequently discuss ways to improve the gender balance in computer science education in this newsletter. Research from the Institution for Engineering and Technology recently found that STEM toys are three times more likely to be targeted at boys than girls! This article from The Guardian covers some great gender-neutral STEM toys you may want to consider.

Were you left wondering which computer science education tools to use during Computer Science Education Week? Vicki Davis recommends twenty, divided into age bands, in an article on Edutopia.


White House Dollar Bill AR AppHow to see the White House on a Dollar Bill (iOS, Android) – The White House released “1600”, an augmented reality app that allows you to experience some of the magic of events at the White House by simply pointing your phone at a dollar bill. What? No, really! Try it! Video.

Mozak (Web) – Help teach an AI how to identify and categorize neurons by tracing out brain cells in 3D! Video.

U.S. Army STARS: Elements (iOS, Android) – Learn chemistry by exploring the periodic table with interactive models, games, and challenges in this award-winning game. Video.

Raspberry Pi: Introducing PIXEL – Do you have a Raspberry Pi? Download the new and much more user friendly Desktop interface! Video.

Facebook Messenger Instant Games (Web, iOS, Android) – Did you know you can now play games inside Facebook Messenger? Challenge your friends for high score while chatting with them. Video.


Ada LovelaceThe Brilliant Life of Ada Lovelace – Feminist Frequency covers the interesting life of Ada Lovelace, a mathematical genius who created the very first computer program.

Push yourself. Anybody can learn – teamed up with international champions and gold medalists to introduce you to the Hour of Code this year. Code your own sports game!

Play a game, map the mind – Amy Robinson, executive director of the game Eyewire, gives an excellent talk at TEDxKyoto on the intersection of machine intelligence and crowdsourced human intellect.

Fred Rogers testifies to Senate subcommittee – Mister Rogers gives an impassioned plea for federal support of national public television, and the value of children’s programming, in this 1969 clip.

Day in the Life: Software Engineer – Curious what a software engineer does? ConnectEd Studios presents a day in the life of Victoria Sun, a software engineer at Homejoy.


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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