January 22 2016 edition

Thanks to Diane Andolsek, Ed Metz, Scott Nicholson, Sheri Rubin, Tammie Schrader, Russ Shilling, and Greg Toppo for contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

The Level Up Report has been a bit sporadic lately! Life has gotten busy with a few contracts and other things I’ve been working on. I will always try to get something out by the end of the weekend each week, whether it’s short or a full report. But the more contributions you send, the more likely it will be awesome! πŸ™‚


Project EVOCongratulations to Akili Interactive Labs on a $30.5M investment from venture and health funds to support development of its game-based health products. Readers of this report will recognize Akili as the studio behind Project:EVO and Neuroracer, games based on neuroscience and technology licensed from Adam Gazzaley’s lab at UC San Francisco. We can’t wait to see the results!

Microsoft announced that it is acquiring MinecraftEDU from TeacherGaming LLC, and launching Minecraft: Education Edition this summer. What is the Education Edition? Check out The Guardian’s coverage, or Rafranz Davis’s excellent blog post. What will TeacherGaming LLC do next? More work on Kerbal Space Program EDU! Yay! (Disclosure: I’ve been doing some contracting with Microsoft. But you know I’d jump up and down about this news no matter what πŸ™‚ )

On December 9, the US Department of Education and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) collaborated to build a day of events highlighting learning games. There were White House meetings in the morning and a big educational games showcase in the evening, with over 45 game developers participating. The Small Business Innovation Research grant winners were particularly highlighted. So much fun. Check out this blog post on some of the amazing women developers and their experiences!

Huge congrats to Ryan and Amy Green on the launch of That Dragon, Cancer, a game they developed that delivers a gut-wrenching emotional story about their son Joel’s battle with cancer. If you’re a reader of this report, you should go play this important game.

Finding high-quality learning games that teach the topics you’re looking for can be a challenge. But with a little creativity, many games can be used for many educational purposes. I remember the story of one parent who used Grand Theft Auto to teach his young son colors and car models. That seemed a little unusual. But here’s another great story, about using Hearthstone to teach math.

Coding and Making

President Obama CodingWe were extremely excited about President Obama’s State of the Union address January 12, in which he called for expanding computer science education in America’s schools. There were a number of thoughtful pieces about CS education published in the following days, including several great pieces on NPR: in this piece, NPR talks with students, teachers, and many other interested parties; in this one, they interview Dan Garcia, a CS professor at UC Berkeley, about his MOOC “The Beauty and Joy of Computing”.

The Global Game Jam is coming! That’s right, this mammoth annual event encouraging you to build a game in just 48 short hours takes place January 29-31. This year, one of the diversifiers is “Work and Play” – the game requires the player to code, or learn to code, in order to progress. That sounds great!

Code.org published its annual report on the state of K-12 computer science and the difference the organization is making. It is a great resource of data on just what is happening with CS education in the United States. One of my favorite numbers is this one: Code.org and its affiliates have done professional development for 20,000 teachers! In an accompanying piece, they publish data from a survey of their partners and other organizers on the impact of the Hour of Code. Rounding out the picture, check out this piece on an Hour of Code event at Seattle’s Central Public Library.

Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, gave the keynote at FETC 2016 in Orlando. The Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program embeds groups of 20 high school girls inside technology companies or universities for seven weeks to get hands-on experience with computing. Over 10,000 girls have gone through the program, and 1600 will attend this summer!

Abhijit Sinha is an engineer who found himself in a small village outside Bangalore where people had very little access to computers or other modern technology. So he bought a few refurbished laptops and began introducing local kids to computers and free open online courses. Eventually they found the Instructables website, and began building out the Banjarapalya Makerspace. Now the kids come to tinker at the makerspace after school and post their results and questions to Instructables. Check out the video (especially the Harlem shake portion)!


That Dragon CancerThat Dragon, Cancer (PC, Mac) – The heart-felt tale of young Joel’s battle with cancer. Answers EA’s question, “can a computer make you cry?” You should play this. Video.


Minecraft Education EditionMinecraft: Education Edition – Check out some information about this upcoming classroom-friendly version of Minecraft.

2016 State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Address – On January 13, White House OSTP hosted the fourth annual “SoSTEM” address, featuring Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology, as well as other special guests.

Connect with the League of Innovative Schools – What’s the League of Innovative Schools? Digital Promise’s network of schools connecting to share innovative uses of digital technologies for education. Wow, that made it sound really dry. But it’s the opposite of that, it’s actually really amazing! Check out the video.

Innovation Nation – Coding for Kids – Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation interviews Hadi Partovi about the launch and mission of Code.org.

ESA Foundation Spotlight: National Museum of the American Indian – The Smithsonian explores use of games and interactives to teach people in a fun way and bring historical information alive.


CUNY Games Festival – A conf on game-based learning in higher ed. New York, NY. January 22-23.
Global Game Jam – The world’s largest simultaneous weekend game jam. Everywhere. January 29-31.
EduCon 2.8 – Education innovation un-conference. Philadelphia, PA. 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.
SXSW Edu – Education sub-festival before SXSW Music / Film / Interactive. Austin, TX. March 7-10.
Game Developers Conference ‐ The largest game developer conference. San Francisco, CA. March 14-18.


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Send your news, games, videos, and great article links to mark@levelupreport.comΒ for inclusion in the report!

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