January 27 2017 edition

Thanks to Russ Shilling and Rolland Waters 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

Gender StereotypesA new study by UIUC’s Lin Bian, published in Science, indicates that gender stereotypes begin to impact the perspective of children by the age of 6 years old. In the study, 5-year-old children identified their own gender as being more brilliant a majority of the time, but among 6- and 7-year-olds, girls were significantly less likely to choose women.

A new paper commissioned by UNESCO focuses on the use of digital games for peace education and conflict resolution. The author Paul Darvasi uses games to teach his English students about alternative forms of narrative; his paper highlights a number of innovative games for social impact and has a deep bibliography. If you receive this newsletter, you will want to read this paper!

In this newsletter we frequently focus on tools and techniques that require access to computers, broadband, and other digital technologies. Yet there continues to be a massive divide between schools that can afford this equipment and those that can’t: how can we expect to teach students 21st century skills who don’t have access to 21st century technology? This Hechinger Report piece goes deep on the digital divide, particularly discussing funding challenges faced by rural schools. How do we make digital learning more accessible?

Power Play bookCongratulations to Asi Burak, former executive director of Games for Change, on the release of his book Power Play: How Video Games Can Save the World. Okay, technically it releases next week, but I couldn’t wait. πŸ™‚ Check it out!

A 2012 paper from Whitaker and Bushman that suggested there might be a long-term training impact from playing first-person shooters has been retracted due to irregularities in some variables of the data set used. Concerns were raised about the paper’s data in January 2015.

In some fascinating research out of the University of Washington, researchers treating depression utilized a game that targets underlying cognitive issues associated with late-life depression as opposed to just managing the symptoms. The UW Medicine team utilized Project: EVO from Akili Interactive Labs, a game designed to improve focus and attention, and found that it also yielded improvements in mood and self-reported function.

KQED MindShift has a fascinating piece from the Hechinger Report focused on toys that blend physical with virtual, utilizing digital technologies to enhance the function of physical components. The piece primarily focuses on the work of Nesra Yannier of Carnegie Mellon University and her NoRILLA blocks system. Check out this video of some playtesting!

Amazon launched a new STEM Club toy subscription at $20/month and with three separate age tiers. Interesting stuff! Let us know what you think if you try it out.

Coding and Making

Code Next OaklandGoogle and MIT’s Media Lab have partnered up to open an after-school program in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, called Code Next. The project-based program uses maker activities to get kids excited about learning the necessary digital skills.

Teaching code debugging skills can be quite challenging, especially in a large class! How do you give your students the freedom to make mistakes and fix them, while also ensuring that they don’t get frustrated and give up? Sheena Vaidyanathan offers some valuable suggestions in an interesting EdSurge piece.

“The CS Detective” is an innovative book for kids that attempts to teach how search algorithms work in an engaging manner. Searching and sorting are core techniques in computer science but they can be booooooring to learn about. What a great idea to wrap a detective story around it!

Can design and making be used in the classroom to bring science alive? Christa Flores, Stanford FabLearn Senior Fellow and author of “Making Science”, presents five benefits to incorporating design and making to empower students.

Rahul Khurana is an educator and game developer who teaches video game design courses to kids in the San Francisco Bay Area. In this Gamasutra piece, Rahul presents his favorite game design tools for kids of various ages.


Atari 2600 ETMaking ET for Atari (Web) – In this free Twine game you explore the life of Howard Scott Warshaw, game developer, as he starts a new job at Atari and grows into the developer of E.T., the classic Atari 2600 game.

Dear Angelica (Oculus) – This beautiful animated VR experience for the Oculus Rift recently debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. Its scenes were created in VR using Quill, and narration is by Geena Davis. Video.

realMyst (Android) – The real-time version of classic PC puzzle game Myst is now available for Android. What do you mean you’ve never played Myst? Give it a try! Video.


Under the BridgeUnder the Bridge: A VR Visit with Seattle Homeless – Seattle NBC affiliate KING 5 took its 360-degree camera to “The Jungle”, a large homeless encampment near downtown, to share the experience of homelessness with the viewer. Then they shared what they learned about making a VR documentary. Impressive work.

These Young Sisters Sent a Weather Balloon to Space – The Yeung sisters are at it again, building an even bigger, more powerful, and more capable balloon to send to space. Rebecca and Kimberly, 11 and 9 years old, are a real inspiration!

Preserving Native Alaskan Culture – The New Yorker looks at Never Alone, an innovative game that attempts to preserve and share the culture of the Inupiat tribe in northern Alaska.

Paper Airplane Gun in action! – One of the craziest maker builds I’ve seen for awhile. Insert sheets of A5 paper in one end, and paper airplanes fly out the other!

It’s-a Me, Mario! – Ever wonder who is behind the joyful voice of Mario? Meet the amazing Charles Martinet, voice actor for Mario, Wario, Luigi, and even Donkey Kong – since 1990!


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.
Game Developers Conference ‐ The biggest conference to attend for game developers! San Francisco, CA. February 27-March 3.
SIGCSE 2017 – The largest computing education conference worldwide, organized by ACM SIGCSE. Seattle, WA. March 8-11.


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