July 1 2016 edition

Welcome back to the Level Up Report! We’ve returned from six weeks of traveling: having some vacation, visiting a few conferences, taking deep breaths, and dreaming with friends about the future of coding, making, and games for learning. We’re feeling excited about the amazing things you all are doing! We’re going to start fiddling with the format and content of Level Up, but not this week. There’s just too much to catch up on. So let’s get started!

Thanks to Russ Shilling for sending contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

Games for ChangeThe annual Games for Change festival took place in New York City, with a number of inspiring talks and of course the G4C Awards. We’ll share the presentations and panels with you as they are posted. At the event, Sid Meier announced the creation of CivilizationEDU with GlassLab, which will ship in fall 2017. Playmatics announced a partnership with Scripps Research to create Science Game Lab, an online portal for citizen science games. The G4C Climate Challenge culminated at the show, with Strange Loop Games’ impressive game Eco taking away the prize. Want to try out some of the G4C Award winners? Hit the award nominees page for links.

Speaking of climate challenges, check out Matthew Farber’s piece for Edutopia about creating climate change games and using game jams to learn about complex systems. He cites a number of excellent resources and games in his article (such as the Climate Game Jam).

Yale School of Medicine published an article on the launch of the Center for Health & Learning Games. The site will house Lynn Fiellin’s play2PREVENT lab, which focuses on building games that foster learning and behavioral change, and of course conducting research to show that they work. The lab is known for games such as PlayForward: Elm City Stories.

There was a kerfuffle about whether Apple would list the game “Liyla and the Shadows of War” in the App Store as a game, with the company originally asserting that the game should be in the News or Reference sections given its content. The decision was eventually reversed, and the game listed, which is good news for games for change in general. Now go try it!

Virtual reality is increasingly being used for training, and the NFL has started testing out the technology to help improve situational awareness for football quarterbacks on the field. VentureBeat covered the new tech and linked to a 60 Minutes Sports video showing the STRIVR system being developed at Stanford.

We still hear concerns from parents that playing a large amount of games like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft might have a detrimental effect on their children. Malina Uncapher discusses the benefits of action video gameplay and touches on the issue of violence in games. The latest issue of Scientific American also carries a substantial article by Daphne Bavelier and Shawn Green on using action games to improve mental function. The SciAm article is behind a paywall, so try to track it down at the store, or go watch Daphne Bavelier’s TED talk from 2012 to get started!

Coding and Making

National Week of MakingThere was SO MUCH Maker news during the United States’ National Week of Making. Start with this piece on the White House blog summarizing all the activities, and be sure to look at the official White House Fact Sheet for the impressive number of commitments from corporations, non-profits, and government agencies. US Secretary of Education John King wrote a piece for US News on the actions Congress could take to support educating a Nation of Makers. EducationDIVE and EdScoop both carried articles worth your time about the growing movement to incorporate Making and makerspaces into schools. Learn more about Digital Promise and Maker Ed’s “Maker Promise”, a commitment 1400 school leaders (so far) have made to support Making in their schools. Why not sign up yourself?

There has been some great movement on state and regional computer science education the past few weeks. British Columbia announced a new coding curriculum and $6 million in government support. Massachusetts approved new digital literacy and computer science standards. EdWeek covered Arkansas’ impressive CS education efforts and its focus on professional development. California is considering adding basic computer science into its implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. The University of Washington announced that computer science is now the most popular major for all incoming freshmen. Wow! Looking for more information on state and regional computer science education efforts? Check out the recently released 2015 Taulbee Survey on college enrollment, or the new policy report on state CS standards from the National Association of State Boards of Education.

The massive ISTE education technology conference took place in Denver, and served as the launchpad for the new ISTE 2016 Standards for Students (now including computational thinking!) At the show, Google announced the broader release of Google Expeditions, a virtual reality app for teachers and students, and Project Bloks, a physical coding education platform that looks pretty exciting. Code.org announced that it is teaming up with Disney and Lucasfilm to incorporate Frozen and Star Wars themes into its CS Fundamentals (K-5) curriculum. Tynker announced the launch of 16 new CS courses in its app, including three focused on JavaScript development.

Before ISTE, Apple announced that it will be launching Swift Playgrounds this fall, a free iPad app that teaches coding fundamentals using the Swift programming language. It looks gorgeous! Apple also expanded its lineup of Apple Camp sessions this summer to include coding courses for 8 to 12 year olds. Here in Seattle the coding courses booked up fast, be sure to check with your local stores!

Mattel released “Game Developer Barbie”, and seems to have done a fantastic job, which solicited a strong positive reaction from the game developer community given previous efforts. It looks like Barbie is using Alice on her tablet. Nice!

US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton launched a draft of her technology and innovation policy, and we’re pleased to see it includes investments in computer science and STEM education to continue and accelerate the Obama Administration’s Computer Science for All initiative, including a strong focus on training computer science teachers.

Did you miss the big Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area this year? Yeah me too! Get inspired by flipping through some of the photos in this Ars Technica gallery. Or read this great article on creating the Raspberry Pi Infinity+, a 10x-size working Raspberry Pi. Woah! Now, go Make something!

Playables

ChortopiaChortopia (iOS) – Turn chores into adventures (Advenchores?) in this app that combines stories, games, and collecting to encourage kids to do their chores. Video.

Stockfighter (Web) – This free and innovative Capture the Flag programming game encourages you to hack a wireless financial device in order to assess your skills as a programmer. Sorry, no video, but it’s free so you should try it. Warning, it’s pretty tough!

Happy Atoms (Indiegogo) – Schell Games wants to help you learn chemistry by utilizing physical models and your iPad! This innovative educational app is now looking for funding via Indiegogo. Connect atoms into molecules and scan them in on your tablet to learn more about chemistry. Video.

The Sandbox Evolution (iOS, Android) – The sequel to the popular 2D pixel-art world building game The Sandbox is now available, with 10x larger worlds, advanced physics, and fully controllable heroes. Video.

Videos

Joseph SouthTurn the Screen Around – Joseph South, Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the US Department of Education, talks about the great importance of bridging the digital use divide in this heartfelt TEDx talk.

Adam Savage Celebrates the National Week of Making! – The Mythbusters Maker talks about his love for making things and shows off photos of amazing Maker workspaces from around the world.

Taking Minecraft to School: Re-Engineering the Game for Learning – Microsoft’s Michelle Dauphiny Becker discusses the challenge of updating the popular game to suit school environments in her presentation at GDC 2016.

The Secret Prototypes of Valve’s VR Lab – Curious how Valve developed the HTC Vive virtual reality kit? Check out this excellent long video from Make on the company’s series of experiments and prototypes.

MIT Explains: How To Make a Video Game – Carmelo, a grad student at the MIT Media Lab, shows you how to create a video game, using Scratch to illustrate his examples. Bonus points if you watch it in Italian!

Events

Computer Science Teachers Association conference – CSTA’s annual conference for teachers. San Diego, CA. July 10-12.
Serious Play Conference – Leadership conference for people who create serious game programs. Chapel Hill, NC. July 26-28.
DiGRA / Foundations of Digital Games – Research conference for game academics and educators. Dundee, Scotland. August 1-6.
Scratch@MIT 2016 – Celebrating the Scratch community through hands-on workshops and collaboration. Cambridge, MA. August 4-6.

Resources

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