July 15 2016 edition

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

Games and Education

Pokemon GOPokemon GO is taking over the globe country by country, combining the sticky game mechanics of Ingress with the absolutely massive Pokemon franchise. In nearly every public place you will run into others playing the game, and the game’s play style encourages unusual phone movements and walking patterns that betray you as a member of the vast invisible community of players. How can we harness the game’s popularity for education? Greg Toppo talks with Jane McGonigal and Matthew Farber in a piece for USA Today; Lee Banville relates the game to education research and physical games. Want to get started playing the game? Check out this tutorial on TheVerge.

A randomized-control trial at West Point indicated that students who used computers in the classroom generally performed slightly worse, on average, than peers who were banned the use of devices. In this study, the computers weren’t integrated into the instruction. The authors speculate on a number of potential causes, from distraction to less effective note taking to the teachers themselves teaching differently. An interesting study worth reading.

Former Toca Boca exec Jen Peter de Pedro advocates for schools to embrace play, not to simply skew toward more instruction. Could it be that giving students more choice, and encouraging them to learn things that they are interested in, leads to stronger results? How can we create apps and games to support those learning scenarios?

A new paper from the National Parent Teacher Association (National PTA) suggests that under-represented youth and especially young girls lack exposure to STEM careers. Can we intentionally engage with families to help solve the gap in the STEM pipeline?

We frequently hear from parents who feel cautious about the amount of screen time their children are getting. Some are familiar with the benefits of active screen time over passive screen time, but most are just frustrated about how to navigate the new world of tech for their children. How can we help these parents find a balance for their kids? NPR talks with Sonia Livingstone of the London School of Economics and Political Science about a middle way between fear and hype.

Coding and Making

Maker Ed LogoStephanie Chang of Maker Ed partners with Chad Ratliff of Albemarle to address the elephant in the room: how does one align and assess maker education? This Edutopia piece discusses some current research and a few great ways educators are assessing their students’ abilities.

Last week we heard some wonderful funding announcements! Codecademy raised a $30 million Series C to accelerate expansion. Facebook pledged $15 million to Code.org to encourage diversity in K12 computer science education. And Motorola Solutions Foundation is providing nearly $3 million to 83 organizations promoting STEM education. Congratulations to the recipients and thank you to the donors!

The White House has published the reflections of its Champions of Change for Making, and posted video of their speeches and panels to YouTube. Check them out and be inspired!

The United States Congress is launching its second annual Congressional App Challenge this week! The competition is coordinated by the Internet Education Foundation and open to all high school students. Last year nearly 500 apps were submitted! Check out the contest page to learn more.

A new European study looks at teachers’ attitudes and perceptions of using robots in the classroom. Although the number of educators in the study is small, the feedback is interesting, noting enthusiasm about the concept but some difficulties with curriculum integration. Also some teachers expressed a fear that lack of computer science skills could make the robots difficult for them to use effectively. (Unfortunately the paper seems to be behind a pay wall. Read the EdWeek summary!)

How can you incorporate making into your school if you don’t have a budget for a fancy 3D printer? Through upcycling! Using scrap materials can actually encourage even more creative thinking. Stanford FabLearn Fellow Mark Schreiber shares some suggestions for getting started.

A new book on Women in Game Development addresses the unique challenges women have in the industry, which is estimated at nearly 80% male. The book includes essays from women in a number of different industry roles, sharing their experiences and advice.

I love this IndieGogo campaign for hands-on coding blocks — physical blocks that look like the programming blocks from Scratch. Younger children seem to respond much more favorably to physical toys, so this is an intriguing concept. As a much older kid, I have to say, these also seem like they could be great refrigerator magnets for us coding geeks!


Kerbal Space ProgramKerbal Space Program (PS4, Xbox One) – The Kerbals have come to the console! Your favorite rocket science education game is now more beautiful than ever, and available on your big-screen television. Video.

StudyPOP! (iOS) – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s interactive study game is made for pairs of students to study together. Take turns to win points and compete for the high score.


Games for Change Student Challenge2016 G4C Student Challenge – The Games for Change Student Challenge engaged students throughout NYC in building games that address societal challenges. Winners were announced June 11, check them out!

The Next Generation Science Standards – PBS News Hour covered the gradual growth in popularity of the Next Generation Science Standards, highlighting their focus on DOING science as opposed to memorizing science facts.

GRIDI tutorial – GRIDI is a large museum-scale music sequencer, built to demonstrate the world of modern music composition.

The Floppotron – Check out the Imperial March as played by an orchestra of cast-off computer parts. The technology that went into building this is impressive!


Casual Connect USA – Exploring investment, innovation, and creativity in casual games. San Francisco, CA. July 18-20.
Serious Play Conference – Leadership conference for people who create serious game programs. Chapel Hill, NC. July 26-28.
EduGaming 2016 – Helping educators learn to use game-based learning in the classroom. Schnecksville, PA. August 1-2.
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.
RESPECT 2016 – Second meeting of IEEE community on equity and broadening participation in computing. Atlanta, GA. August 11-13.
GameSoundCon – The leading conference on the art, technology, and business of game audio. Los Angeles, CA. September 27-28.


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