July 29 2016 edition

Thanks to Ed Metz and 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

Education PolicyIn the US these past two weeks, the Republicans and Democrats have both held conventions to nominate their candidates for president and vice president. I was hoping to cover some of the education policy proposals here, but discussion of education at these events was slight. Donald Trump’s campaign has shared just a small amount of their plans, mostly in this video. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has published their K-12 education policy on their website. The Republican Party Platform includes information on their education proposals here, on pages 33-36. The Democratic Party Platform includes information on their proposals here, on pages 30-34.

Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire have announced that they’re leaving UW Madison, where they direct the Games+Learning+Society Center and run the annual GLS conference, citing a hostile political climate in Wisconsin as a contributing factor. You may recall that Steinkuehler worked as a Senior Policy Analyst at the White House in 2011 and 2012, focused on leveraging games for national priority areas. The pair have accepted new roles at UC Irvine.

Inspired by the popularity of Pokemon Go, Ed Metz and Russ Shilling from the US Department of Education consider the future of augmented reality tech for education, in this piece on the 1776 blog.

Ralphie Koppelman is a 6-year-old boy who was diagnosed with autism and finds socializing to be uncomfortable. But the day he started playing Pokemon Go, he began opening up to other kids and making new connections. Some parents of children with autism and experts say that the real-time experiential aspect of the game can help autistic children to go out, explore, and make friends.

Did you play The Oregon Trail at school as a kid? The Smithsonian magazine published a great piece about Minnesota Education Computing Consortium (MECC), publisher of The Oregon Trail, who dominated the edutainment market from the 1970s to 1990s.

Congratulations to the winners of the Jennifer Ann’s Group “Gaming Against Violence” competition. The annual competition highlights online games designed to prevent teen dating violence. Find links to this year’s winners here!

BreakAway Games is winner of the 2016 Best of Show Award from the Serious Play Conference! In their game Vital Signs ED, players take on the role of a doctor working in a busy emergency department, taking care of patients while ignoring distractions as best as possible.

Coding and Making

CS PrinciplesA new AP Computer Science course has been in the works the past few years, designed to meet students where they are. The new course, CS Principles, is more conceptual and project-based than the current AP Computer Science A, which focuses on Java programming. Learn more in this EdSurge piece, or dive in and take this EdX course on “The Beauty and Joy of Computing”, a CS Principles course that uses a block-based language similar to Scratch. You can find a list of available CS Principles courses here to learn more.

Google is working on Project Bloks, an effort to help kids understand coding through collaborative play. The Bloks consist of a Brain Board for power and connectivity, Base Boards with sensors, and Pucks that can receive instructions. A very interesting research project! Video.

The government of Senegal is hoping to stoke the technology sector in the country, working with code clubs, setting up new universities, running technology competitions, and launching a new 26-hectare digital park for tech companies. The country’s ministry of post and telecommunications is placing special emphasis on gender diversity, encouraging young girls and women to be entrepreneurs, and funding the winners of an annual startup weekend for girls.

Code Mobile is an educational computer lab in a van, traveling around Canada. The vehicle is an initiative of Ladies Learning Code, a non-profit based in Toronto focused on improving tech diversity. Teachers with the van lead programming workshops using Scratch and reach out to locations around Canada that don’t have local tech education resources. What a great initiative!

Can you use robots to teach English? Learn about one English teacher’s experiments using Sphero in her high school American literature class, in this KQED MindShift piece.

Looking for some resources to help you incorporate coding into your class, but you’re not a computer science teacher? Never fear! Here’s a great top ten list of tools from K O’Shaughnessey, high school math teacher.

Congratulations to Wonder Workshop, creators of the Dash and Dot coding robots, for raising a $20 million Series B investment round!


Words With Friends EDUWords With Friends EDU (iOS, Android, Web) – Zynga has launched an educational version of the popular Words With Friends! Designed for 4th to 8th graders, the new version includes Power Words, Definition Hints, and an interactive dashboard where teachers and parents can track students’ gameplay. Video.

Prisma (iOS, Android) – This curious app utilizes a combination of neural networks and artificial intelligence to apply complex painterly art filters to photos from your smartphone. Give it a try! Video.


Adam Savage #WhyIMake#WhyIMake – Adam Savage – MythBusters’ Adam Savage, Maker Extraordinaire, talks about what Making means to him and what inspires him to Make.

The White House Call: Games for Grand Challenges – Erik Martin of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy spoke recently at Games for Change. Learn about what the US Government is doing with games and how you can get involved!

Elizabeth Forward – Maker District – This impressive school district is part of the Remake Learning Network in Pennsylvania and has Making incorporated into each grade!

Qixels3D 3D Maker from Moose Toys – Use this inexpensive toy to build items layer by layer from small cubes, using just water to hold them together.

VertiGo – A Wall-Climbing Robot – Disney Research Zurich and ETH are working together to build wheeled robots that can roll on either the ground – or a wall! The robots utilize propellers to direct force that enables them to transition from ground to wall and then remain pressed against the wall. Impressive tech.


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.
GLS 12 – The annual Games+Learning+Society conference brings together game developers, researchers, and educators! Madison, WI. August 17-19.
GameSoundCon – The leading conference on the art, technology, and business of game audio. Los Angeles, CA. September 27-28.
Digital Media and Learning – Linking scholars and practitioners together for a discussion of theory, study, policy, and practice. Irvine, CA. October 5-7.


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