July 8 2016 edition

Thanks to Adrienne Decker, Ed Metz, Brian Schmidt, 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

Speak Up 2015Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up research report is out, and this year’s report shows an uptick in educators using games in the classroom. 65% of K-2 teachers and 59% of grade 3-5 teachers assert that they routinely use games.

A research report analyzing the long-term behavioral effects of video games on children did not find strong evidence to support the hypothesis that playing violent video games is an indicator of risk for later aggressive behavior. The full report is worth a read. Researchers noted that players of violent shooters did not differ significantly in risk from those who played simple competitive games.

Microsoft announced that it will be shutting down Xbox Fitness. The ambitious health service that utilized the second-generation Kinect to track heart rate and calories burned launched with the Xbox One in 2013, but it and all its associated content will be removed July 2017.

Cornell researchers utilizing a language-learning game have found that players who are required to work with others learn more and enjoy the game more.

Brent Bushnell’s Steam Carnival is coming to Dallas next year! Brent spoke at Gamelab in Barcelona. His company Two Bit Circus launched Steam Carnivals last year in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The interactive events are filled with larger-than-life games that encourage you to learn, have fun, and play with others. Video.

Can games help students conquer complex science content? In a session at ISTE last week, Ralph Bouquet, education and outreach manager for the TV series NOVA, introduced attendees to NOVA’s science-oriented online resources and games. Apparently there were over 40 game-related sessions at ISTE!

Ian Livingstone, founder of Eidos and originator of the modern UK computer science education movement, spoke at Gamelab last week about his move toward education, and working to get computer science education and game-based learning incorporated into a more authentic, hands-on education curriculum. Go Ian go!

Bookseller Barnes and Noble has been getting increasingly involved in Maker and computer science education. Check out this interesting B&N blog post on using Minecraft for education, featuring quotes from Level Up friends Deirdre Quarnstrom and Steve Isaacs.

Educator Julie Willcott talks about the unique value of using iPads in the classroom (as opposed to laptops), and her experience with the devices as part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative.

Coding and Making

CubettoA couple great articles on Pre-K coding and making to kick off this section! In the first piece, Filippo Yacob, CEO of Primo Toys (Cubetto), suggests that we teach Pre-K children computational thinking using physical toys, citing the benefits of hands-on play. For our second piece, learn about the Bay Area Discovery Museum near San Francisco, and its use of makerspace staples like 3D printers and laser cutters to teach Pre-K kids about the engineering cycle of design, prototype, test, and redesign!

How can we encourage STEAM Maker networks to grow? Jacie Maslyk, a Pennsylvania educator, suggests finding your unsung heroes, reaching out to close connections to build bridges, and thinking globally.

We know of Pittsburgh as a city where amazing things are happening with innovative learning. What can we learn from Pittsburgh schools to help us kickstart our own school makerspaces? Susie Boss gives us three great strategies to borrow.

We’ve been following educator Kevin Jarrett’s adventure starting a new school makerspace this past year through a series of blog posts on Edutopia. Check out his post summarizing the final capstone projects, the problems they had along the way, and the lessons they learned!

David Braben is one of the founders of the Raspberry Pi, and also has had a long and storied history in game development! In this VentureBeat interview he talks about his involvement with the Pi, his thoughts on its popularity, and the sequel to a little game called Elite.

While we’re talking about inexpensive computing platforms like the Raspberry Pi, have you seen the $9 CHIP? The PocketCHIP is a case for the CHIP with a 480×272 touchscreen, keyboard, and battery. You can even write your own games for it!

Want to try something even less expensive? Check out this idea for the “One Dollar Board”, an educational electronics board you can use to learn about the Internet of Things, and robotics!

There is a vast tech gender disparity in the United States, with just 27% of all computer science jobs held by women. How can we improve the gender balance? This Fortune article advocates that dads should get involved, and highlights six ways fathers can inspire their daughters in tech.

Curious what to do with that old Game Boy? Get some inspiration from this great Maker project that updates the old classic with a color screen, extra buttons, and a whole lot more games!


Pokemon GOPokemon GO (iOS, Android) – Your favorite Pokemon are hiding nearby, use your smartphone to find them! This eagerly-awaited title is reminiscent of Google Ingress, and you may find yourself walking all over your neighborhood to “catch ’em all!” Video.

PBS KIDS Measure Up! (iOS, Android) – Join your favorite PBS KIDS characters on an adventure to practice early math concepts focused on length, width, capacity, and weight. For children ages 3 to 5. Video.

Mystery Math Museum (iOS) – Help a friendly ghost rescue dragonflies in the museum by solving simple math problems! Okay, that seems a bit contrived, but the math puzzles and beautiful images will keep you engaged. Video.

Tap My Katamari (iOS, Android) – I didn’t want to like this game as much as I do! It’s an idle clicker, which means you’ll be tapping the screen a lot, but the happy Katamari songs and imagery will hook you. Video.

Viridi (PC, Mac, iOS, Android) – Nurture a small pot of succulents that grows in real time. This peaceful, quiet game may be the perfect antidote for a busy life. Video.


MegaprocessorThe Megaprocessor Tour 1 – James Newman has completed his 10-year project to create a microprocessor in mega form, exposing all its inner workings through blinking LEDs. What an impressive project! Learn more on Hackaday.

From Maker to Market 01 – Concept – Adafruit has partnered with Digi-Key to create a series of fantastic videos discussing the development of the Circuit Playground board, from Concept to Completion. This Arduino-based board will be used by Code.org for its CS Discoveries course. New videos are posted each Saturday. Learn more at Maker.io!

Engaging All Students in Meaningful Engineering Instruction – The Research + Practice Collaboratory is an NSF-funded project to bring educators and researchers together to develop equitable innovations for STEM learning.

Block by Block – An excellent initiative by Mojang and UN-HABITAT to engage low-income communities in redesigning their public spaces through collaboration using Minecraft.

Simon’s Cat and Elmo take a Nap! – Sesame Workshop has teamed up with Simon’s Cat to help kids understand how cats act, as part of Sesame’s Love to Learn campaign.


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.
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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