March 10 2017 edition

In this week’s newsletter: Game Developers Conference 2017 takes over our life, a massive and wonderful event as always; Ubisoft applies for FDA approval for two of its games; Paul Allen makes a massive investment in University of Washington computer science; Computing Research Association analyzes the surge in undergraduate computer science enrollment; Tracy Fullerton’s Walden game launches an alpha; and Sid Meier speaks out on the use of Civilization for education. It’s a big Level Up… let’s get started!

Thanks to Sara Cornish, David Miller, and Russ Shilling for contributing to the Level Up Report! Send us your news and favorites by replying back to this newsletter or using the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

Game Developers Conference 2017The annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) took place several weeks ago in San Francisco, and I’m still recovering from my traditional conference cold! There was a ton of great VR content, including news of an Oculus Rift price drop, future inclusion of a controller with the new Gear VR, and the announcement that 10 million Google Cardboard VR devices have shipped since launch. Wow. Carla Fisher’s “Games for Kids” roundtables were as amazing as always, and the #1ReasonToBe panel was a powerful don’t-miss session… that of course, I missed. Ugh! But when the videos are posted I will share them with you! I was very honored to receive an award for my White House and technology education work, you can catch that video here. The end of the conference saw the kickoff of the #ResistJam, an online week-long game jam against authoritarianism: 139 games submitted so far! Whew. Now pardon me: I’m heading back to bed. …oh wait, there’s more great news to report on!

The latest FutureSource Consulting report shows that 58% of 2016 hardware purchases for classrooms were Chromebooks. That’s up from 50% in 2015! I purchased one for use at GDC, and really enjoyed using it. New devices can also install the Google Play store for Android apps, which opens up a whole new world of apps and makes local drive access simpler. Seemingly in response, the JAMF Software Trends Survey came out, reporting on the high use of Apple products in classrooms in general.

New York’s The Strong Museum announced the launch of its Women in Games Initiative, which will highlight the important contribution of women to the history of the video game industry! The museum will launch a new exhibit September 2018 as well as a companion online exhibit.

Asi Burak explored the idea of President Trump as a Gamer in Chief in a thoughtful piece for Polygon. Please let us know if someone catches POTUS playing Candy Crush on his Android phone… or maybe, playing Just Dance? We’re hoping!

AmblyotechUbisoft and Amblyotech have filed documentation with the US Food and Drug Administration for approval of a device that treats amblyopia (sometimes called “lazy eye”). The Amblyopad includes Ubisoft’s games Dig Rush and Monster Burner, and in clinical tests has proven to help improve visual acuity for those with amblyopia.

The Council for Economic Education has released two Minecraft lesson plans for teaching economics to students in grades 3 to 5. The plans are designed to explore how to make smart economic choices in a team setting.

A new study published in the Journal of Educational Technology & Society shows that augmented reality can improve student understanding of complicated science concepts. Students in the study experimented with a simulation of the Bernoulli principle in a museum environment. Click through for the report!

Let’s end this section on a high note. The Atlantic talks about how Sesame Street’s Grover became Super Grover 2.0, STEM-loving superhero! You’ll need to watch this video to learn more – ur, I mean, for fun. Because… Grover!

Coding and Making

Allen School of Computer Science & EngineeringAs part of the 50th anniversary year of the University of Washington’s Computer Science & Engineering department, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has established a new $50 million endowment supporting the department and construction of its second building. The department will be elevated to the status of a school and renamed the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. #ThanksPaul! (I did my undergrad in CS in this department… so I’m a little partial.)

It still seems challenging to order the Raspberry Pi Zero, an amazing $5 gumstick-sized 1GHz microcomputer for DIY projects. The Raspberry Pi Foundation just recently announced the Pi Zero W, a $10 version that also includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Wow!

littleBits has announced the Code Kit, a new electronics kit designed to help teach students in grades 3 to 8 the foundations of coding. The kit includes a new codeBit and an LED Matrix. Sounds like the potential for a lot of fun! Ships in June.

YoYo Games has officially launched GameMaker Studio 2, the latest incarnation of its accessible 2D game development tool. It can target PC, Mac, Android, PS4, and Xbox One!

Generation CSThe Computing Research Association has released the results of a substantial enrollment survey showcasing the surge in undergraduate computer science enrollment since 2006. Very interesting information, highlighting bottlenecks and challenges.

What unique challenges are there to teaching a Maker mindset in rural schools? KQED MindShift dives in, pointing out that 4-H and Future Farmers of America have been teaching Maker skills for years. EdSurge goes the opposite direction, exploring what computer science education implementation looks like in the United States’ largest school district, New York City.

Linda Liukas is a Finnish programmer and author of the “Hello Ruby” books. She recently spoke at the Finnish Embassy in Washington DC, emphasizing that you don’t necessarily need a computer in order to teach computational thinking skills!

Google published a two-pager for Black History Month last month highlighting the gap in exposure to CS and technology for Black students in 7th to 12th grade. This is part of Google’s impressive ongoing CS Education Research. You should dive in if you’re not already familiar with it!


Walden, a GameWalden, a game (PC, Mac) – Play as Henry David Thoreau in his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond, in this six-hour open world experience. Received funding from NEA and NEH! Video.

Hidden Folks (PC, Mac, iOS) – Search for hidden folks in hand-drawn, interactive, miniature landscapes. While you’re at it, poke things randomly to make funny sounds! Video.

Massive Match (Web) – It might be the world’s largest match-three game. Play with zillions of others around the Internet to rapidly complete puzzle tasks. Click quickly! Video.

Mission:ISS (Rift) – Experience life on board the International Space Station in this free immersive simulation from Oculus. Learn how to move and work in zero-gravity using the Touch controllers! Video.

Facebook 360 (GearVR) – Enjoy 360-degree photos and videos as they should be experienced, in this new app from Facebook for GearVR!


Civilization VISid Meier on Civilization VI, Games & Education – The creator of the blockbuster PC game Civilization talks about his vision for how the game can be used for education.

What is Formative Assessment? – Education Week talks with Meghan Pazmino, a math coach at Ross Elementary School in Washington DC, to shed light onto the differences between interim, formative, and summative assessments.

The HullPixelBot – Want to build an inexpensive robot you can use in the classroom? For about $12.50 and some 3D printing, you can create this Arduino-driven mini-bot! More details here.

Mailbox Alarm, Toy Hackers How-to-Build – GoldieBlox teamed with Simone Giertz, queen of “terrible” robots, to teach kids how to hack together cool toys. Check out this an example, a mailbox alarm you can build yourself!

Teachers lead the way hacking STEM – Microsoft has teamed up with teachers to create a Hacking STEM curriculum, teaching kids to use everyday materials and real-time data tracking to learn about the world.


XTech 2017 – The Experiential Technology & NeuroGaming Conference and Expo. San Francisco, CA. March 14-15.
NSTA National Conference – Annual conference for the National Science Teachers Association. Los Angeles, CA. March 30-April 2.
GamesBeat Summit – Game industry execs discuss the latest trends and opportunities. Berkeley, CA. May 1-2.
Construct3D – National conference on 3D printing in education. Durham, NC. May 5-7.
Scratch Day – Global network of events celebrating the Scratch programming environment! Worldwide. May 13-14.


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