March 24 2017 edition

In this week’s newsletter: Meet Sesame Street’s first autistic Muppet, hold a Scratch Day event for Scratch’s 10th Anniversary, visit the International Space Station in VR, and follow Adam Savage as he checks out the Makeshop at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh!

Thanks to Catherine Jhee, My Nguyen, Russ Shilling, and Peg Steffen 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

Sesame Street JuliaSesame Workshop is debuting its first autistic Muppet on Sesame Street this April in a special “Meet Julia” episode. Julia’s broadcast introduction will be accompanied by YouTube shorts, eBooks, and a special app on the Amazon App Store. Way to go, Sesame Street!

Virtual reality can give you the experience of being in a place you’ve never been, with people you’ve never met. But can 360-degree VR film “teach” empathy? The Hechinger Report explored the idea recently, linking to a number of interesting videos and research studies along the way.

Matt Farber explored how to use digital games to teach his students about immigrants and refugees, in an insightful piece for Edutopia. He interviews Marc Ruppel, senior program officer at the National Endowment of the Humanities, and links to a number of interesting games and interactives such as Papers Please and Parable of the Polygons.

Students at Creekside Middle School in Patterson, California watched their teachers receive professional development and wondered, why can’t we get that PD too? This led to the formation of Tech Boost, a biannual conference where student experts teach other students how to code, create videos, and design web pages. It’s a clever way to encourage students to learn more deeply and to take charge of their own technology education.

Esteban Sosnik is a partner at Reach Capital, an early stage venture fund for K-12 edtech startups, and formerly executive director of educational games accelerator co.lab. He shares his thoughts on the pros and cons of various business models for edtech products… and he’s seen a lot of them!

Coding and Making

Scratch DayThis May is the 10th anniversary of MIT’s Scratch – wow! In honor of the anniversary, why not organize your very own Scratch Day event to introduce Scratch to people in your community? Check out this great interview with Heloisa Zalcberg, a Scratch Day host from Sao Paulo, to get some ideas on how you can organize an event.

Google is partnering with Howard University to open a new campus on-site at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. The new “Howard West” will be a centerpiece of Google’s efforts to recruit more software engineers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Jan Cuny is Program Director for the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering, working to expand K-12 computer science education at NSF since 2004. There has been a huge groundswell of support for K-12 computer science education in recent years, and Jan Cuny has been squarely at the center of it. Read her thoughts on the work that has been done, and the work left to do, in this excellent blog post for Infosys Foundation.

St. Mary’s Academy is an all-girls high school in Portland, Oregon that is committed to blended, student-centered learning. Alyssa Tormala, Information Science Department Chair, discusses the value of blended learning and 1:1 computing in their push to get more female students excited about STEM.

Is there a place for cybersecurity education in K-12 schools? Discussion about cybersecurity usually centers around either national security or workforce development. What would it mean to bring cybersecurity education into the K-12 classroom? EdWeek explores the landscape in this detailed article.

The technology Q&A website Stack Overflow has surveyed its developer community each year since 2011, and the results give fascinating insight into popular technologies and tech industry demographics. This year, over 64,000 developers responded, and for the fifth year in a row, JavaScript was the most commonly used programming language. Have you learned JavaScript yet?


Mission:ISS VRNASA Mission:ISS VR (Rift) – Experience life on board the International Space Station in this fun virtual world that simulates living and working in zero gravity. Video.

Georgia: Race Through Time (Web) – Help Savannah and Peaches find historical artifacts hidden in towns throughout Georgia, learning the history of the region while solving puzzles! This story adventure game is aligned to Georgia Standards of Excellence for 8th grade social studies.

Pink Trombone (Web) – This strange and fascinating interactive website simulates the sound of your vocal tract. See if you can make the same sounds in real life!

GeoGebra (Web) – An interactive online graphing calculator for functions, geometry, 3D math, etc. Honestly, it’s just fun to play with! Video.


Adam Savage MakeshopAdam Savage visits Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh – Adam Savage has been conducting a “Maker Tour”, visiting maker labs and museums across the country. Recently, he checked out the impressive Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. After watching this, you’ll want to clone their Makeshop for your local museum!

Mixed Reality – Classroom of the Future – Seventh graders at Assiden elementary school in Norway learn about the solar system by interacting with it through the Microsoft HoloLens.

How Mario’s Inventor Designs a Game – Vox sat down with Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario, Donkey Kong, and Zelda, to learn about the famous game designer’s design process.

NASA Earthrise: The 45th Anniversary – Using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and telemetry from the Apollo 8 capsule, NASA recreated the famous 1968 picture of the Earth coming up over the horizon of the Moon. Impressive work!


NSTA National Conference – Annual conference for the National Science Teachers Association. Los Angeles, CA. March 30-April 2.
Arctic Climate Game Jam! – Multi-site game jam using scientific data to create games about climate change in the Arctic. April 21-30.
Scratch Day – A month of global events celebrating the 10th anniversary of Scratch! Worldwide. May.
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.
E3 Expo – Game industry’s largest U.S. event, showcasing upcoming games and technology. Los Angeles, CA. June 13-15.


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