November 18 2016 edition

In this week’s newsletter: The EdSim Challenge, launch of the Nation of Makers, Microsoft’s new Minecraft Hour of Code, and a tour of Living Computers: Museum + Labs in Seattle!

Thanks to Simon Carless, Andrew Coy, Erik Martin, Ed Metz, and Russ Shilling for contributions to this issue! You can send us your news and favorites by replying back to this newsletter or using the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

edsim-challengeMore great coverage of the US Department of Education’s EdSim Challenge this week. The challenge calls for immersive educational experiences that utilize VR or AR. Finalists will be awarded $50,000, with the grand prize winner receiving $430,000! Check out the White House blog post or this article on FedScoop for more info.

Google announced that it will be bringing VR to one million students in the UK through the use of Google Cardboards and the Expeditions program. Expeditions enables teachers to send synchronized panoramas to each student’s Cardboard and point out areas of interest in real time.

EdSurge tackles the high cost of developing educational videogames, positing that textbook publishers may be the next funders. They chat with developers such as Kurt Squire and Jesse Schell, and highlight At Play in the Cosmos, an astronomy game in development for W.W. Norton & Company.

Matthew Farber wrote a piece for Edutopia highlighting five great games to use for English Language Arts classrooms at high school. The games all include strong narratives on serious topics that will encourage class discussion and deeper learning.

A new Teacher & Principal School Report from Scholastic reveals equity challenges in education. The survey of over 4700 public school teachers and principals shows teachers and principals in high-poverty schools spending more of their own money to help meet students’ needs than those in low-poverty schools. Access to the Internet is also a challenge, with 65% of teachers and principles in high-poverty schools citing inadequate Internet access outside of school for their students. Worthwhile reading.

Coding and Making

nation-of-makersMore than 300 organizations have come together to form Nation of Makers, a new non-profit representing makers and maker institutions. Learn more about the organization and its founding members at the new website. Or check out this intro video from Adam Savage.

President Obama announced 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to be presented at the White House on November 22nd. Recipients include Bill and Melinda Gates (Microsoft, Gates Foundation), Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (an early computing pioneer), and Margaret H. Hamilton (Apollo flight software programmer)!

Computer Science Education Week is coming! Microsoft and teamed up on a great new Minecraft Hour of Code (see Playables section), and Apple will host Hour of Code workshops each day in all of its Apple retail stores. Want to run your own Hour of Code? Edutopia has some tips. Do you live in Washington State? Level Up Report is organizing educator/engineer collaborations to bring the Hour of Code to students throughout the state. Check out Level Up Network for more information!

Microsoft published its latest diversity statistics, noting a 1% decline overall in the number of women in the company due to cutting back its phone business. Independent of these cutbacks, the percentage of women in technical roles increased 0.6 points. Read more on their blog.

The latest issue of Make magazine has an incredible 3D printer buyer’s guide, comparing and contrasting 38 devices! Wow! Check out the online version here. If you are looking for an inexpensive starter printer to play with and learn from, and don’t mind going a little DIY, I can recommend the Monoprice Select Mini!


minecraft-designerMinecraft Hour of Code Designer (Web) – This new Minecraft Hour of Code from Microsoft and asks you to write the code that makes the Minecraft world work! Video.

Executive Command (Web) – iCivics’ classic President-for-a-day game has been updated with new features and functionality. The game is designed to teach students from grades 4 to 12 about the realities of decision making in the presidency. Video.


Living Computers' BaxterTour of the Living Computers Museum + Labs – Paul Allen’s Seattle museum celebrating historic computers has opened a new floor of interactive learning exhibits that include a 3D printed car, plenty of robots, and years and years of virtual reality headsets. Article.

Justice Sotomayor Talks iCivics – iCivics board member Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently sat down to talk about her commitment to civic education and iCivics’ mission.

Rec2Tech Pittsburgh Featurette – In September, Pittsburgh transformed five city-owned recreation centers into technology learning centers for kids!

Conan Visits YouTube’s VR Lab – Conan O’Brien visits the New York City YouTube Space to check out virtual reality. Comedy ensues!

Where the Heck is Matt? – Matt Harding is back, dancing around the globe!


Serious Games Showcase & Challenge – The big serious games competition at I/ITSEC. Orlando, FL. November 28 – December 1.
Computer Science Education Week – The annual week-long celebration of computer science education! Everywhere. December 5-11.
VRX 2016 – A VR technology conference and expo for senior leaders. San Francisco, CA. December 7-8.
ATD LearnNow – The Association for Talent Development is holding this design workshop on creating learning game prototypes. San Francisco, CA. December 8-9.
NY EdTech Week – Education innovation festival focused on using edtech to drive learning advancements. New York, NY. December 19-21.
Global Game Jam – The world’s largest weekend game jam, at hundreds of sites around the world! January 20-22.
Bett – Massive annual trade show showcasing the use of technology in education. London, UK. January 25-28.
Kidscreen Summit – Exploring new horizons in kids entertainment. Miami, FL. February 13-16.
DICE Summit – The game industry’s annual executive leadership summit. Las Vegas, NV. February 21-23.


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