November 20 2015 edition

Thanks to Grant Hosford and Russell Shilling for contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.


Games for ChangeCongratulations to Susanna Pollack, new president of Games for Change! Susanna has been working as VP Partnerships with Asi Burak for several years and we’re excited to hear about her move to this new role. Thank you Asi for all the great work you’ve done at Games for Change!

Two new and interesting pieces of hardware that we heard about this past week: Google and Asus teamed up to launch the Chromebit, a mini ChromeOS device that plugs into your television; and Samsung worked with Oculus to ship the Samsung Gear VR, a mobile VR headset that utilizes your smartphone as the display.

Sande Chen explores the market for games in the classroom in a detailed and valuable GamesAndLearning piece based on the results of a survey she conducted. We’re all aware of the increase in the use of games in the classroom, but selling games to schools seems as challenging as ever. How can we bridge this gap to support more high-quality education games?

The New Yorker published a substantial article about the Brain, Learning, Animation, and Movement lab at Johns Hopkins. The BLAM! lab is working to utilize high-end technology and animation in the service of medicine, breaking down the silos between art, science, and industry. This article details their work on a game about dolphins, utilizing it as an innovative engagement mechanism for physical therapy patients. You can try the commercial version of their game, see link below.

EyeWireEyeWire and its executive director Amy Robinson are the subjects of a long piece on FastCompany. EyeWire is a crowdsource citizen science game in which you trace neurons – it has led to impressive scientific discoveries. The development team has been exploring VR … you can download their Neuron Safari on the Oculus Rift here!

Congratulations to Reflexion Health on its FDA approval for the Vera system! This is the second game-like system utilizing motion tracking for physical therapy that has received FDA approval. More details in this VentureBeat article.

How can games be used to bridge language gaps? Pixelkin talked with Andrew Ross, an English teacher in Japan utilizing games like Earthbound and Animal Crossing. Sounds like fun!

The Washington Post reported on a “game-like website” the FBI is hoping to launch that discourages Muslim youth from engaging with extremist groups. Details are sketchy and this piece is mostly speculation, so take it with a grain of salt.

Coding and Making

Minecraft Hour of launched a Minecraft Hour of Code tutorial last week for this year’s Computer Science Education Week! The programming style uses blocks, similar to last year’s popular Frozen-themed hour. Full disclosure, I recently started doing some contracting work with Microsoft. Just an FYI! But you know I always talk about Minecraft in this report anyway. πŸ™‚

Google and Gallup released a research report about perceptions of computer science in the United States. There are several powerful takeaways, it’s well worth a read. The one that resonates most with me is the discovery that lower-income families appear to value computer science education more, but have less actual access.

Grant Hosford, CEO of codeSpark, advocates in this Huffington Post piece that we should think of coding not just as a skill, but as a new literacy that can help kids develop across every core competency.

There were a couple great articles on KQED MindShift about using making and coding to inspire math learning. In the first, the author discusses an educator that utilizes Makey Makey and banana pianos to make math more accessible for kids. In the second, the author details his own experiences learning math through learning computer programming as a student, and later working to inspire kids by teaching them to program using Logo.

Little Bits GizmosAre you looking to purchase some coding toys for Christmas? There are many, many options, and I found this review of the LittleBits Gizmos and Gadgets kit worthwhile reading. The article links to reviews of a few other coding robots and kits, so it may be a great place to start your exploration before Black Friday rolls around! Fortune also had a good piece detailing STEM toys for girls.

Bloomberg Business says “Chinese preschool students are learning to code!” It is rare for us to get a clear look at the education practices of other countries, which makes this article interesting, but it’s also hard to be clear how common this practice is. It’s an informative read though, and you can check out Chinese programming site to see some free Chinese programming lessons.

Are you excited by the idea of getting maker spaces into schools? Kevin Jarrett’s write-up of the first month of the Northfield Community Middle School maker program may be valuable reading for you. Lots of good lessons here, thanks Edutopia!

Education nonprofit Tech Kids Unlimited works with kids with special needs to inspire them to learn, create, develop and share the tools of technology. This great piece on the Hechinger Report discusses TKU and a number of other orgs that work with kids on the Autism spectrum to introduce them to digital skills.


Minecraft Hour of Code JensMinecraft Hour of Code (Web) – This collaboration between Microsoft and is a fun intro to coding utilizing a block-style programming language. Intro video.

Carmen Sandiego Returns (iOS) – Carmen Sandiego is back, and this time she’s on your mobile device. Well, if you can find her! Travel the world to track down Carmen and her henchmen. I bet you’ll learn a few things along the way! Video.

The Political Machine 2016 (PC) – Here come the political games! I’m excited to see the games that are developed for the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Here’s the first big launch, a 2016 update of Stardock’s election game. Video.

Bandit’s Shark Showdown! (iOS) – A commercial game that utilizes the impressive dolphin animation technology referred to in the New Yorker piece above. Guide your dolphin using its incredible agility to avoid and attack. Video.


EyedrivomaticEyedrivomatic – Hackaday Prize finals video – The winner of the Hackaday Prize, an impressive maker competition run by Eyedrivomatic is a wheelchair driving system that uses eye gaze tracking technology, enabling people who have lost control of their muscles to control their locomotion. Amazing amazing.

Minecraft in education – This short video does a nice job of highlighting use of Minecraft in the classroom.

Warburtons Muppets Advert – The Giant Crumpet Show – Warburtons, a British baking firm, collaborated with the Muppets to produce this impressive riff on the traditional Muppet Show opening.

Playing VR Dungeons & Dragons – AltspaceVR wants you to play D&D in virtual reality! Standing around a virtual table throwing virtual dice. Hmm.


Serious Games Showcase & Challenge – The serious games competition at I/ITSEC. Orlando, FL. November 30 – December 4.
Computer Science Education Week – Inspiring people to learn the joys of coding. Everywhere. December 7-13.
Global Game Jam – The world’s largest simultaneous weekend game jam. Everywhere. January 29-31.
Kidscreen Summit – The kids entertainment industry’s most important annual event. Miami, FL. February 8-11.
DICE Summit – The game industry’s annual executive leadership summit. Las Vegas, NV. February 16-18.


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