November 6 2015 edition

Thanks to Jean-Baptiste Huynh, Lauri Jarvilehto, Daniel Laughlin, Ed Metz, Mike Mika, Russell Shilling, and Debra Sterling for contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.


Google CardboardThe New York Times launched its Virtual Reality initiative, shipping over a million Google Cardboards along with the daily newspaper. Check out the NYT VR app for either iOS or Android, or go straight to Engadget’s review.

YouTube added support for Google Cardboard last week as well, launching “VR Videos”. If you have an Android phone, the stock YouTube app now includes VR Video support. Try this video out!

Veterans of Angry Birds creator Rovio spun off an educational games startup recently, named Lightneer. You may recall that Peter Vesterbacka and Lauri Jarvilehto from Rovio took part in the White House Education Game Jam. We wish the new studio the best of luck!

Jordan Shapiro covered the rise of game development tools for teachers in a piece on Forbes. He talks about Muzzy Lane Author and Kahoot. Lowering the barrier to entry for teachers who want to create their own tools? Yes please.

Minecraft ViennaMinecraft players in Austria are working to build a 1:1 scale model of Vienna. This reminds me of some of the great work UN-Habitat is doing with Block by Block, an effort to use Minecraft to help design public spaces. Check out the MCVienna Reddit thread for some great images!

MolCraft is a MineCraft virtual chemistry museum created by the UK’s University of Hull. Wander around the central hall and teleport to rooms with 3D models of myoglobin and asparagine. Take part in the scavenger hunt to learn more about molecules!

INVICTA Challenge is a new toy line that combines action figures, games, and graphic novels to teach history. Check out Flash & Thunder, an action figure of Turner Turnbull, a World War 2 Native American paratrooper.

GamesAndLearning is publishing an excellent series of articles on digital access for low-income students. What do you think the biggest barrier is to adoption of digital games in the classroom? Cost.

Coding and Making

Code ClubWow! Code Club, a network of volunteer-led coding clubs for kids, is merging with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. With over 3000 Code Clubs in the UK, and over 1000 outside the UK, this merger is bound to have a broad impact for coding and robotics education.

Microsoft’s Project Spark is holding a game jam! The Developers GameJam runs until December 22, and teams can submit epic, long-form stories or original arcade-style games. Fun!

Valve has launched a catalog of game development software tutorials on Steam. The videos range from $5 to $20, covering 3D modeling, animation, and texturing tips in tools like MODO, Blender, and ZBrush.

Uber has launched a coding competition with collaborator CodeFights to help them identify promising programming candidates around the world. UberBot challenges include both writing code and reviewing existing code for mistakes, and the core challenges include tasks like finding the optimal route for a car, or how best to match riders in UberPOOL.

Two Bit CircusCongratulations to Two Bit Circus, creator of amazing STEAM events, on their $6.5 million investment. Two Bit Circus carnivals incorporate technology in innovative ways that get kids excited about the promise of technology.

Code Girl is a documentary about the 2015 Technovation challenge, a contest that encourages young women to develop an app that solves a problem in their community. The movie was free on YouTube for a few days. If you missed it, you can catch it on iTunes, Google Play, or theaters near you. Video trailer.

O’Reilly Radar has a blog post that approaches the idea that some students just can’t learn to code. This is a ludicrous thought to me, yet the piece is an interesting read and perhaps will lead you to the belief that teaching programming via lecture alone is rather silly.

Coding bootcamps are growing as a means for rapidly training individuals in programming skills. KQED Mind/Shift reached out to the CEO of General Assembly to learn more about the company’s recent partnership with Google, and why these programs are increasingly popular.

Twitter’s SVP Engineering is reflecting on diversity in this thoughtful post on Medium. Twitter has been on the front lines in the discussion about diversity in the tech industry, recently facing criticism after engineering manager Leslie Miley was laid off from the company and blasted its lack of diversity and inclusivity.


DragonBox NumbersDragonBox Numbers (iOS, Android) – I get so excited by every game that We Want To Know produces, and this one is no exception. Numbers (Nooms) is a game that teaches kids between 4 and 8 what numbers are, how they work, and what you can do with them. Similar to other DragonBox games, it requires a lot of manual manipulation, which reinforces number sense. Video.

The Land of Venn – Numeric Storms (iOS) – The new Land of Venn game from iMagine Machine follows a similar design to the previous Venn games, and it’s just as fun! At its core it’s a tower defense game, but in practice you’re doing math. Learn addition math facts by connecting enemies together to cast powerful spells. Video.

The Room Three (iOS) – Have you played The Room yet? If not, go download the original! This second sequel follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, providing you with a sequence of intricate puzzle boxes to solve. I think there’s a story, too. Video.

Lumino City (iOS, PC, Mac) – A long time in the making, Lumino City is a platform puzzle game that takes place on a huge ten-foot model city that was built by hand (and laser cutter). Wow! The resulting visuals are like nothing else you’ve seen. Video.


Serious Play DocumentarySerious Play Full Documentary – How do we utilize digital play to encourage learning? This excellent half-hour documentary explores the use of games and coding in education. It’s really good. You should watch it.

Lexus – Making the Origami Inspired Car – There are a lot of amazing things you can do with laser cutters. But would you have thought about cutting a life-size version of a Lexus IS?

What if all the action heroes were girls? – GoldieBlox’s impressive video recreates many well-known action movie scenes, replacing the main characters with GoldieBlox or Ruby Rails dolls. Nice!

YouTube’s Richest: Behind the Scenes – There is real money being made by YouTube personalities with massive subscriber bases. You may have heard of PewDiePie, who has 40 million subscribers. Here are a few more YouTube celebrities in the million dollar club!


Mozilla Festival – Forging the future of the web. London, UK. November 6-8.
Practice – High-quality game design conference for pro designers. New York, NY. November 13-15.
Montreal International Game Summit – Canada’s largest game developer event. Montreal, QC. November 15-17.
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.


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