October 21 2016 edition

In this week’s newsletter: An early learning edtech policy brief from the US Department of Education, a game for the school based on Pokemon Go, the K-12 Computer Science Framework launches, Micro:bit gets an Educational Foundation, Civilization VI hits the PC, and Nintendo announces its next game console.

Thanks to Lisa Briseno, Matthew Farber, Catherine Jhee, Chris Melissinos, 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

US Dept of Ed Early Learning BriefA new policy brief on early learning from the US Department of Education and US Department of Health and Human Services distinguishes between active learning and passive consumption by focusing on what is happening in the mind of the child. Active use for young children occurs when they are generating insights, creating associations between new and existing knowledge, or creating their own content. With interesting timing, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released its latest set of guidelines on screen time for young children. The new guidelines suggest that all digital media be avoided until 18 months of age, and limited to 1 hour a day from ages 2 through 5. But all screen time is not created equal, as Michael Levine powerfully notes in this Huffington Post piece.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center published a short infographic highlighting the kinds of games that kids and parents love to play. Learn more in Jordan Shapiro’s blog post.

Sports video games are modeled after the sports themselves, but increasingly sports are also reflecting the video games! NY Times published a piece on how the massive popularity of the FIFA video game franchise has reflected back into the game.

Extreme Networks published some results from its “Virtual Reality in the Classroom” survey, noting that 23% of schools replying had used VR in some fashion, and of those 74% had used Google Cardboard. Over half of respondents indicated that they planned to use VR in the future.

The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience is a VR experience for HTC Vive that takes students to the bottom of the sea and shows them what coral reefs may look like at the end of this century. The VR version (there’s also a 360-degree video) enables the viewer to deep-sea dive and collect samples off the ocean floor. If you have a Vive give it a try and let us know what you think!

Mutant GoCan the game design of Pokemon Go inspire students to collaborate and learn about the value of art? Educator Natalie Catlett’s students created “Mutant Go”, drawing mutants on adhesive paper and placing them around the school. “Gotta catch ’em all”? Students hid mutants in unusual places and took pride in finding more than their friends. Second- and third-grade students wrote descriptions of where to find the mutants for others to interpret. Sounds like fun!

Two great articles on Minecraft this week. First, have you played Minecraft with your children? Lifehacker gives you tips on how to set up a game, control your character, and try a handful of fun things with your kids. If you’re a teacher, perhaps you’re looking for things to try in the classroom! Here are 30 ideas for using Minecraft in the classroom, from creating pixel art to learning a foreign language.

Matthew Farber discusses three great ways to use game-based learning, and highlights a number of good games you can try, in this piece on Edutopia. Be careful, you might wind up with a list of games to play for homework!

Games aren’t just for kids any more, and game players are not merely observers. Chris Melissinos writes of the deep emotional engagement that games can engender, and points you to a few of the masterpieces, in a piece for CNN.

Coding and Making

K-12 Computer Science FrameworkThe K-12 Computer Science Framework officially launched last week, an impressive effort spearheaded by Code.org and with the collaboration of ACM, CSTA, NMSI, and many, many, MANY others. The framework provides concepts and practices important to teaching computer science, broken down by grade band. I find the document to be quite thorough and a bit challenging to navigate, as it is intended as a guiding document for CS standards to be written from. To that end, it’s worth looking at the Interim version of the CSTA 2016 K-12 CS standards to see an example. Congratulations to all who contributed to this massive effort! Video.

Google and Gallup released a pair of reports in their continuing collaboration surveying the state of K-12 Computer Science education. “Trends in the State of Computer Science in U.S. K-12 Schools” revisits some of the survey questions asked in Year 1, in the process highlighting positive growth in CS Ed during Year 2. In “Diversity Gaps in Computer Science Education” we get a deeper dive into the diversity challenges in CS Ed through the results of phone interviews with students, parents, and teachers, and an online survey of principals and superintendents. Both of these reports are fascinating reading.

The BBC announced that the Micro:bit Educational Foundation has been created to take the BBC micro:bit overseas. You may recall that the micro:bit was given for free to nearly one million UK school children this past year. The new foundation will bring the device to other European nations by the end of 2016, with plans for a rollout in North America and China, and an upgrade to the hardware, in 2017.

Infosys Foundation USA and CSTA are beginning work on a Continuing Professional Development pipeline project. The pipeline will create resources for teachers, districts, PD providers, and students, and encourage the creation of professional development communities. For more information, visit the CPD Pipeline website!

Cracking the Gender CodeNew research from Accenture and Girls Who Code highlights the continuing decrease in the percentage of women in the US computing workforce. Cracking the Gender Code highlights three actions to take to increase the percentage of women to 39% by 2025: sparking interest in junior high, sustaining engagement in high school, and inspiring a career after college.

Vogue held a gathering for leading female technologists, Vogue Codes, in Sydney last week. Wow! Read about some of the featured presentations on this summary page.

Unloop is a Seattle-based startup that runs coding bootcamps in regional prisons to create pathways to employment for inmates upon their release. By teaching prisoners technology skills the company hopes to give them tools they can use to build a successful life apart from crime.

Are you interested in using the Raspberry Pi in your classroom or club? Check out this special Educator’s Edition of The MagPi, a free magazine aimed at educators and filled with tutorials and guides to use at schools and clubs.

Dash and Dot can now speak Swift! That’s right, the popular robots from Wonder Workshop are now integrated with Apple’s Swift Playgrounds app. For more info, check out the Make Wonder blog.


Civilization VICivilization VI (PC) – The impressively deep historical strategy game Civilization is back. Civ is a turn-based strategy game in which you grow from a tiny village to a burgeoning metropolis, exploring technology, religion, culture, and politics along the way. If you haven’t played Civilization before, be sure to give this a try! Video.

Really Bad Chess (iOS) – Really Bad Chess is like normal chess… except all the pieces are random! It’s actually way more fun than that sounds. Video.

Best Fiends Forever (iOS, Android) – You’ve played with the Best Fiends before… now join them in this clicker-style game! Round up the Fiends, level them up, and defeat the Slug invasion. Video.

LowRes Coder (iOS) – Program your own retro games using a variation of BASIC and then share them with your friends and the community. Video.

HillaryDonald Go (iOS, Android) – You knew someone had to do it. It’s Pokemon Go crossed with the US presidential election!


Nintendo SwitchFirst Look at Nintendo Switch – Nintendo announced its next-generation game hardware, formerly known as the Nintendo NX. The Nintendo Switch is a portable tablet with physical controls that includes a television dock, so you can play games on the road with friends, or at home on the big screen!

For New Science Teachers, a Chance to Explore – The Exploratorium in San Francisco conducts a hands-on induction program for new science teachers as part of its Exploratorium Teacher Institute. The program encourages developing inquiry-based instructional skills, using physical activities to engage students in science.

Democracy Prep: Get Out the Vote With Me! – The 2nd to 6th grade students of the Harlem Prep Piano Band & DREAM Troupe have a message for you: Get Out the Vote With Me!

The 2016 Experimental Gameplay Workshop – This annual session at GDC showcases some of the boldest and most innovative game prototypes. Get inspired by these creative games that push the boundaries of what games are capable of.


Meaningful Play – A conference on theory, research, and game design innovations for serious games. East Lansing, MI. October 20-22.
North American Simulation and Gaming Association – On using active learning to improve engagement, retention, and performance. Bloomington, IN. October 26-29.
Virtual Reality Developers Conference – Bringing together creators of immersive VR experiences to share best practices and technology demos. San Francisco, CA. November 2-3.
National Association for the Education of Young Children – The annual conference and expo is the largest gathering of early childhood professionals. Los Angeles, CA. November 2-5.
Education in Games Summit – Empowering teachers with new ideas for the Digital Technologies Curriculum through games and play. Melbourne, Australia. November 7.
PRACTICE 2016 – Bringing the smartest minds in game design together for discussion, debate, and play. New York, NY. November 11-13.
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 – An education innovation festival focusing on how edtech can drive advancements in learning. New York, NY. December 19-21.


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