September 16 2016 edition

In this week’s newsletter: XQ announces Super School Project winners, AIR and ED publish the STEM 2026 report, the White House holds a Summit on Computer Science for All, Pitsco Maker Space Lab launches to teach educators, Apple releases Swift Playgrounds for iPad, and PBS airs a fantastic week of education coverage.

Thanks to Simon Carless, Mark Chen, James Collins, Catherine Jhee, Ed Metz, My Nguyen, Ed Price, 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

XQ Super School ProjectXQ announced the ten impressive winners of its Super School Project last week, a competition to re-imagine America’s high schools. Yes – the TEN winners, double the original intended five winners – will each receive $10 million from XQ over the next five years to encourage them to experiment with new ideas in high school education. Check Greg Toppo’s excellent article in USA Today for the full story, then go read about these ten innovative schools.

The US Department of Education has launched a new website focused on the importance of early STEM education, featuring tip sheets, archived webinars, and other resources. This is part of a broad early STEM effort undertaken by Russ Shilling and the Office of Innovation & Improvement. I love that one of the tip sheets is called “Let’s Talk Read and Sing about STEM”. How great is that?

The latest version of the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report launched last week highlighting short-term and long-term trends in K-12 education. The Horizon Report is always an extremely interesting read that points toward the next five years of innvoation. For a summary, check out this piece on THE Journal.

STEM 2026 VisionThe American Institutes of Research has partnered with the US Department of Education on a report envisioning the future of STEM education. In “STEM 2026: A Vision for Innovation in STEM Education”, you’ll find a summary of the current state of STEM Ed in the U.S., plus examples of innovative programs, and recommendations for moving forward. Recommend reading!

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center has published an infographic on digital games and family life as part of their Familes and Media Project. The center conducted a survey of 700 parents of 4- to 13-year-old children, and the results show nearly 50% of children play digital games every day, with a preference for tablets and game consoles as primary platforms.

Skyscrapers of Tomorrow is a week-long summer program developed by the Chicago Architecture Foundation that utilized Minecraft as a tool to re-imagine neighborhoods as vertical skyscrapers. Students in the program visited sites around Chicago to observe environments and architectural concepts, and then used Minecraft to build cities that emphasized green space.

Edutopia explored the intersection of project-based learning and the arts through an analysis of School 21, a London public school for pre-K to 11th grade. The article analyzes project planning, student-directed learning, support, and assessment.

Karen Schrier directs the games and emerging media program at Marist College and helps drive the IGDA’s Learning, Education and Games SIG. Check out her recent book Knowledge Games through this review on New Scientist.

Simon Carless, Executive Vice President at UBM, is responsible for the Game Developers Conference, Black Hat, and He’s started an excellent personal newsletter tracking long-form and unique news around games and culture: Video Game Deep Cuts. Definitely recommended reading!

Coding and Making

CSforAll ConsortiumThe White House held a summit on the Computer Science for All initiative, seeking ways to work together and make computer science education available to all students. 200 organizations came together for the event; you can watch the livestream here. A huge number of commitments were announced at the event, which you can learn more about on the Fact Sheet. I want to particularly call out the forming of the CS For All Consortium focusing on expanding K-12 access, the AmeriCorps Computer Science Teachers program, and $25 million in awards announced by the National Science Foundation.

This week we heard of the difficulty of training and keeping CS teachers in both Scotland and Australia. In Scotland, 47% of local authorities report difficulty in recruiting CS teacher candidates, and the number of new teachers entering the profession in general is down 67% from 2006. In Australia, there is also a general shortage of teachers, but particularly in computing, where over 30% of teachers are teaching without qualifications.

Stanford’s Mehran Sahami makes the case for CS for All on the Huffington Post. Giving students the opportunity to develop computational thinking skills will help them in a variety of careers, not just those focused on software development.

The White House’s Tom Kalil discusses the Maker Movement as a national priority and a valuable force for education, workforce development, and innovation. How has your region embraced the Maker Movement? What are you Making today?

Pitsco Maker SpaceThe Pitsco Maker Space Lab is a makerspace designed for teaching educators how to use a makerspace in the classroom. The new lab, at the Department of Education in Oklahoma’s East Central University, will help teachers use Maker techniques to teach physical science, engineering, aerospace, structures, and sustainable energy.

KQED MindShift tackles assessment in project-based learning for Maker-enhanced projects. Woo! This is a challenge we frequently hear about from educators considering makerspaces at their schools. Katrina Schwartz does a great job summarizing five guiding principles.

I love the concept of holding a “Family Code Night” at schools that was discussed at the White House summit. MV GATE has been organizing after-school events for parents and students to work together to learn coding, using content from, MIT, and Google. You can get their event kit and hold your own family code night!

There’s a Hip-Hop and Scratch Coding Summit coming up in October in Cleveland, and I’m not sure how that could possibly sound more amazing! There may still be time to apply (I’m told the deadline was extended.) It’s a collaboration between MIT Media Lab and the Progressive Arts Alliance, and part of the Coding for All initiative. Check it out!

In new product news, Ozobot announced the Evo, a miniature robot with more sensors than the Ozobot Bit and a $100 price point. Video. Texas Instruments unveiled the TI-Innovator Hub, a box that plugs into a TI graphing calculator and enables students to learn basic coding and design. Video.


Swift PlaygroundsSwift Playgrounds (iOS) – Apple has launched its iPad learn-to-code app, which is quite beautiful and polished. Try it out on iOS 10 and get your feet wet with the Swift programming language! Video.

Jrump (iOS, Android) – Check out the best mobile game in the world! You are responsible for building walls that help Donald Trump jump from the Earth to make the rest of the galaxy great again. (You know I love all election season games, regardless of party. Please send more that we can highlight!) Video.

Google Cardboard Camera (iOS, Android) – Capture your own 360-degree panoramas to view and share in VR via Google Cardboard! Newly available for both iOS. Video.

The Bohemian Rhapsody Experience (Android) – Experience Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody like you never have before – in virtual reality – with 360-degree animations and spatialized audio. Video.


PBS School of the FutureNOVA: School of the Future – PBS carried an impressive amount of education coverage last week. This two-hour NOVA episode was the highlight of the week and well worth your time. The site bookmarks key topics in the episode so you can skip around. But if you’re short on time, I recommend this four-minute piece on customizing education, featuring Alt School.

PBS NewsHour: Coding bootcamps – PBS NewsHour discussed the rise of coding bootcamps, short-term intensive programs for learning to code. Some bootcamp companies, such as NYC’s Flatiron School, now qualify for student federal funding through the EQUIP program. This piece focuses on bootcamp company Galvanize.

The Code Trip Roadtrip – Microsoft partnered with Roadtrip Nation to put a focus on diversity in computer science education. In this mini-series, three computer science students take a roadtrip in an RV to interview diverse technology leaders across the U.S.

What’s an algorithm? – David Malan, Harvard Computer Science professor for CS50, shares his method for teaching algorithms in this animated TED-Ed talk. Counting roommates seems very appropriate for his college audience!

The Nerdy Teacher on littleBits Call – The August littleBits Community Call featured Nicholas Provenzano, AKA The Nerdy Teacher. He talks about building a community of risk-takers, and his latest book, “Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces”.


Austin Game Conference – The return of AGC! Highlighting the development of live, participatory games with real-time engagement. Austin, TX. September 21-22.
MINECON 2016 – The huge annual Minecraft event! Anaheim, CA. September 24-25.
GameSoundCon – The leading conference on the art, technology, and business of game audio. Los Angeles, CA. September 27-28.
Digital Media and Learning – Linking scholars and practitioners together for a discussion of theory, study, policy, and practice. Irvine, CA. October 5-7.
Intentional Play Summit – A full-day event on using games for learning and motivation, at the Computer History Museum. Mountain View, CA. October 7.
IndieCade Festival – The ninth annual festival and summit celebrating innovative independent games. Los Angeles, CA. October 14-16.
CHI PLAY – Interdisciplinary research conference focused on play, games, and human-computer interaction. Austin, TX. October 16-19.
Meaningful Play – A conference on theory, research, and game design innovations for serious games. East Lansing, MI. October 20-22.
Virtual Reality Developers Conference – Bringing together creators of immersive VR experiences to share best practices and technology demos. San Francisco, CA. November 2-3.


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