September 23 2016 edition

In this week’s newsletter: Minecraft Education Edition announces launch date, iCivics’ Win the White House game, thoughts on funding for CSforAll, inexpensive 3D printers, United Nations launches VR app, and Bill Gates talks Star Wars with 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year.

Thanks to Jeff Hosley 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

Minecraft Education EditionMinecraft: Education Edition is launching November 1! You’ll be able to play the full version on either Windows 10 or OS X El Capitan; it utilizes an Office 365 Education account. A new “classroom mode” companion app will ship with Minecraft in November, enabling educators to manage world settings and interact with students in the game.

The George W. Bush Institute launched an impressive “State of our Cities” website that makes accessible key education performance data from cities around the United States. It’s extremely interesting to dig through to compare your city’s education performance versus others. The tool was created with the support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Sammons Enterprises Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

A new Pew Research Center report explores the attitudes and behaviors that underpin people’s comfort in using digital tools for learning. The analysis categorizes adults into five groups: The Unprepared, Traditional Learners, The Reluctant, Cautious Clickers, and Digitally Ready. It’s a long read, and worth your time.

Foldit is back in the news! A group of 469 Foldit players have identified the shape of a protein implicated in diseases like Alzheimer’s, beating out scientists, college students, and algorithms in a competition at the University of Michigan.

iCivics Win the White HouseThere was a great shout-out for iCivics on the US Department of Education blog last week. Did you know Constitution Day was September 17? iCivics’ Win the White House game is excellent for classroom use, especially right now! Learn about what it takes to choose a platform and run a nationwide campaign.

It can be hard to stay on top of the latest edtech tools! Beth Holland of Johns Hopkins University thinks about the value of tools in this Edutopia piece, considering “What do you want your students to do?” She lists a number of great tools in this article and situations in which you might find them useful. There are certainly many more. Sites like Common Sense Education and EdShelf can help you stay on top of what’s new and great!

I’m looking forward to the game We are Chicago, which should release next year. It’s a first-person adventure, an empathy game that seeks to give you an understanding of what it’s like to live on the South Side of Chicago amidst increasing gang-related violence. Check out the trailer.

Learning isn’t confined to the classroom. But how can we measure the learning that happens outside? Remake Learning and LRNG Pittsburgh are using learning experiences (XPs), playlists, and digital badges to define learning pathways that lead to digital credentials. Then they engage the community to make sure organizations are aware of the credentials and can value them appropriately. Read about their work in this post on Medium.

Coding and Making

CSforAll ConsortiumAt the White House CSforAll Summit last week, the National Science Foundation announced that they are awarding $25 million to projects supporting the initiative. After the event we saw a few announcements of these projects, for example RIT and Bradley University received $1.19M to study the effectiveness of K-12 coding programs and camps. This is money well spent! But achieving CS Education for ALL is going to require much more investment: the administration is seeking $4 billion for states and $100 million for districts. The Computer Science Education Coalition is urging Congress to allocate $250M for K-12. But reaching everyone with computer science education will require an all-hands-on-deck effort, with regional organizations stepping forward to help. We see a great example of this in CSNYC raising $40M from the private sector for its ten year program. Salesforce and its Foundation have donated $22M to the San Francisco and Oakland school districts. There is so much good work being done to achieve CS for ALL. But how will we afford to scale it up?

Here are a few recent success stories. Last week Boeing gave $6M in grants to STEM nonprofits in Washington State. Oakland Unified School District is opening a new Computer Science and Technology Academy in a public-private partnership with SAP, Berkeley City College, and the Career Ladders Project. Santa Clara High School has unveiled a new Fab Lab for students and the surrounding community, built in collaboration with the 49ers Foundation, Chevron, and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.

But now for a sad story. SR1 is a nonprofit afterschool program in Mississippi that gets students excited about STEM learning through building robots and competing in statewide tournaments. It has seen 100 percent of its students graduate high school and attend college. But federal 21st Century Community Learning Center funds were mishandled by the state, leading to a $19 million deficit… and a $250,000 shortfall for SR1. We have success stories this week from Silicon Valley and Washington State, areas with thriving tech communities. What local organizations can rural and low-income regions turn to for help in implementing computer science education?

MakerBot has launched its 6th generation of 3D printers! I’m keeping a close eye on inexpensive 3D printers for the classroom. MakerBot’s lowest cost new printer, the Replicator Mini+, is $999, with a 4″ x 5″ print bed and a camera for remote print monitoring. MakerBot has also created the Thingiverse Education platform for teachers to connect and share best practices and lesson plans.

Da Vinci Mini 3D printerXYZprinting has recently announced the new da Vinci Mini, a 3D printer with a 5.9″ x 5.9″ print bed that runs just $289. Readers that follow me on Twitter or Facebook may know that I’ve been experimenting with a Monoprice Select Mini, a $199 3D printer with a 4.7″ x 4.7″ print bed. There are significant differences between these inexpensive 3D printers and the higher-end models, but the good news is that 3D printing is becoming much more accessible! I’ll share more info about the Monoprice Select Mini in a future newsletter.

Have you ever wanted to build your own drone? Worried about crashing it into something and wrecking it? Worry no more, Flybrix is a drone built out of LEGO bricks! You can build a 4-, 6-, or 8-motor drone using the included bricks and motors and the Arduino-compatible open source flight control circuit board. Video!

This year’s Scratch@MIT Conference sounds like it was fantastic. Check out this excellent summary of the “Many Paths, Many Styles” event, and then watch some of the conference keynotes.

Women Who Code announced that it has reached 80,000 members around the globe. With 60 local networks, in 20 countries, plus a newsletter and the CONNECT Conference, the organization is growing rapidly!

The Washington Post covered the impressive growth in gender diversity at some college and university computer science and engineering programs: more than half of engineering bachelor degrees at MIT and Dartmouth were to women, and the majority of computer science majors at Harvey Mudd are women. Maria Klawe, Harvey Mudd’s president, shares some thoughts on the shift, as does the University of Washington’s Ed Lazowska.


United Nations VRUNVR – United Nations VR (iOS, Android) – Experience stories of people around the world in 360-degree video from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign. Video.

ADE DIY Guides (iOS, Android) – Access videos and lesson plans from Allen Distinguished Educators in this mobile app. Features projects related to computer science, engineering, and entrepreneurship! ADE Video.

CodeHS (Web) – The coding education platform with the cute dog (Karel) now gives you the ability to create your own problems, playlists, and courses for your students. Try out a few of cofounder Jeremy Keeshin’s playlists! (Olympics, Java Methods) Video.

LIFE VR (iOS, Android) – Time Inc. is exploring use of 360-degree video to make the stories it tells even more powerful. In Defying the Nazis VR you’ll travel from Portugal to the United States on the ship Excambion, escaping the Nazis prior to World War II. Video.


Gates Notes Star WarsHow Star Wars Helps Explain Civil Rights – Bill Gates joins Washington State’s 2016 Teacher of the Year Nate Bowling to learn how he teaches his students about America’s civil rights movement – utilizing Star Wars as a metaphor! “Never underestimate the power of nerddom!”

What is Computational Thinking? – Jeannette Wing, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research and creator of the term “computational thinking”, joins CSTA members to discuss computational thinking in the classroom.

Marty the Robot – This cute programmable walking robot recently reached its funding goal on Indiegogo. Marty is a simple toy robot that you can build yourself and customize, then program in either Scratch or Python.

Scratch Teacher Accounts – Did you know Scratch now has teacher accounts? The new accounts enable you to set up classes with groups of students and monitor their progress.

Elizabeth Forward: Maker District – This Pennsylvania school district incorporates Maker activities at every grade level! Check out some of their suggestions for integrating Maker education.


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.
Education in Games Summit – Empowering teachers with new ideas for the Digital Technologies Curriculum through games and play. Melbourne, Australia. November 7.


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